The issue of surplus municipal land was brought before Prince Edward County Council during the last Committee of the Whole Meeting at Highline Hall in Wellington on Thursday. Council received information by way of a Report from the Community Services, Programs and Initiatives Department.
The purpose of the report was described as providing council with the “current status of Municipally owned lands, the location and amount of land currently identified by Council as surplus.”
As well, staff requested direction from council to review potential surplus lands and engage in public consultation to determine the best approach for dealing to with these types of properties and to “inform a strategy” for the location of staff across departments to reduce existing accommodation pressures as well as to reduce overall costs.
The report from staff came with several recommendations. Apart from simply receiving the report for information, staff also directed council to formally review and consult with the public on available municipal lands that are appropriate to be deemed surplus.
With an eye to potential development, staff also recommended a comprehensive inventory of unopened road allowances in order to understand how they might tie in with said future development.
And, staff recommended council issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for real estate services from a local realtor in order to aid the municipality in dealing with land purchases and sales.
The report states that, beginning in 2013, a priority of council along with the Community Development Department was an inventory of all vacant or unused municipal properties and to identify parcels of land for divestiture with consideration for future land needs.
Since 2013, the municipality has “disposed of a number of surplus properties” deemed unnecessary for public operations and worthy of being sold.
Councillor Andreas Bolik suggested the recommendations of staff may be putting the cart before the horse, with a need to first determine what surplus lands exist before even considering “dumping” some to make way for development.
“I’m in favour of evidence based decision making. Identifying what we’ve got and where it is is a great initiative. That said, I think we have to be careful what we ask for. I have a problem with this being premature. Let’s figure out what we’ve got and where it is first,” stated Bolik.
Although the divestiture of surplus land may have been a priority as early as 2013, Bolik also stated concern brought forth by constituents at the way in which the county is being developed.
“I think this pandemic has shown us there’s a number of issues brought up by constituents with regards to where and how we’ve been developing the County. The recent issues in Wellington show congestion is a real problem,” he said. “Looking at perhaps dumping more property for development may be a little premature.”
CAO Marcia Wallace indicated that the directives from staff, in and of themselves, would not allow for the sale of any land.
“This would not allow us to sell anything. This is about addressing the issue council has raised numerous times about refreshing our process for selling. It would not necessarily apply to anything the report discusses other than property council has already deemed up for sale,” explained Wallace. “This is about looking at alternative processes, but does not enable us to sell anything in particular.”
Among other questions jockeyed around the horseshoe, Councillor Ernie Margetson inquired as to whether or not designated parks could be considered for divestiture.
“Are lands that were dedicated as parks…can they be candidates for divestiture,” he asked. “Or, is there any reason why they would be required to be retained by the municipality?”
Acting Director of Community Development and Services, Todd Davis, indicated he had made a similar inquiry with a technical expert and would report back to council as soon as possible.
“I don’t have an complete answer regarding parks. I called the Land Use Planning Office to see if we could divest ourselves, or if there’s a rule or regulation that would disallow us from divesting ourselves of dedicated parks,” said Davis. “I will get an answer and respond to council with what that looks like. Off the top of my head, I think that could be done. I just want confirmation from a technical expert.”
The report and recommendations from staff were received as a Margetson/Harper motion.