Click to view the original Evamy Ridge history letter.
I am writing to everyone today to give some history, perspective, and the next steps on the potential sale of land along Evamy Ridge that share a boundary with the communities of Cliff Bungalow-Mission and Mount Royal (I have attached an image
). If you live in the neighbourhood it is impossible to miss the hundreds of little orange signs throughout touting, "Stop Sale of Parkland." I have also received hundreds of emails and phone calls from constituents expressing their concerns about the loss of parks space. In neighbourhoods that already have a deficiency of parks space, the prospect of losing even a small amount becomes a very big deal. And so it should, we are a city that values our parks immensely. They are a reflection of our wonderful quality of life and belief in the importance of shared public space where we come to play, rest, eat, read, exercise, and think.I do not believe that we should ever sell parks space, ever.
I first became aware of this file while knocking on doors during the election campaign. I knocked on the door of Charlene Prickett, who asked me if I knew anything about it. I did not, but said I would investigate. I contacted Rick Williams, Director of the Development Committee for the Cliff Bungalow-Mission Community Association. I had, until my decision to run for a Council seat, been the Environment Director for the community; I knew that if there was going to be one person who would know about what was going on, Rick would be a good bet. He was aware and we had coffee and discussed in some detail why the sale of this land should not happen, his frustrations with the lack of engagement, and what he would consider a poor process. I have attached the January 13, 2013 response from the community
to the Sub-division application which will provide everyone with some very good information, from a policy perspective, about why the community is opposed to the sale of this land.
How did this all begin?
After the 2005 flood the slope along which Evamy Ridge runs began to destabilize significantly. Over a number of years the residents along Hope Street and Hillcrest Avenue negotiated an agreement with The City of Calgary (The City) about who was going to pay for the stabilization and rehabilitation of the slope. All property owners were asked to participate. Mr. Don Taylor, who owns the property at 638 Hillcrest Avenue, intended to redevelop his property and agreed to participate if he might be able to purchase the land currently under discussion. City Administration agreed to ask relevant City departments to see if the land should be deemed to be municipal surplus, and if a potential sale should be considered.
I want to provide some clarity as I feel there have been some misperceptions around what is actually being considered. There is no consideration to sell off the existing parks space. Property creep is something that happens across the city and often happens over many years, if not decades. It is an unfortunate reality and something that I feel we should be more diligent about. In this specific case the property in question began to creep towards the ridge dating back to the 1940s. Mr. Taylor, who I must take at his word, thought he had always owned the land and is now seeking to either lease the land or purchase a portion of the land which he had always thought was his.
I know there is much contention around this fact and I am unable to speak to who knew what. I spent my whole childhood clamouring along the ridges and deer trails in these neighbourhoods, and was always under the impression that the property in question was a part of the yard. That is in no way saying that we should not reclaim the land for the park and there are many examples of when we have done just that. In the case of fairness and clarity, we are not proposing to sell off what most of us would know and consider being the park space.
Under what process would the City of Calgary consider the sale of a piece of land?
Anyone who wants to purchase land from The City must follow the same process. The first step is that the potential purchaser contacts The City with a request to see if there is an opportunity to purchase the land. A circulation through City business units is completed to see if the property is deemed surplus (a property that is under the stewardship of one business unit may no longer be needed by that specific business unit, but could be used by another business unit in the City). This is often an iterative process and at times, the initial review shows that the land is not surplus, but after several business units get together, joint solutions may be found that will allow the property to be sold.
If the property is surplus, a land agent is assigned and negotiations begin. If the land agent is able to negotiate a deal with the potential purchaser, then reports are prepared to gain administrative approvals. Under the Real Estate Bylaw, the General Manager of Corporate Services has authority to approve some transactions; however, most go through the Land & Asset Strategy Committee and onto Council for final approval. In many instances, an intermediate step is required for Committee and Council to decide how the property is going to be marketed and set conditions such as selling price, etc. Once that is achieved, then the Administration is authorized to conclude the transaction in accordance with Council’s direction.
The lack of clarity around this process has been the source of much confusion and frustrations for members of the community. I want to express my sincerest belief that there is not some sinister plot from either the applicant or City Administration to collude to sell off parks space. There are thousands of small pieces of land all across the city and there is acknowledgement from Administration that we need more clarity around the disposition of land that was supposed to be used as parks space, but due to encroachment, was improperly converted into a private yard. Administration has been working to embed a clearer process of engagement with communities so that this will never happen again. Why was there no community involvement in this process?
When the City of Calgary looks to dispose of surplus land there is no formal public process involved. The City of Calgary is the largest land owner in the city and owns thousands of small pieces of land across the city. As a part of the internal circulation process the area Councillor is engaged to act as the voice of the community. As I mention above there is clearly a flaw in The City’s process. As a result of this file, we will require public engagement so that this situation never happens again.Why was the Property tax assessment so low?
When we look at the assessment of 638 Hillcrest Avenue S.W. from 2012, it looks astonishingly low and this has made many residents take a second look. I have attached a memo from the Mayor’s Office
, who worked with The City’s Assessment Department to explain why the assessment for 638 Hillcrest Avenue SW was so low. The Assessment Department has stated that they took into account that each of the properties that were affected by the slope degradation required construction of a retaining wall to preserve the value of the property. The market value assessment was lower due to the fact that any prospective purchaser would incorporate the cost of building the wall into the purchase price of the property. The assessment department, which conducts assessment in accordance with a prescribed methodology, determined that the value of 638 Hillcrest Avenue was significantly lower due to the high cost of building a retaining wall along the property. This property has a much larger portion of the retaining wall than the neighbouring properties. The initial assumption was that the property owners would be required to assume the entire cost of the retaining wall, which was estimated at approximately $6.9 million. The total cost of constructing the retaining wall actually came to $4.9 million, only half of which would be allocated to the property owners. As a result of the updated construction costs, the property was issued an amended notice on February 13, increasing the assessment from $63,000 to $1,530,000.So what happens next?
I have spent a considerable amount of time over the last year engaging residents and have been working closely with both of the affected Community Associations. We held an open house in June with a facilitator that allowed both communities as well as the applicant to present their sides and take questions from residents. You will find attached an engagement report on what was heard
. I have done my best to address the questions that I was unable to answer at that event. Click to view the comments
and feedback forms
A confidential report will be coming to the Land and Asset Committee on November 13th and your Community Associations have each prepared documents that will be attached to the report for review by committee members. At this meeting both Community Associations as well as the applicant will be given the opportunity to present to committee and to answer any questions the committee may have. All meetings with respect to the sale of land are held in-camera, as there will be discussions about the value of the land, all of which must be confidential. Committee will then make a decision that will be forwarded to Council in December for a final decision. It is very unusual for this committee to hear from the public but I have worked hard with the committee chair and City Clerks to provide your community associations with an opportunity to express their concerns.
I want to thank everyone again for their engagement and patience with this very important issue. I have received hundreds of emails and phone calls and I am sorry if I was unable to answer them all personally. I am looking forward to closure on this as I am committed to working with both communities to get to work on a green beltway that will protect and enhance green spaces in our communities.
This content represents the personal views and opinions of the Ward Councillor and should not be taken as a statement of policy of The City of Calgary. The inclusion of any external content does not imply endorsement by The City of Calgary.