SRD considers selling Cortes parkland to pay off debt

The Strathcona Regional District is considering selling parkland on Cortes Island to help pay down a debt

The Strathcona Regional District is considering selling parkland on Cortes Island to help pay down a debt.

The property in question is Sutil Point Park – 0.22 hectares of undeveloped land outside of Smelt Bay Provincial Park.

Karin Albert, planner for the regional district, said the park, which is forested with second growth Douglas fir, could be sold to pay off money the regional district borrowed to purchase Whaletown Commons two years ago.

“The regional district is exploring the sale of Sutil Point Park in order to raise funds to replenish the Area B parkland acquisition fund which has been drawn down as a result of acquiring Whaletown Commons as park in October, 2014,” Albert said.

If the regional district were to continue on with its current payment plan, Albert said that for the next three years, close to one-third of Cortes Island’s parks budget will go toward paying off the five year loan that the regional district took on to purchase Whaletown Commons.

The regional district collects $149,000 annually through taxes for its parks budget.

“The debt payment is structured over five years, to end October, 2019, with current annual principal and interest payments of close to $45,000,” Albert said.

“Monies gained from the sale of the Sutil Point Park would aid in rebuilding the parks acquisition fund and take the pressure off the operations budget.”

Albert said Sutil Point Park could potentially be sold to the neighbours bordering the park to the west and to the north, or sold on the open market.

Albert estimated the parkland is valued at somewhere between $30,270 and $34,602.

Regional district staff is suggesting the corporation get approval from Cortes Islanders to sell Sutil Point Park via an alternate approval process.

Cortes Director Noba Anderson said it’s crucial to take the question to her constituents, and said she would even consider a referendum.

“This is your park, your funds, your decision,” Anderson wrote in her director’s report on Tidelines.

“There are two ways to seek this formal approval.

“The first is an alternative approval process whereby we say that it is our intent to sell unless 10 per cent of you object. The other option that I may support would be to have a referendum question on the ballot at the next local government election in two years. I would only recommend moving in this direction after hearing from you,” Anderson added.

If residents are supportive and the sale is able to go ahead, Kyle said it will help take some of the pressure off of Cortes Island’s parks operations budget which will be tight until the debt from Whaletown Commons is paid off.

That 70-acre green space was purchased from Island Timberlands for $839,000 after five years of negotiations.

According to the regional district, the property was appraised at $826,000 ($475,000 for the timber and $351,000 for the land).

The Whaletown Commons Society, a non-profit which had been trying to secure the land for more than 20 years, partnered with the regional district and agreed to chip in roughly $73,000 towards the purchase.

The society was formed with the sole purpose of keeping the green space as parkland and is using the property to create a community park in Cortes Island’s Whaletown.

Whaletown Commons has high forest and riparian values, a salmon-bearing creek and it provides a natural habitat for wolves and other animals.

It also connects three Whaletown sub-neighbourhoods.