In a previous article published February 20, 2021, we analyzed the Town’s second estimate of the land lift that would apply to the Todsen / Happach proposal, if approved, to create a 16-lot subdivision on their property which is currently outside the Town’s Urban Containment Boundary. The uplifted land value is now projected to be, according to the Cunningham & Rivard appraiser’s second calculation, $1,600,000, i.e. $100,000 per building lot.
It seems we at Second Opinion QB were not the only ones startled by this incredibly low estimate. When the Todsen / Happach project came before Council for third reading at the Regular Council meeting on February 24, 2021, it hit a nasty speed bump.
The tumult in Council had nothing to do with the fundamental question: Is there an urgent and compelling reason to crash through THE major guard rail in the Town’s Official Community Plan, namely the Urban Containment Boundary. Nope — the entire discussion was about the land lift appraisal, and it was contentious enough that Council deferred the scheduled “third reading.”
The questionable appraisal
Councillor Westbroek expressed serious dissatisfaction with the appraiser’s second attempt at a land lift estimate. The evidence below indicates that Councillor Westbroek may have been the only member of Council who actually read the appraisal document, as none of the points he raised seemed to even have been noticed by the other Council members. Mayor Wiese even made the stunning admission that “I didn’t realize until today that both these reports [the initial appraisal as well as the second attempt] were done by the same guy!”
Readers can catch the 35 minute discussion [none of which was mentioned in the Minutes of the meeting] starting around the 42 minute mark of the recorded Council Meeting video.
Westbroek launched the discussion with “I am not satisfied with the conclusions drawn in these appraisal documents. In the end, I’ll be asking for Council to instruct staff to commission an independent review of the appraisal before going further with this or any other reading.”
Councillor Harrison tried to shrink the scope of the proposed independent review to “just touching base with a professional for fifteen minutes or half an hour to review the methodology quickly and sort of say ‘yeah, looks reasonable’ or ‘no, you should do a new thing from scratch, and here’s how you should do it.’ ..”
Councillor Westbroek was having none of that: “That is NOT what I am asking for. We need to be much more clear on what we expect an appraisal to look like. … I want to make sure that this gets done on behalf of Council, that this person is knowledgeable, that we can talk to this person as a Council, saying here’s what our concerns are, and give that direction.”
Here are some examples of Westbroek’s concerns as stated at the February 24th Council meeting: “I did read in the report that the author did not verify client-supplied information. So, in this case, we [Council] would like to be the client and say ‘Here’s what you need to do’ and ‘Make sure you don’t print in your report that this property is immediately adjacent to Milner Gardens on one side and Eaglecrest Golf Course on the other, because it’s NOT’.” Ouch.
“There are so many inaccuracies,” continued Westbroek. “I was getting more and more annoyed as I was reading through it that I got three full pages of comments on things that are not accurate. So, I want a complete, independent review.”
Silence is golden?
It’s hard to grasp what the silence from the other three Council members meant.
Do they agree that Westbroek’s criticisms are well-founded? If so, not one of them expressed having any concern with the existing appraisal. Do they think Westbroek’s concerns are trifling and inconsequential? If so, they did not speak up.
It would be nice to think that the upcoming “independent review” had the full support of Council. But it doesn’t. The only reason Westbroek’s concerns were not batted away and a third reading held was that Wiese and Harrison knew that the motion would fail on a tie vote.
In the interests of both transparency and accountability, the Town would be well-advised to make all of the appraisal documentation available for reading by the public, whose confidence in the entire process is probably shaky at best, especially after this latest revealing fiasco. Stay tuned.