‘No Burden to Taxpayers on SODC Deal’: Mayor Kirkham

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Mayor Rob Kirkham and SODC vice-chair Gregg Smyth at the Squamish Mayor’s office.
Photo: Gagandeep Ghuman

Q: Why were these two developer chosen?

Kirkham: To back up, when we came on to council we were pretty clear that DOS didn’t really have the capability to develop the site. So we gave it to SODC and they hired Cushman and Wakefield and did their International appeal for parties that are interested in developing the site. They received seven expressions of interest and two of them were suitable for the community.

Q. Why these two, can you offer some specifics?

Smyth: We were evaluating everyone in a range of factors and one of them obviously was the price they were willing to pay, their willingness to comply with the subarea plan, financial capability to follow through with the plan, and see that people were ready to build as quickly as practical.

Kirkham: And then some history, capability and experience, and their knowledge of the market to deliver on large projects like these.

Q. Has any of the developer you chose been involved with SODC at any point?

Kirkham: I’m not sure what you mean. What do you mean they have been involved?

Q. Have any of these developers had any dealing with SODC?

You know that Michael Hutchison was on the board.

Q. Don’t you see any conflict in that?

A. We opened all the information and the studies and everything that SODC ever did all the environment assessments, upgrading and the remediation, and the business plan and the financials, all the history was open to all proponents who wanted to be part of it.

There is no information that one party would have that the other wouldn’t have.

Q. Was there any other way that he was ever involved except for being a SODC director?

A.  No, because when our council came on board, we gave directions to SODC to not do anything other than to go to the market. All the background, all the information within the SODC was open to all those interested.

Q. Gregg, are you aware of any dealings he might have had with SODC?

Smyth: No.

Q. What are the details of the sale?

A. That is something we have to nail down, but as to the final agreements are, I can’t say that right now. We have chosen a developer with whom we want to work towards a sale with. We thought we should keep connected with the community and let everyone know where we are at and we are doing.

Q. It’s odd that there is no sale price announced?

A. I don’t think that is the case at all. What I believe is we are in a position where we can work towards an agreement, that doesn’t mean we have the upper hand or they have the upper hand, the agreement has to be acceptable to both parties, or you don’t have an agreement. They are not in a position to corner us or anything.

Q. What happens if negotiations fail?

A. I can’t say that we have a laid out plan for what we do if we don’t have a deal, but we are working towards having a deal and that is our vision.

Q. So, what happens now?

Kirkham: We get together and form a negotiating team to work out the deal with the proponent, and we are working on it to get a deal within the next six months. I’m looking at spring. That will be the final transaction deal that will have a price and phasing of the development.

Q. Who were the other interested companies?

Kirkham: I can’t say that.

Q. Why not?

A. Because that was done in confidence. The arrangement with them when they were submitting proposals was that they were done in confidence. That was the method in which they knew they were submitting their proposal.

Q. What happens to the debt, will it be acquired by the developer?

Kirkham: We haven’t nailed down the price, but it’s certainly our objective that there will be no liability, no burden on the taxpayers, which would be interpreted as that debt would be extinguished. There has been a lot of concern in the community about the debt being a burden to our community, and that is one of our key objective.

 Q. So, DOS and SODC won’t bear any financial risk ?

Kirkham: When you are working on a financial deal, it’s all subject to negotiations, but it’s certainly our objective going in that there will not be any debt left over.

Q. Is the sub-area plan also up for discussion?

Kirkham: The sub area plan was a key factor and our priority was that the developer follows the sub-area. And that is also the reason we chose this developer because they are interested in sub-area plan too.

Smyth: They are willing to accept the subarea plan without any major modifications, remember this is a build out over 20 years and as time goes, there will be legitimate reasons why someone may want to change something, but they are committed to the plan.

Q. Can these proponents flip the land and sell it?

Kirkham: We haven’t nailed the deal yet, but we are not interested in that and they are not interested. But things can change. At the end of the day, the developer might change his mind or run into some roadblock, but they have clearly expressed they want shovels in the ground as soon as possible. They believe in Squamish and they recognize the huge potential that Squamish has for that project and for the community itself.

Q. Would the park be the first component?

Kirkham: Well, there are environmental issues that building the park solves, and that has a lot to do with the ability to subdivide and move ahead with the project that is the key factor in initiating the project. The developer has indicated that they recognize this.

Q. What about the services?

Kirkham: That is something we will be nailing down in the next few months as for whose responsibility these are and the timing.

Smyth: And that is the reason why it might take so many months to negotiate, there are so many issues to be resolved.

Q. What is the assessed value of the land?

Kirkham: I’m not sure what that is.

Q. With the new provincial guidelines for flood mitigation, is there any extra cost?

Kirkham: Well, any development on the shore of the ocean has to adhere to the guidelines, it’s the cost of doing development on the waterfront, it’s something we will all have nailed down in the next six months for who pays for what.

Q. How do you compare it to the Qualex deal?

 Kirkham: It was before I got on council. That deal didn’t go through and so I got on council we were stalled and we need to take it to market and we need to determine what the market place is willing to participate and bring the plan to reality. This is the 2013 reality we are dealing with.

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Alexandra Suhner Isenberg says:

    This sounds dodgy. I don’t trust Kirkham and it does not sound like they have the community’s best interests at heart.

  2. Alexandra Suhner Isenberg says:

    And thanks for asking the right questions – and putting them on the spot. There aren’t enough people in Squamish taking an active role in politics and questioning the VERY questionable decisions being made by council.

  3. Jaspera says:

    Alexandra’s comments are on target, as are the Squamish Reporter’s questions, which elicited more obfuscation, fuzziness, lack of transparency, and all the other ills which make “the people” increasingly distrust politicians. The Squamish public deserves to have clear answers to these questions and to the ones raised by other commenters over the past weeks. To date the answers have clarified nothing and leaves one feeling quite suspicious about the direction this Council is once again going. More tax increases everyone, in 2014?

  4. heather gee says:

    Thank you for asking those pointed questions, Gagan.
    They need help – next time take a hammer with you, so that at least a few answers may be ‘nailed down’.
    Agree with the other comments – lack of transparency leaves one almost suspicious.

  5. Richard Tripp says:

    Wow… hard to believe people stand by and accept this. It’s taken 10 years and 10 million dollars to arrive at this point? A deal that may or may not exist, with terms, inclusions, exclusions etc. that may or may not be made public, even after the fact.

    Another area of questioning that is perhaps worth asking about is what past history these two developers have together? Why is it necessary to go as far as Texas to find someone interested in a potential crown jewel? If the sellers are seen to be competent and honest, the process open and fair, one would think the outcome should have included something a bit more concrete. Does the fact that this vague and as of yet incomplete result is apparently the best deal indicate something is amiss here?

    This charade will likely continue until the next election, at which point the people of Squamish will be told that current gang must be returned to office lest the whole thing fall apart and leave taxpayers on the hook for the debt. The beauty of the thing is that over the past 5 years or so the public has been conditioned to expect so little from this gift that they will likely comply and be happy to give up a lot more yet just to see a conclusion.

    Those who might be wondering what “could have been” would be quite interested to learn the history of oceanfront brownfield redevelopment expertise involved with the GAS proposal.

  6. LArry McLennan says:

    To paraphrase Kirkham’s & Smyth’s answers to most of the questions ” “Maybe- maybe not – I don’t know- it could be but not necessarily- great weather were having -all is well-maybe-we can’t really say”

  7. Elliot says:

    Gagan, you should ask if any of the other companies who made proposals are restricted by the SODC from coming forward and identifying themselves to you if they so choose. It’s not very likely that all companies requested anonymity, and just a name, or names, doesn’t compromise any potential deal.

    Also, that’s quite a lofty goal, not to have any debt left over (sarc). If selling at this inopportune time, as it appears, is because DOS or SODC painted itself in a corner trying for residential development (read: original condition as industrial land produces income/jobs), then heads should already be rolling; past, present, council, and SODC directors….

    If these people are feeling uncomfortable by your questions, they should. Being a taxpayer in this town is like owning a condo unit in a terrible strata. Thanks for shedding light on this pile of steaming horsepoop!

  8. LArry McLennan says:

    They (Kirkham & Smyth) state that they hope everything will be settled within the next 6 months. If my calculations are correct ;that’s about the timeframe when SODC will be totally tapped out with respect to their loan and the line of credit and is on the hook for, I believe a $3 million payback of the loan within a short period. Guess who else is aware of that? I’m guessing that former SODC board member Mr. Hutchison & Co. might have an inkling. Who do you think then has an advantage with respect to barganing and wording of any conditional provisions ?

  9. Deb McBride says:

    it doesn’t cost millions of dollars to decide to sell

    what we lose is a few dollar opportunity to have waterfront events

  10. LArry McLennan says:

    Other than the fact that Greg Smyth was part of this interview , I don’t see any mention that any of the former SODC board members will be part of the negotiating team. Are any of them on the team? Are they being paid for being on the team or part of the negotiating process? If so, what is the nature of their remuneration and have they been paid amounts that were capitalized in the past?

  11. Jaspera says:

    This whole SODC deal smells. Come on Squamish, wake up and start asking hard questions to get to the bottom of this boondoggle, just as the Squamish Reporter has been doing and the others above. Squamish taxpayers need CLEAR ANSWERS, including what the real immediate and future costs to taxpayers are going to be, and what conflicts of interest exist. Will we paying more exorbitant taxes next year, and in the future, because of the gross mishandling by these Councillors, past and present? Besides the questions raised by The Squamish Reporter, to which no concrete answers have been received, the commentators above have raised some equally valid questions, again to which no concrete answers have been received publicly. The recent comments by Heintzman only obfuscate the situation and lend nothing to clarifying what is going on. All the councillors and mayor are intent on doing is pulling the wool over our eyes like a bunch of sheep. Let’s show them that we aren’t sheeple!

  12. Richard Tripp says:

    And just how do/should the people show that they are not sheeple? If there is in fact nefarious intent associated with this deal, and the sheeple looked up from grazing long enough to notice, one would presume there might be a rush to complete the transaction prior to the next election. Whether this situation has arisen from a corrupted process, unintended incompetence or is simply a case of sound, legal, and competitive business practices capitalizing on opportunity the fact remains that a decade of work is apparently nearing completion. The questions remaining unanswered are numerous. Such as is it really possible that the proposed outcome means a developer will soon control the land and be able to sell it off in part or whole when the market value swings? If so one might not be surprised to see some current opponents to GAS suddenly championing that project once this one is complete.

    Taking advantage of an opportunity, or creating one if need be, to fill the DOS council chambers with concerned citizens may help send the message to community leaders that all is not well with the optics of the situation. One would hope that if all is on the up and up the brakes might be applied, questions asked and answered and the process proceed with a more open framework. On the other hand that may just cause the transaction to be expedited if it was not expected to survive such scrutiny. In either case I imagine the biggest challenge would be finding enough people willing or able to come forward and participate. There are will be many aligned with the status quo, many concerned or opposed but unwilling to put their name to such an opinion and then the biggest group will be those unaware of or disinterested in the process.

    Ironically I find myself frustrated by the fact that I like the projects Bethel has been involved with in Squamish. I think Michael is to be commended for delivering a higher standard to Squamish than many others have. If he is the best option currently available for this project Squamish could likely do much worse for a partner. I however had much higher expectations for the land and the community and find that the process leaves me and others wondering is this really the best we could do?