By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Nov 3, 2014
A former Squamish Oceanfront Development Corporation (SODC) director says the council didn’t follow process, acted in haste, and used incomplete information to select the Oceanfront developer.
“They jumped the gun on it,” said Bill McNeney, who volunteered as a SODC chair for five years.
“Our advice was you should wait until you get additional information but the council had made up its mind.”
In October last year, the two proponents, Newport Beach Partnership (collaboration between Matthew Southwest and Bethel Lands) and Solterra, made presentations to the SODC board. [manual_related_posts]
The proponents gave a broad outline of their plan in presentations that lasted less than an hour: the initial plans, the purchase price, the timelines etc.
“I said you are being foolish, you should wait until you have more information.” Bill McNeney
But the crucial details—the development phases, who would provide services, whether proponents had financial capability—would come later in a term sheet, the board was told.
McNeney said the plan was to have the proponents make a similar broad-stroked presentation to the council and then come back to SODC a few weeks later with term sheets that contained those critical details.
“It was a negotiating tactic of having two horses in the race,” McNeney said.
The understanding was that after SODC and council had reviewed the term sheets, the SODC board would make a final recommendation to the council.
But McNeney said he was shocked when he found out the council had decided to select Newport Beach Enterprises, after an initial presentation and without seeing the detailed term sheets.
McNeney said he told the Mayor they were taking a major decision without a good ‘apple to apple’ comparison.
“I said you are being foolish, you should wait until you have more information,” McNeney recalls.
With critical details missing, the district placed the lever of power in the developer’s hand and weakened their own negotiating position, he added.
“If I was developing this, there was nothing to hold my feet to the fire now,” McNeney said.
The decision also angered Solterra, who were under the impression they would get one more round of presentation to provide details.
“Solterra was very angry and I sympathise with them because they never got a chance to make that presentation,” McNeney said.
The council also told the SODC board they would be taking control over the negotiations. All three members of the SODC resigned.
McNeney said the Oceanfront is a complex property with water, sewer and flood management issues to deal with and those critical details needed to be hashed out before choosing the developer.
“If the cost of servicing is two or three times the price of property, then is that on the back of the community?”
Coun. Doug Race said it wasn’t his understanding of the process. Both candidates presented their proposals and we made a decision and there was no doubt that there would be some detail work done after that to enter into a contract. But that was not necessary to chose the preferred proponent, Race said.
Kirkham said SODC conducted a ‘due diligence process’ following which the proponents delivered presentations to council on the proposals. Council then received expert feedback and it was clear the Matthew South West was the best proposal to deliver the sub-area plan.
Bryan Raiser and Susan Chapelle didn’t respond to answers to questions about the former SODC’s chair’s concern.
Coun. Patricia Heintzman said the SODC board gave the council a very comprehensive evaluation of all the proponents, including the two that were deemed by SODC.
“The Matthews Southwest proposal was clearly a better proposal as was outlined by the SODC board, including chair McNeney,” she said.
McNeney he is surprised at Heintzman’s view because he recalls having discussions on how SODC was pushing for both proponents to complete a term sheet.
McNeney said he only hopes that selecting the developer without first figuring out phasing, servicing details, and financial capability won’t burden the tax payers.
“I just hope the district doesn’t get taken to the cleaners on this,” he said.