Mu­nic­i­pal­ity and Vil­lage ex­plor­ing land trans­fer to fire depart­ment

The Victoria Standard - - Local News - AN­DREW BROOKS

Ne­go­ti­a­tions are un­der­way be­tween the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of the County of Vic­to­ria, The Vil­lage of Baddeck Com­mis­sion and the Baddeck Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment (BVFD) to set­tle an own­er­ship mat­ter re­gard­ing the build­ing that houses the BVFD and the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Li­brary (CBRL) Baddeck Branch, and the piece of land be­tween Che­bucto, Wa­ter and Jones Street upon which the build­ing stands.

All three par­ties agree that the ti­tle of the land is cur­rently co-owned by the County and the Vil­lage. How­ever, who presently owns the build­ing that houses the fire depart­ment and the li­brary ap­pears to be a point of con­fu­sion.

“The prop­erty has lim­ited value to us [County] just based on the fact it's got a build­ing on it owned by the fire depart­ment,” de­clared Vic­to­ria County War­den Bruce Mor­ri­son in an in­ter­view with The Stan­dard.

When asked about own­er­ship of the build­ing, re­tired lawyer and BFVD Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Of­fi­cer Dan Chi­as­son in­di­cated the BVFD sees things dif­fer­ently.

“When the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity and the Vil­lage ac­quired this prop­erty around 1968 as ten­ants in com­mon, it just never crossed their mind to com­plete the con­veyance to the Baddeck Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment.

The whole idea of trans­fer­ring the land ti­tle, own­er­ship of the prop­erty, is to make it con­sis­tent with all the other re­al­i­ties that have ex­isted on the ground for a long time. The fire depart­ment ba­si­cally no­ticed that we didn't have ti­tle to the prop­erty and ev­ery­body went, what? Well, we own it. We don't own it legally, but yeah, we own it. It's a his­tor­i­cal and le­gal fact that build­ings at­tached to land are a part of the prop­erty.”

The le­gal dif­fer­ence may ap­pear sub­tle, but it could have larger im­pli­ca­tions if the ti­tle is fi­nally re­lin­quished to the BVFD. If the BVFD took own­er­ship of the prop­erty, it would have the abil­ity to sell both the land and the build­ing. It would also call into ques­tion the cur­rent ten­ancy of the Baddeck Li­brary which does not cur­rently have a rental agree­ment with ei­ther the BVFD or the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity. While the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity is legally re­spon­si­ble for hous­ing pub­lic li­braries un­der the Mu­nic­i­pal Gov­ern­ment Act, the BVFD has col­lected rent from the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity for years.

When asked by The Stan­dard if there would be con­di­tions at­tached to the ti­tle trans­fer, Mor­ri­son said he ex­pects there would be con­di­tions at­tached should the BVFD de­cide to sell the build­ing, but has no rea­son to be­lieve they would do so.

“The in­tended use that they've told us is it's for the fire hall, and I'm go­ing to take them at face value.”

In the past, BVFD has ex­plored mov­ing the depart­ment to a lo­ca­tion nearer the cur­rent EHS and RCMP de­tach­ment on Big Baddeck Road. The Stan­dard asked BVFD Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Di­rec­tor if the depart­ment had any in­ter­est in sell­ing the par­cel of prime real es­tate.

“The fire depart­ment would be open to any­thing that's in the best in­ter­est of the fire depart­ment. And the best in­ter­ests of the fire depart­ment are the best in­ter­ests of the com­mu­nity. The last time we looked at that pos­si­bil­ity, the first thing we did was hold a pub­lic meet­ing. And that's the na­ture of the process. It's very trans­par­ent.”

War­den Mor­ri­son first met with BVFD on June 12 for in­for­mal dis­cus­sions about land trans­fer and alerted the Vil­lage about the pro­posal meet­ing on June 14. Vil­lage Chair Mor­ri­son in­di­cated to The Stan­dard that the Vil­lage cur­rently main­tains the same po­si­tion as the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity in that they’re open to dis­cussing a ti­tle trans­fer.

On July 17, Vic­to­ria County Coun­cil voted unan­i­mously to ini­ti­ate the process of trans­fer­ring a por­tion of land they own un­der­neath the BVFD build­ing to the BVFD. At the time of the mo­tion, no for­mal let­ter of re­quest had been sub­mit­ted to ei­ther gov­ern­ment body by the BVFD.

On July 31, Chief Dar­ren Ma­caulay sent out for­mal let­ters to Coun­cil and the Com­mis­sion. Coun­cil en­tered the cor­re­spon­dence into the meet­ing min­utes that evening, but no fur­ther ac­tion was taken.

The next step is for the land value to be as­sessed be­fore any fur­ther ac­tion is taken. Should the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity favour a trans­fer, a pub­lic hear­ing will be held first and a deal would re­quire ap­proval by the Prov­ince.

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