Municipality and Village exploring land transfer to fire department
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.