Calgary Herald

$4.5M cost of land raises concerns of council

- riChard CuthBertso­n rCutHberts­on@CalgaryHer­ald.Com

City hall will have to spend almost $4.5 million to buy a parcel of land in the southeast for a future fire, police and bylaw services station to serve the soon-tobe completed hospital in Seton.

The decision by council comes over the objections of a handful of aldermen and the mayor, who say the purchase price is just too steep for the 4.57 acres.

“I’m concerned about the price we’re paying,” Ald. Gian-Carlo Carra said, adding his objections come even though he understand­s the price is market value.

Council ultimately approved the purchase on Monday, but also tacked on amendment for the city to look at transit-oriented developmen­t on the site.

In purchasing the land, the city is exercising an option that was first agreed to back in 2006.

The value, at $950,000 an acre, is in line with current market rates and was appraised, according to a city official.

Building a fire station, in particular, is an urgent need according to a city report, given it must to serve the South Health Campus, due to open next year.

Carra and Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the issue underlying their opposition is there’s land available to the city elsewhere in the area, but it won’t be ready in time for the triservice­s centre to be built.

But Sarah Quayle, the city’s coordinato­r of real estate options, said the other land is actually meant for parks and a recreation centre.

Finding a cheaper plot for a triservice­s centre would be difficult, she said.

“It’s highly unlikely,” she said. “We’re paying market rates for serviced greenfield land within this area. It’s required to service this particular region and that’s a rate that would be comparable to any other land within that area,” Quayle said.

Nenshi said there should have been better planning between the city and the province so to not end up in this situation. Price is one of his concerns.

“It is bothersome to me that the provincial government’s decision about siting a hospital is causing the city to spend another several million dollars on servicing that site,” he said. “I think this could have been part of a broader discussion long ago.”

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