Put the office tower on hold, until someone buys it
Re: OK, now let's get out money back (Column, NewsLeader, Aug. 15)
We appreciate Chris Bryan's research amongst real estate experts.
It confirms the position of the large majority of letters opposing the city's solo involvement in this project. They have not questioned the positive aspects of the office building. The point of the opposition to the office building is that city council does not have a mandate to get into the development business, of which no one in City Hall has the necessary experience.
The loss of a legitimate partner, for whatever reason, increases substantially the risks in the project. Such a unique project should be the subject of a referendum with all the details exposed to the taxpayers of New Westminster, who are the owners. Unfortunately, the city failed to give us any information other than “we will make lots of money on this.”
This is a project which has a detailed financial assessment on several desks in City Hall and potential investors' desks. As City Hall was asking for an indication for support from taxpayers, the lack of information on the financial aspects of the project is a serious breach of fiduciary responsibilities by each member of council. The information provided did not discuss the ultimate destination in the office building. There could be serious legal implications. Council will now use the receipt of only 2,000-plus ballots in favour of the referendum as a confirmation of support for the office building.
This is a travesty of democracy. Council should authorize a proper referendum this fall, and share the necessary information by which taxpayers can make the decision.
Some will argue that any delay will be costly to the project. Well, it is far better that New Westminster is known for democracy. It is outrageous that City Hall can tell us that we should not be concerned. That type of statement simply increases the concerns held by so many.
The column quotes a representative of the Urban Development Institute, a non-profit organization, pointing out the huge benefits for the city when completed. This is characteristic of promoters who cannot justify the direct financial returns to a development. Hey, everything spent in the city has a financial return to somebody. Let’s spend more on retail goods. Let’s up taxes so we can benefit someone else. The Vancouver Trade and Exhibition Centre benefits hotels, bars and restaurants. How much did they contribute to the huge costs and overruns? How does pouring money into construction workers benefit New Westminster? How many of the construction workers live here? Do we make cement, steel, glass, etc? It is expected 250 new office workers, here because of SkyTrain, will be a significant benefit to Downtown.
How many $5 lunches, five days a week will they buy before jumping on the SkyTrain for home?
The time for this office building is when a developer writes a cheque.
It is bound to recover the costs to date including a share of the land value and start the property taxes rolling in. We will not need to borrow money to be repaid over 20 years.
This project should be sold. Perhaps a call for tenders will flush out some interest.
If not. Shut it down until someone wants it.