District of Tofino’s lowball bid fails to interest indebted Land Conservancy

Tofino has swung and missed in its first crack at purchasing and preserving Monks Point.

Last week, the district announced its $250,000 offer to purchase Monks Point from The

Land Conservancy (TLC) was denied.

Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne acknowledged the district’s offer was a far cry from the land’s roughly $1 million market value but suggested it was a fair price and questioned whether Tofino should have to pay anything at all.

“It’s simply appalling that TLC should seek close to market price for a property they received at no cost so they could then turn and use that money to pay off bad debt as well as administration fees that are only increasing as they continue to try to stay alive,” she said.

“We felt it was utterly inappropriate to pay market-value for a property that had been donated and in good faith. In this respect, there should be no cash purchase- the land should simply be transferred to another trust or appropriate body that can accomplish what Harold wanted in the first place.”

Harold Monks bequeathed the property to TLC in 2008 but TLC has filed for creditor protection and is looking at selling some of its properties to pay off about $8 million worth of debt.

With Monks Point potentially on the sales block, Tofino had hoped to jump in and snatch it up before it falls into the hands of a buyer who may not be keen on preserving it or in tune with Monks’ wishes.

Osborne noted the district’s offer included an agreement to honour Harold Monks’ wishes to conserve the property and said Tofino was prepared to seek out partnerships with land trusts, heritage organizations, and the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation.

She said the district’s main intention with the land is to preserve it and make it a publicly accessible space for the community’s enjoyment though details had not been cemented.

“These kinds of details need to be carefully thought out and discussed, and Council has not presumed to make any decisions on this yet,” she said. “Right now, we’re focused on ensuring the property remains in the public realm in some way, shape or form.”

Council’s conversation preceding the $250,000 offer was done in camera-closed to the public-but Osborne said council was united in its desire towards the property’s long-term preservation. She suggested the results of a public survey distributed after an open house at Monks Point in February strengthened council’s appetite to pursue a purchase.

The survey’s results showed 92 per cent of responders supported the preservation of Monks Point and 74 per cent were in favour of Tofino acquiring the property.

“With strong public support for the long-term preservation of the property, things began roll quite quickly after that,” Osborne said.

She said Tofino is not “cash-rich” and does not have a land acquisition fund or policy but had the $250,000 offer been accepted, the money would have come from several sources.

“We reviewed the District’s existing cash reserves and discussed various funding options, taking into account very seriously what the District’s other funding commitments will be over the next years,” she said.

She said nothing was ever set in stone but the most likely scenario would have seen the district dipping into its $203,900 Parkland Reserve and $334,000 General Surplus Revenue.

“It’s important to note that Parkland Reserve can only be used for the purpose of acquiring park land-it cannot be used for other purposes like water infrastructure,” she said.

Council was not surprised when its offer was rejected because the TLC has publicly stated its intent to sell off assets to pay back creditors, according to Osborne.

“They appear to want to get as much cash as possible out of Monks Point because they view it as expendable,” she said. “Obviously it’s not expendable to us, but we’re a small town with limited resources. Even if we exhausted all our reserves, we wouldn’t have their asking price.”

She assured the district is not considering exhausting its reserves to meet the TLC’s asking price because of Tofino’s current infrastructure priorities.

The district believes the TLC plans to break up the property and sell it off in sections with one section being gifted to the district but Tofino’s council would oppose any such rezoning request, according to Osborne.

“The District cannot prevent TLC from applying to rezone and subdivide, but if TLC knows there is no appetite amongst Council, I assume they wouldn’t bother attempting to,” she said. “By rejecting their proposal, we are in essence telling them that the land must remain intact and any sale or transfer would be of the entire property.”

With its $250,000 offer a no-go, the district has stepped back and is reassessing.

“Tofino has not walked away from the bargaining table, but we have pressed ‘pause’ while we consider all of our options,” Osborne said.

She noted that since the TLC is under creditor protection, all land sales and transfers must be approved by the court and if a buyer wishes to rezone Monks Point they must receive council’s approval to do so.

The property’s current zoning means any buyer would need council’s approval before building a hotel or condominium, according to Osborne.

“TLC could list the property on the open market at any time, so time is still of the essence,” she said. “There is definitely an appetite amongst Council and within the community to fight for the preservation of Monks Point.”

reporter@westerlynews.ca

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