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Local group questions legality of City of Prince George land sale

The sale of 4500 Ospika Blvd. to a Vancouver-based developer may have violated the Community Charter, Ginter’s Green Forever members say.

A Prince George community group is questioning whether the City of Prince George violated the B.C. Community Charter when it sold land at 4500 Ospika Blvd. to a Vancouver-based developer.

The City of Prince George sold the land to The Hub Collection Ltd. for $500,000 in July 2020, on the condition the developer would build a 256-unit student housing complex on the 5.64-acre lot within 24 months. BC Assessment valued the land at $682,000 in its 2019 and 2020 assessments. Following an amendment to the official community plan and rezoning, BC Assessment valued the land at $3.547 million in the 2023 assessment.

By selling the land at 25 per cent below the market value, the city may have violated the B.C. Community Charter, according to community group Ginter’s Green Forever.

Section 25 of the charter prohibits local governments from providing “a grant, benefit, advantage or other form of assistance to a business.” Disposing of land for less than market value is one of the forms of assistance specifically named and prohibited in the charter. The only exceptions allowed, when dealing with businesses, are for the conservation of heritage property or promotion of local history or heritage.

“Just looking at the assessed value, that was not fair market value. I don’t think the law was followed,” James Steidle of Ginter’s Green Forever said. “You have to get the best value for the taxpayer.”

When a municipality disposes of land at below market value to provide a benefit to an organization, the charter requires the municipality to publish a public notice declaring its intent to do so. Such a notice was published in the Prince George Citizen on July 1, 2021 regarding the city's intent to provide land to Tano T'enneh General Partner Corp. at less than market value and lease land to the Prince George Native Friendship Centre for the purpose of operating a daycare.

The sale price of 4500 Ospika Blvd. was below the value BC Assessment placed on the land, as it was zoned at the time, Steidle said. And the city definitely did not take into account the potential value of the land, once it was rezoned for multifamily development, he added.

“Now that parcel is valued at $3.5 million,” Steidle said. “Personally, I think there should be consequences at the city staff level.”

“When we lose public land, especially in an ecologically important piece of greenspace like on the escarpment, we should be getting a lot more value for that land,” said Jenn Matthews of Ginter’s Green. “Our city needs to prioritize development in the urban core and respect greenspace. The public should not lose greenspace and millions of dollars in property value to make some Vancouver developer happy.”

On Monday night, city director of planning and development Deanna Wasnik told city council the $500,000 sale price was "fair market value."


Steidle said he also believes the city violated Section 26 of the Community Charter, which requires municipalities to provide public notice before disposing of property. In the case the land is not available to the public, as appears to have happened in the case of 4500 Ospika Blvd., the public notice is required to include a description of the land being disposed of, the name of the purchaser, the nature of the disposition (sale, lease, etc.), and the “consideration (price) to be received by the municipality for the disposition.”

“If you look at the Community Charter, they are required to advertise the sale of public land,” he said. “I did an online search and I didn’t find anything about it.”

Notifying the public is important, as a way of ensuing public oversight, he said.

A search of City of Prince George public notices published in the Citizen from Jan. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021, and on the City of Prince George website, found no public notice regarding the sale of the land to The Hub Collection. The Citizen could not independently confirm that such a notice did not exist, only that it could not be found as of Friday.

On March 18 and March 25, 2021, the City of Prince George published notices regarding a proposed amendment to the official community plan regarding the site to facilitate development of a 256-unit student housing complex. The applicant wasn’t named in those notices, and there was no mention that the city had sold the land to The Hub Collection Ltd.

Further notices published on May 20 and May 27, 2021, informed the public of a public hearing to be held on May 31, regarding the proposed OCP change and rezoning of the property. Those notices named The Hub Collection Ltd. as the applicant.

The City of Prince George published public notices regarding the sale of other lands to private developers during the period of January 2020 to September 2021. For example, on April 1, 2021, the city published notices of its intent to sell 1345 Sixth Ave. to PRP Holdings Ltd. for $2.1 million and 2620 Recplace Dr. to a numbered B.C. company for $2 million.

According to B.C. Assessment, the value of 1345 Sixth Ave. was $2 million in the 2021 assessment. The land at 2620 Recplace Dr. no longer exists as a separate parcel, so an assessed value could not be found.


In an email, a City of Prince George spokesperson said the city is conducting a review of the file.

"Due to public speculation and enquiries surrounding the 4500 Ospika file, the City is currently conducting an internal review of the materials," the email said. "Given the size and complexity of the subject, we are unable to provide a full statement at this time. However, we will issue a response as soon as it's reasonably practicable."

Municipal governments are legally required to follow the procedures set out in the Community Charter, a statement from the B.C. Ministry of Municipal Affairs said.

"The Community Charter sets out rules and requirements related to the sale of municipal property. Local governments have the legal authority and responsibility for ensuring their decision-making processes conform to principles of good practice and all legal requirements, including adhering to notice requirements and the sale of municipal property," the statement said. "Those who have questions about issues in their community may wish to contact the city manager for additional information and clarification. Responsibilities set out in the B.C. Community Charter are legally binding. Individuals concerned that a local government may have contravened the Charter should bring those concerns before a court."

The website for The Hub Collection was listed as private as of Friday afternoon and no other contact information could be found for the company. The company’s Facebook page has not been undated since Aug. 24, 2021. In legal documents provided by the City of Prince George, the company lists an office building in Vancouver as its address.