City council approved funding for a market analysis for industrial lands formerly owned by Tembec after a lengthy debate over the cost and scope of the study.
The project, which has already gone to tender with a successful bidder, is budgeting up to $85,000, however, actual costs may come in lower once more specific outcomes and deliverables are hammered out between staff and the consultant.
“The intent was always to try to leave the engagement open enough so that we could negotiate with a successful proponent once we had a chance to speak to council and hear a little bit more about what council’s direction might be,” said Charlotte Osborne, the Director of Finance.
The debate over the funding approval, which was narrowly passed by a 4-3 vote, centred on concerns that the data being sought is already on file, given the same consulting company —Wave Point Consulting — also completed a logistics study for the city last year.
Although initially voicing opposition, Mayor Lee Pratt later voted in support of the study and clarified his concerns were focused on potentially paying for duplication of existing data the city might already have.
“I’m not against the report, I support the fact that we need the report,” said Pratt. “These guys also did our logistics hub feasibility study in 2018 and they did our Cranbrook airport, so my concern was, we’re spending $85,000 and are we duplicating what they’ve already done for us? I’m totally in support of this [report], we have to move on with this and get some guidelines as to what we should be doing — I totally support that. My question is, is it necessary for the price of $85,000?”
Darren Brewer, the Business Development Coordinator, told council the logistics study didn’t have enough relevant data necessary for the market analysis report.
Ron Fraser, the interim Chief Administrative Officer, also touted the merits of the market study.
“It’s to assess what the market will bear and what the future market is, so when we roll this out, whether we’re going to do sales or whether we’re going to do leasing, it has to be realistic,” said Fraser.
Councillor Wes Graham voiced his opposition and said there is sufficient municipal and community resources that could collect the appropriate data.
“There are great commercial appraisers who are based right out of Cranbrook,” Graham said. “If we wanted to get an appraised value, that’s what their job is, to look at the market, break things down, look at the bare land sales…
“I think we have the knowledge base in the community that we can draw on that would gladly help the city build that property without having to spend $85,000.”
Councillor Ron Popoff said he was concerned about timelines and getting information to council for a quick turnaround as development work on the property is set to get underway next year.
Councillors Wayne Price and John Hudak both spoke in favour of the study and the need for expert data collection and analysis.
“There was never a business case study done when we purchased, so this would rationalize it and lay some of the stuff out that we look to find in a business case,” said Councillor Wayne Price.
“…The fact that it’s public funds — if this was a private enterprise…I’m fine with spending the money how we please on those lands, but when we’re dealing with taxpayer funds, I think it’s prudent of us to make sure that we have a study and actually have something presented to us that rationalizes what we’re doing up there.”
Councillors Price, Hudak, and Popoff, along with Mayor Pratt voted in favour of approving the funding, while Councillors Blissett, Graham, and Mike Peabody voted in opposition.
The city purchased 100 acres of industrial land formerly owned by Tembec last year for $3 million with the vision of developing it for lease for investors wishing to set up business operations.