A follow up from Kent Spencer to his first article, posted below- scroll down below to read that one!
Surrey mayoral candidate Ross Buchanan stands Wednesday at proposed development site at 32nd Avenue and 192nd Street. He is critical of operations of Surrey City Development Corp.
Photograph by: Les Bazso – PNG, The Province
The City of Surrey has created joint- venture partnerships to develop a mall, erect 141 townhouses and build a large brewery.
Opposition council candidate Grant Rice said Thursday that warning bells should be going off about the city’s foray into moneymaking enterprises usually left to private developers.
“The people running the Surrey City Development Corp. don’t have the expertise to handle multimillion-dollar projects. They’re burning through $1 million a year and the taxpayers know very little about it,” said Rice, who is running for the Surrey Civic Coalition.
“I’m sticking up for private developers here and asking how we can insure that they have a level playing field,” said Rice.
Meanwhile, Mayor Dianne Watts’ office has released the details of three joint- venture projects with private businesses that will start in 2012:
- A $25-million development at the Cloverdale Mall with 102 residential units and 2,000 square metres of retail;
- A $39-million townhouse development in East Clayton with 141 units;
- A $15-million brewery, office and retail project that will take up 9,200 square metres in Bridgeview.
Independent mayoral candidate Ross Buchanan said the corporation’s annual financial statement reads like an “Enron” balance sheet because details have been left out about the contracts and who is earning $632,000 in salaries.
Buchanan, who is challenging Watts’ Surrey First party, said the corporation was almost $3 million in the red at the end of 2010. Expenses in 2010 were $1.3 million.
“The political involvement by the mayor and councillor [Linda Hepner] as directors of the corporation creates a conflict of interest with what’s best for the city,” he said.
Buchanan said there are inherent business “risks” such as those involved in the moneylosing Olympic Village in Vancouver.
“Some developers go bankrupt a couple of times,” he said.
Watts, meanwhile, said the corporation will provide huge benefits for the city and save taxpayers’ money.
It makes “strategic” land purchases, shapes growth, lowers taxes and adds “significant value” to city holdings, she said.
“We want to create a revenue stream to help pay for capital projects like a new performing arts centre,” she said.
Watts said the corporation’s $2.8-million deficit will be “wiped out” this year as land sales bear fruit.
The salaries are necessary to manage major projects such as the city’s new $38-million library, she said.
Other Canadian cities have established corporations similar to Surrey’s, including Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton, she said.
“Edmonton is very active in residential and industrial land development,” said Mark Hall, Edmonton’s development manager. “It is a for-profit venture.”
Watts said she will never be in a conflict of interest.
“I will always do what’s best for the city,” she said.
Yes, of course Dianne. And that is exactly why there has been controversy kept quiet for years about this corporation, that is only able to keep operating because of ongoing loans from city hall !
Not only that, the city actually has actually had to borrow the money, authorized again by the passing of a special bylaw, without public consultation, to loan the money to their own development company, as shown by this document from 2010
Sound familiar? Sound like the city hall borrowing with lack of consultation all over again? Seems the city likes to borrow a lot of money without telling or asking anyone but themselves.
But thats not all. This company is not being accountable in any manner. In fact, Ross Buchanan states unequivocably that Watts and council are in conflict and there must be an immediate, independent audit into all activities and transactions of the development corporation. He says the citizens of Surrey have lost an objective council completely because Watts, Hepner and the city manager are all on the board of directors.
Buchanan states that the corporation is riddled with a lack of transparency because although it remains a corporation separate from the city of Surrey controlled by the city, it has not been accountable for its activities, pointing to how the city consolidated the financial activities with it’s own financial statement last year.
“ It’s highly irregular that the financial statements from a corporation would be consolidated with the cities, regardless of who that corporation reports to. It is a separate entity altogether. In order to get an unconsolidated financial report, one has to ask for a separate copy directly from the corporation, and if you want detailed accounting, you are denied and told that you need to file a Freedom of Information request to get that information through the city. The people of Surrey have a right to know what is going on with the cities land holdings, how many properties have been transferred to this corporation and at what value. This is exactly how the city of Vancouver got into trouble with the Olympic village fiasco.”
Buchanan is so concerned about the amount of taxpayers money being spent to operate this corporation, and the number and value of city owned assets such as property holdings have been transferred to the corporation with little to no debate or public consultation that he has filed a formal request under the freedom of information act for a detailed listing of all land transfers , acquisitions and transactions between the city and the corporation.
Here is one document detailing some land transfers that have occurred with absolutely no public consultation or notice whatsoever, at seemingly no value allotted
“ I expect that because we are in an election period, they will not respond quickly for the benefit of the people of Surrey, in particular because the city has also been loaning Surrey City Development Corporation money from day 1 just to keep it afloat. I understand the mayor claims to be trying to generate revenue, but this corporation has been the subject of criticism from day 1. In fact, even early on there were questions when one of the directors stepped down because he didn’t agree with what the city was doing. It’s time to have an independent audit of the financial activities and relationship between Surrey City Development Corporation and the city of Surrey. “
It’s time the residents of Surrey knew the full extent of what financial foolishness is going on at city hall. It’s time the residents of Surrey knew the extent of the land transfers, loans, and risk Dianne Watts and her Surrey First council have exposed the city too via this development corporation.
The only way to do that, is to vote Ross Buchanan for mayor, to allow a complete and independent outside audit of the financial affairs of Surrey City hall, and allow the truth to be known.