A letter to residents of Mount Royal about the controversial sale of a section of parkland to a private property owner has some members of the upscale community in an uproar.

Calgary philanthropist Don Taylor wants the city to let him buy some of the land known as Hillcrest Hill or Cliff Bungalow Escarpment. The 3,700 square feet of city-owned land is adjacent to land Taylor bought about 20 years ago.

In the letter he sent to his neighbours he explains that until 2006 he was under the impression it already belonged to him. It even had a basketball court on it when he purchased the hill-top lot with a spectacular view of Calgary’s downtown.

taylor land

Calgary philanthropist Don Taylor is trying to acquire a piece of public land to enlarge his existing property in Mount Royal. (CBC)

When the slope adjacent to the property began to fail several years ago, Taylor says he helped pay for a retaining wall to shore it up — on the condition he be allowed to buy the land back at fair market value.

The city agreed to subdivide the parkland last year. The proposed sale still needs to go before a city committee and the full council.

Mount Royal resident Tom Pinder is trying to stop the sale. Residents have been left out of the process and the land should remain as public parkland, he said.

“What are we going to tell the next generation and the generation after that. Why would we sell such valuable assets, inner city lands that are really meant to be there,” he said.

Keep it as parkland, say community members 

In a statement sent to CBC News, Kathy Pinder listed several other reasons for the "community's united response" against the land transfer.

"For the applicant to purchase our viewpoint park, he was told that both communities [Mount Royal and Cliff Bungalow] must be 'at the minimum neutral.' Both communities are unanimously opposed to the sale," Pinder wrote.

The park was a gift from CP Rail in 1920 with the understanding that it be kept as parkland, she added.

Pinder also disputes Taylor's version of the events leading to the construction of the retaining wall. It only came about after "protracted negotiations" and it was a cost-shared arrangement among the city and all of the affected neighbours, she said. 

Donations from the Taylor family have funded many projects in the city including $25 million to build the Taylor Family Digital Library at the University of Calgary, a $40-million endowment to create the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning at the school and $20 million for a new concert hall at Mount Royal University.

Below is the response from two community associations to Taylor's letter. On mobile? Click here.