A deal between Winnipeg's Fire Paramedic Service and a local developer to trade former fire halls for land is in question, with city appraisers and the developer not quite on the same page about the value of one of the properties involved.
Fire Chief Reid Douglas has told CBC News that he personally negotiated an agreement with Shindico to swap two vacant fire halls, plus a parcel of land on Mulvey Avenue, in exchange for land on Taylor Avenue where a new fire station has already been built.
However, the land swap has not yet been finalized. The two sides have a verbal agreement to transfer the Taylor Avenue property to the city.
Council is expected to hear details of the proposed arrangement next month, then vote on whether to go ahead with the land swap or buy the Taylor Avenue property outright.
Figures obtained by CBC News show the value of the bare land at 1780 Taylor Ave. seems to vary:
- City assessment: $461,000.000.
- City appraisal: $700,000 to $750,000.00.
- Shindico appraisal: $960,000.00.
Earlier this week, Douglas told CBC News that if the land swap is not approved, he expects the purchase price of the Taylor Avenue property to be around $1 million.
Barry Thorgrimson, director of the city's property, planning and development department, says the property is worth every penny.
"You pay what you're willing to pay. This site is an ideal location for the fire and paramedics department, so it commands a higher value based on its location," he told CBC News on Wednesday.
Thorgrimson added that the seemingly big jump from assessed value to possible purchase price is a reality in Winnipeg's current property market.
'We have a developer, a very aggressive developer, listing this before they should have done it.' —Barry Thorgrimson
Meanwhile, some city councillors say they are just learning about the land swap now, and questions remain about how the deal was developed.
And lawyer Antoine Hacault, who practices municipal law, said in an interview with CBC's Information Radio on Wednesday morning that there is much about the land swap that seems unusual. (Click on the audio player above to hear the full interview.)
Thorgrimson said all the proper procedures were followed to keep everyone, including city councillors, in the loop.
But because Shindico prematurely listed the Grosvenor Avenue property before the deal was done, the normal process was interrupted, Thorgrimson said.
"We have a developer, a very aggressive developer, listing this before they should have done it," he said.
"Had that not happened, we would have been bringing forward a report to council this fall, recommending this deal to go through."
The land swap is not different than many property deals the city does, Thorgrimson said.