Westboro residents who attended a community meeting were taken aback when they learned how much it would cost to buy back a swath of green space near a controversial condo development in their neighbourhood.
Kitchissippi Coun. Katherine Hobbs said the 0.6 hectares the City of Ottawa hopes to buy back from a developer has been appraised at $11.5 million.
"I'm pretty shocked," said Westboro resident Amos Hayes, who attended the Tuesday evening meeting.
"I think we have to ask a lot of questions when property is purchased for $12.5 million and a quarter of it two years later is worth $11.5 million."
In 2009 Ashcroft Homes bought a larger area of land surrounding the Sisters of the Visitation convent on Richmond Road, near Island Park Drive. It plans to build around 600 residences in the area, mostly in two condo towers.
City planners approved Ashcroft's re-zoning request last November, but voted to buy back an area of green space. Hobbs said the challenge would be raising the money to buy that land.
Most residents against levy: Hobbs
The most likely option, Hobbs said, is charging every resident in the ward a levy, which will vary in size depending on how much money is taken from the ward's parkland fund.
"There are a lot of people in the ward who are against the idea of a levy, whether it's 50 cents or whatever," Hobbs said, adding any new tax for residents is a "problem."
Many residents in the room remained firmly against the development, and called the process a "failure" of city planning.
Resident Chris Henschel called the spike in the land's value a "perverse outcome" of the city's decision to re-zone the land.
"In approving it, in giving it to the developer … the city increased the value of the land. And now we have to buy some of it back," Henschel said.
Unclear how many want green space
It's currently unclear how many residents will want to buy back the parkland, and how much they will be willing to spend.
Hobbs said she won't push for a levy until she gets a handle on how many want the green space, but said she won't commit to a ward survey, something that upset some in the room.
"She says she wants the most ideas, the greatest amount of input, but there are at most 75 people in there," resident Tim Thibeault said.
Others echoed his complaint.
"Hintonburg isn't even represented tonight," said Pat MacLeod, "I believe there's another way to do this."
The other issue facing the parkland buyback is negotiations with Ashcroft, which is under no obligation to accept the city's valuation.
The city has until March 31 to announce its intentions regarding the land.