Vancouver may cash in on surplus property
City will look into selling parcels to bolster general fund
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
It’s almost like a real estate garage sale.
The city of Vancouver has about 300 surplus real estate property parcels on its hands, accumulated over several decades and left over from road construction, past purchases and other projects.
Many are small — 15-foot-wide slivers between a rebuilt road and private property. But others are parcels of substantial size, ready for retail or other potential development.
On Monday night, the city council declared two sizeable pieces of land as surplus: A 10,840-square-foot spot at Mill Plain Boulevard and Markle Avenue, and a 4,590- square-foot lot that was formerly part of C-Tran’s downtown bus depot on East Seventh Street.
Out of all the land that has been identified as potentially being surplus, the city most often gets calls from people interested in buying those two locations, said Tim Haldeman, director of facilities, risk and property services.
“If we’re not going to use those properties, we can put them back on the tax rolls, give them to abutting properties and get them out of our maintenance responsibilities,” he said.
He noted that often the city isn’t even aware it owns some of these properties until someone calls to complain about long grass, weeds or trash.
At both locations, Haldeman said that adjoining property owners have expressed interest in buying the land.
The money from any sale would go into the city fund that first paid for the purchase — in this case, it could mean more than $300,000 would go to the city’s ailing general fund.
The two lots at Mill Plain and Markle are appraised at $280,000; the C-Tran pocket park is valued at $85,000.
But a concerned neighbor told the council Monday that the parcel at the corner of Mill Plain and Markle could be used for something “you can’t put a price tag on.”
Kris Stack lives down the street from the lot and suggested that instead of selling the land off, it should be turned into a community garden.
The neighborhood isn’t high rent, and there’s an apartment complex for retired people across the street full of folks who would love to have the opportunity to grow their own food within walking distance, she said.
“To have a patch of earth so that somebody could plant a garden … it would be a huge benefit to the neighborhood,” Stack said.
The idea won quick support from Councilor Pat Campbell, who urged the city to look into ways to make a garden grow at that corner.
Money to install water and other necessary things for a garden may prove impossible, he said, but then added, “This little area does need something … you obviously picked a positive use for this area.”
Councilor Jeanne Stewart, however, said she was “really interested we get the most money we can, as long as its a legitimate buyer.”
The council directed staff members to bring back a report about turning the spot into a garden, along with what market conditions may look like for selling the lot commercially.
Now that the land has been declared surplus, the council will have a public hearing and vote in two weeks on how (or in the case of Mill Plain and Markle, if) they wish to dispose of it, Haldeman said. The staff is recommending that these properties be sold on the open market, he said.
All surplus properties have to go through two public meetings and votes before they are disposed of, according to an ordinance the council passed in July. The first, like the one held Monday, is to declare the property as surplus, while the second deals with the disposal of that property.
As for the rest of the city’s numerous surplus properties, they will go through a similar process as people express interest in acquiring the land, Haldeman said.
“We don’t have the resources to do (the process) all at once,” he said. “These remnants are all over the place.”