We asked the following questions in an email to Monica Sutherland and Ken Vanderburgh of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (MNRO, formerly Integrated Land Management Bureau, ILMB) on March 21st, 2011. We received a reply to the questions on April 7th, 2011 and we have inserted the answers below.
We understand that a land exchange in BC is regulated in the Land Procedure - Land Exchanges (General) from 2008. Based on this document and the MNRO offer of an exchange of “Heritage” Island for a piece of lakeshore Crown Land, for us there remain a number of questions:
The procedures for Land Exchange state in 1) that “Land exchanges will be considered where there is a clear benefit to the Province and a direct purchase of the land is not an option.” What is the “clear benefit” for the Province in this land exchange? Has the Province tried to outright purchase the island?
Answer: There are no Provincial funds/budget available for this type of land acquisition at this time.
Further in 3. the procedures state: “[...] Land exchanges will only be considered where acquisition is not an option and there is a clear need and benefit to the Province in doing the exchange.” Can you please tell us what the “clear need and benefit to the Province” is in this exchange?
Answer: We understood at the time of application from public input and First Nations in the area that there was a strong desire and benefit to have the island back in the Crown’s possession for a variety of reasons as well as an opportunity to enhance protection of environmental and recreational values on the island.
The procedures for Land Exchange state a little further down in 3) that “Land exchanges initiated by private parties are not encouraged as procedures are cumbersome and costly.” So, why did the MNRO even accept the application?
Answer: ILMB accepted the application for the exchange on the basis that an opportunity to enhance protection of environmental values and recreational opportunities through an exchange of Rainbow Island for a portion of DL 1891.
Section 3.3 of the Procedures for Land Exchange state that “When an exchange is [...] primarily to the proponents interest, the initiator will be expected to pay the full costs of the appraisal”. Since the initiator paid for the appraisal in full (as stated by Julian Kenney at the information meeting), is it fair to conclude that “the exchange is primarily to the proponents interest”?
Answer: Appraisal of both parcels was completed by a third party appraiser (registered with either the Appraisal Institute of Canada or Real Estate Institute (B.C.) with the appraisal option) using terms of reference prepared by MNRO. The appraiser’s fee was paid by the developer. The information in the appraisal was used as a basis for our in-house valuation analysis.
The procedures for Land Exchange state in 3.4 that “The basis of an exchange will, whenever possible, be for similar use lands, e.g. timberland for timberland, etc.” Right now both the island and the mainland lot are zoned Resource Area. Julian Kenney showed the board of the Friends of Bridge Lake a letter he received from MNRO indicating that the exchange was based on an evaluation of the island as “resource area” and the main land lot as “residential area”. In an email from February 26, 2011, Nigel Hemingway confirmed this: “That is our understanding based on a letter we received on March 19, 2010.” If this is true, why did MNRO choose to ignore its own procedures? What was the overriding principle?
Answer: MNRO requested a third party appraisal be completed using the Terms of Reference provided by our agency (see attached). Using the appraisal as a basis for our analysis, we further modified the valuation to reflect what was considered to be a fair exchange of Crown land for Heritage Island. Part of this modification was valuing the Crown land (mainland) as if it had already been rezoned. This was important as it captured the intended future use of the land as well as the potential future use of the land if the Crown ever decided to develop that site for similar purposes. It was also decided that no exchange of money would be accepted and that if the exchange proceeded it would only be a land for land exchange.
We have searched the web for an example of a land exchange in BC initiated by a developer. All we could find were examples of land exchanges initiated by the province (for example to expand a Provincial Park like Denman Island or Goldstream Provincial Park) or an exchange due to a survey error (Squamish Valley or the often cited “Lone Butte”). To your knowledge, has there ever been a land exchange initiated by a private developer in British Columbia in the size of the “Heritage” Island proposal?
Answer: Yes I am aware of two other exchanges that were initiated by the client.
On all maps we have seen to-date from the applicant or MNRO, “Heritage” Island is shown as one single island. Maybe even the official survey maps show only one island? The reality is that the property consists of two islands - the main northern island and a small southern island, separated by a 20-50m wide channel, navigable even at extreme low water levels. (see the map of the Ministry of Environment, Fisheries Branch, 1990)
It is our understanding that waterfront properties end at the high water mark. The lake or water course is not included in the acreage of the private property.
Have you or your office ever visited / inspected the islands in person?
Answer: I have inspected the upland / Crown land portion of this exchange and Garth Wakelam had the opportunity to inspect Heritage Island, and documented his field notes on file
Did the fact of the two islands ever come up during the appraisal or your offer for the land exchange?
Answer: The appraisal and interim advisement all refer to Heritage Island’s legal description as written in the Crown Grant and title documents: District Lot 5211 Lillooet District
Have you done an independent survey of the islands to verify their size?
Answer: The Crown Grant document dictates the area of privately owned land known as heritage Island to be 25.495 hectares
Does the published size of 63 ac for the island(s) include the channel?
Answer: As outlined above, the island we are considering for exchange is District Lot 5211, Lillooet District depicted in the Crown Grant sketch:
Are you in fact exchanging “water” for “land”?
Answer: Please see above
As you can see from the answers and the map above, the MNRO considers the District Lot 5211 as one single island of about 25.5 hectars. Click on the video below and see for yourself what “land” the developer wants to exchange. We urge the MNRO to re-survey the property before this application goes any further and not offer to exchange Crown Land for lake water!