Out of city's hands
MACA minister to determine fate of Niven Lake
Niven Lake facts
Partnership began in 1995 to "share the rewards and risks of land development" and to "develop reasonably-priced residential lots for stick-built housing." Ald. Dick Peplow was the only one to vote against the deal, calling it the "Centre Square of '97."
Partners are City of Yellowknife, Volker Stevin Contracting Ltd., Reid Crowther Engineering and M.M. Dillon Ltd.
First phase was construction of 26 lots in 1995. A second phase saw an additional 18 lots developed in 1996. A lift station is still required to make these lots available for sale.
Interest in the development was lacklustre from the beginning. Ballot draw was held and interest was poor. Only five of the first phase lots were purchased in the ballot draw and most of the other 10 families or developers who paid $1,000 each for a chance to purchase the lot declined to do so. Four of the five lots sold were worth $82,000. Lot prices ranged between $67,000 and $89,000. 1998 assessment valued the lots at an average of $68,695, down 11.5%.
To stimulate interest in 1996, the city extended the amount of time to pay for lots -- those who purchase three lots or more have a year to pay while the rest have three months.
The city even tried to raffle a $4,000 coupon good toward one of the lots at the June 23, 1996 community picnic.
Partners first expressed concerns over lack of sales in 1998 and asked the city to pick up the costs of off-site improvements (paving, trunk mains, culvert and engineering).
Partners again raised concerns in October 1999, asking the city to pay for local and off-site development costs and agree to reduce lot prices by 11.5 per cent. The other alternative was to move toward closure.
March 28, 2000 -- Private sector partners formally ask city to agree to closure.
April 10 -- City council voted for closure.
April 19 -- City and partners meet to finalize closure.
May 8 -- City council votes to seek ministerial approval to borrow $3.1 million to buy out partners.


Tara Kearsey
Northern News Services

Yellowknife ( May 12/00) - Whether ratepayers will have a say in the city's current plans for Niven Lake is a decision that now sits on the territorial government's shoulders.

Yellowknife city council unanimously voted to pass a bylaw Monday, authorizing the city to buy out the Niven Lake subdivision partners for $3.1 million.

Councillors David McCann and Ben McDonald were absent. Both were representing the city at a Federation of Canadian Municipalities initiative in Fort St. John, B.C.

Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs Jim Antoine will now bring the issue to cabinet where it will be decided whether ratepayer approval will be waived or not.

"The reason this doesn't go to ratepayers is because these are called self-financing debentures and it doesn't affect the tax base," said Mayor Lovell after Monday's meeting.

The city is projecting the multi-million dollar loan to be repaid by 2005 and the subdivision to be full by 2011.

Lovell said if the sale of the lots does not pay off the debt in five years, it will be paid for with the city's land development fund. That fund is currently facing a deficit of just over $1.1 million.

To date, a dozen of the 25 lots in Phase 1 of the subdivision have been sold at an average cost of $75,000. Of that number, three were sold on Tuesday of this week.

Phase 2 of the subdivision has 18 lots and the entire development consists of 350 lots.

"I do not like, in fact, I very much dislike being in land development," said Lovell.

The problem is, he said, if the city doesn't take on land development initiatives, nobody will.

"As a municipal government we have to ensure to develop the land available ... we've just got to try to make the best deal we can.

"If Yellowknife booms we'll all be heroes and if Yellowknife bombs we'll all be dogs," said Lovell.

There was no debate when the bylaw was passed Monday night.

However, Coun. David McCann, who could not attend Monday's meeting, believes the ratepayers should be consulted.

Three million dollars is a big chunk of change as far as McCann is concerned. He believes when that kind of money is involved the ratepayers and residents of Yellowknife should be heard.

"My view is if things went badly and the land did not sell ... ultimately the money has to be paid by somebody and that means we're talking the residents and taxpayers.

"I would like to think that they would have a chance to at least review the story," said McCann.

Nevertheless, the issue is now in the hands of Minister Antoine.

City treasurer Glen Jarbeau expects it will be a few months before the borrowing bylaw is approved by Antoine.