Red tape threatens Balfour beach transfer

A last-minute bureaucratic roadblock has been thrown up in the transfer of public land at Balfour to the regional district.

The Balfour beach

The Balfour beach

A last-minute bureaucratic roadblock has been thrown up in the transfer of public land at Balfour and Ootischenia to the Regional District of Central Kootenay.

Although the regional district has already secured 30-year licenses of occupation for Balfour Beach and Waterloo Eddy for regional park purposes, the province is now asking for independent appraisals of the properties.

“It is a bit frustrating,” said regional director Ramona Faust, in whose area the Balfour beach lies. “It seems retroactive and a little bit punitive.”

The transfer of the 3.7 hectare property and 200 meters of Kootenay Lake shoreline has been in the works since 2005. The process moved slowly because it requires sponsorship of a provincial ministry.

While the land’s value was estimated at $1.5 million, the regional district received a letter last month from the province asking for a more accurate appraisal.

“Although our ministry has determined an estimate of value for the Balfour park, an independent opinion is required to ensure that the issuance of your tenure complies with policy,” the letter read. It asked that the appraisal be provided within 90 days or the license of occupation could be cancelled.

However, regional district staff balked at the request, and recommended that since they met all legislative requirements to gain tenure, the board should tell the province they will do market appraisals in future, but not in this case.

That made some directors uncomfortable. Hans Cunningham worried it might jeopardize the park given the letter’s “slightly threatening” tone, while Garry Jackman didn’t think professional appraisals should be required at all — at least not at their expense.

While the regional district hasn’t sought a quote, they estimate the appraisals could cost around $10,000. Faust wouldn’t say if she would swallow the bill if she had to. She first wants to know how far back the government is going in asking for such appraisals and whether others are in the same boat.

“I want to ensure this is applied equally across the province and understand the length of reach back on this process,” she said. “Moving goalposts in never a good way to play a game.”

The board heard the request is the result of a policy change, not new legislation.

Ultimately they asked staff to find out more before they respond to the letter.