Mount Royal Community Association response to the “Summary of Facts” circulated publicly at the June 17 joint community meeting by the Applicant
There have been requests for clarification of some of the statements made in the Summary circulated at the June 17 Community meeting by the Applicant of 638 Hillcrest. Some of our response is below.
We reiterate that we have done thorough research of related land titles and deeds, property boundaries, related email communications, and documents we received from our freedom of information (FOIP) request to the City of Calgary. We have not made ANY statements throughout this process that cannot be backed up with written evidence. The quotations below are excerpted from the documents we obtained. As well, we have done a line by line analysis of the statements presented in the Applicant’s Summary, and that will be forthcoming. We appreciate that many of you are interested in understanding the details associated with the retaining wall and other facts of this Application.
Firstly, there is no such thing as a “Partial Lot”. The portion of the parkland that the Applicant is proposing to purchase is part of a much larger parcel of parkland donated by the CPR called Block R of Plan Calgary 2112AC which extends along and down the hill to Cliff Bungalow and the schools. In addition, Evamy Ridge was never part of the discussions (it is simply a memorial within the larger park).
Regarding the plantings by previous owners, we have a set of aerial photographs dating back as far as 1924. The memories noted in the Summary do not match the memories of other residents of Mount Royal and Cliff Bungalow. Nor, significantly, do they match the reality of these aerial photographs.
Further, the Summary says that the survey work done following the slide in 2006 identified the encroachment into the park. The line between private property and encroached lands would have been identified on earlier building permit drawings submitted in the 1970s and definitely was shown on building permit drawings submitted by the owners in the 1980s (for the addition of the east sunroom). The encroached upon land is always shown as parkland, and never as part of the property at 638 Hillcrest Avenue, on any map from any period before or after the first slide that actually occurred in 2005.
There are several claims made in the Applicant’s June 17 Summary relating to the retaining wall. One statement, repeated by several of his representatives, is that the Applicant did not need the retaining wall for 638 Hillcrest. In fact, his representative approached the City of Calgary on October 31, 2006 with a proposal to stabilize the slope adjacent to 638 Hillcrest in order to “permit (the Applicant) to redevelop a home on the entire lot”. His first offer was to pay the entire cost of the stabilization (not cost share it with the City as was finally done) in return for a 50 year occupation of the “hillside lands…adjacent to his property”. It can be stated very clearly from the documents we have, that the Applicant required the retaining wall for the purpose of restoring the full development potential of 638 Hillcrest just as did the three neighbours to the north. This was also the very strong point made in the Golder Slope Study, a report of which the Applicant had full knowledge. The instability of the slope was very serious; about half of 638 Hillcrest fell below the 1.5 safety factor contour and could not be used for building. The wall guaranteed the soil stability required to build close to the park boundary, and the anchors under the parkland which support the angled retaining wall help restore the maximum development potential of 638 Hillcrest.
The Summary statements that the City approached the Applicant to participate in paying for the retaining wall project, and that he did not believe his property required the protection of the wall, are not borne out by the FOIP documentation. What matters here, however, is that the development potential of 638 Hillcrest was fully restored with the building of the retaining wall. Therefore, no return of funds to the Applicant should be contemplated (other than the $15,000 down payment on the parkland). All four affected property owners agreed to the same dollars-per-lineal-metre-of-property-line-protected formula of payment for the wall. All four owners paid for the benefit of restored development potential for their properties. Indeed, 638 Hillcrest now enjoys more benefit from the wall than do the other participating properties. At the northeast corner of 638 Hillcrest, the retaining wall angles eastward into the parkland, away from the eastern most 638 private property line. This results in roughly half of the underground wall anchors, which would have run under 638 Hillcrest, being located under the adjacent parkland instead, thereby reducing, for 638 alone, the size of easement required to protect the anchors.
Throughout the negotiations for the wall, the Applicant was “in” and “out” of participation in the wall construction for reasons of cost, the location, length, and angle of the wall, and the easement requirements — not because the parkland was included or not included. Apparently, the Applicant was satisfied with the retaining wall negotiations since he signed off on the retaining wall project. A full two years passed before the deal related to the sale of parkland (which requires Council approval) was signed and a $15,000 down payment on the parkland was paid by the Applicant. The retaining wall construction and the proposal to subdivide off and buy a portion of parkland are two separate deals, and the first contract does not even mention the second.
As early as 2006, the Applicant was told by the City that the neighbouring communities of Cliff Bungalow and Mount Royal would have to be at least “neutral” in order for this sale to go through. He was actually told by several City department heads that the proposed sale was a non-starter. One of his own advisers wrote in 2013 “The lightning rod is the parkland — if we drop that, everything else will go away.” Despite this uniform advice, the Applicant persisted in his attempt to obtain the parkland.
The 2012 “Deal” requires, through its conditions precedent, that the sale is conditional on subdivision approval, on re-zoning from parkland to DC, and on the discharge of the CPR caveat. At least two of these conditions rely on City Council approval, and one requires a community hearing. None of these conditions precedent were met by the Applicant within the time-frame required by the Deal. If there are more current versions of the Deal, the communities have not been informed. Hundreds of FOIP pages were substantially redacted and hundreds more were deleted altogether.
There have been many questions about how the value of $150,000 for the parkland was calculated. The portion of 3,743 sq. ft. should be valued at the very least in excess of $470,000 if taken as a simple 8.1% land addition to the current assessed value of the three “tear-down properties”. This price is also not in line with other “compromised” City properties sold earlier in Mount Royal.
The lawyers for the Applicant continue to call the current proposal a “compromise” requested by Councillor Woolley. The definition of a compromise is “a settlement of differences reached mutually and by joint agreement”. This “compromise” is a dictated, one-sided proposal that has not been developed jointly, despite repeated requests by the community associations for joint solution development.
One of the lawyers for the Applicant stated at the June 17 meeting that the Applicant is being “blamed” for not paying sufficient property taxes. The communities have been very careful not to make this issue personal. Rather, for the communities, this issue is completely about how the City of Calgary sets its policies and guidelines and how these are implemented for ALL citizens of Calgary. This situation is about how our City conducts its business affairs and about the public desire for transparency, equity, consistency and fairness for all. As one of our community volunteer says, “All we ask for is transparency. Just tell us what the rules are — for everyone — and we will follow them.”