A Prince Albert real estate agent is getting answers after sending a letter to the city's mayor and council asking why the city paid almost 28 per cent more than the Rural Municipality of Prince Albert did for the same sized parcel of land.
Jesse Honch, Realtor for Coldwell Banker Signature, wrote in a letter to council that the two land parcels are both 25 acres and sit on a highway corridor on the outskirts of the city. The one purchased by the City of Prince Albert sold for $9 million and the other for $325,000.
“As a local realtor, I have to complete evaluations for sellers considering selling. One recently is looking to complete a subdivision again on the outskirts of the city, very similar in location to these 2 properties,” Honch wrote.
“I have to explain why some properties vary so much in value and having an understanding as to why these two were so different would be valuable information for local property owners or the industries hired to evaluate and sell these properties.”
The parcel of land in question is the location for the new Arenas and Aquatics Recreation Centre that is set to open in the summer of 2024.
Honch claims the $9 million cost seems “extremely high”, with a true value closer to $7.5 million if the site is fully developed.
Director of Planning and Development Services, Craig Guidinger, said the two types of land are completely different.
“In regards to our land purchase, I know at the time we did look at a few comparable pieces and they were quite close in value,” Guidinger said.
Mayor Greg Dionne said rural land and city land cannot be compared.
“We have city water, we have city sewer. The difference is we got it flat,” said Dionne. “The land that they [the RM] buy, they have to service.”
Councillor Dennis Ogrodnick added that the city also purchased additional acres of land for $3 million to make more parking. Standard parking stalls are based on smaller vehicles in major urban cities like Toronto, proving inadequate for the larger vehicles used mainly in Western Canada.
Ogrodnick said typically there are 150 stalls per acre but making the stalls larger would lower the number of stalls to 100 per acre.
“The last thing we want to do is have an entertainment district without enough parking,” he said.
The Director of Planning said he will be responding to Honch with a written correspondence detailing the cost breakdown and what the city considers when pricing and valuing land.
This isn’t the first time residents have raised questions about the cost of the property purchased for the new indoor recreation centre. The decision was also the centre of controversy during the 2020 municipal elections when a concerned citizens group circulated a pamphlet featuring a quote from a Saskatchewan appraiser who assessed the property at roughly half the value the city paid for it. The citizens group later retracted the pamphlet.