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Minister Wants To Buy Crown Land - Public Land Vs. Private Interest?


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#1 Terran

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Posted 24 August 2013 - 09:05 AM

How often have we walked along a piece of waterfrontage and wished we could own it?

 

Wouldn't it be nice to contact the Province and buy that piece of coveted Crown Land? But, it's Crown Land. Public property and not for sale; except in very specific situations.

 

So, imagine my surprise to read this article in the Chronicle Herald.

 

 

Parker’s Crown land bid OK’d
August 23, 2013 - 8:52pm By EVA HOARE Staff Reporter

http://thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/1149717-parker-s-crown-land-bid-ok-d

 

Natural Resources agrees to sell parcel to its own minister; Grits say rules broken

 

The Natural Resources Department has agreed to sell a piece of Crown land to its own minister

 

Charlie Parker applied last year to buy a small Crown-owned riverfront property next door to his own in Pictou County.

 

A government official confirmed Friday that the land deal has been approved but still has to go before cabinet.

 

Crown land hardly ever goes up for sale, and according to the provincial government’s website, can’t easily be acquired, except under rare circumstances.

 

Gretchen Pohlkamp, the executive director of land services for Natural Resources, confirmed Friday that her department did not conduct an integrated resource management review of the property.

 

“We did not do one because we had done similar reports for other land in the area,” Pohlkamp said in an interview. She said she felt the department “had sufficient information” already, including geological and forestry surveys.

 

“I had the scientific information (about) the area. I knew the history of the ownerships.”

 

Pohlkamp said Parker’s request to buy that particular piece of property, which was among requests from others to buy parcels of Crown land totalling about 24 hectares in the Pictou area, meets provincial requirements. It was decided to take all the requests and put them in one package for cabinet to review, she said.

 

Sources recently told The Chronicle Herald that the sale of the one property to Parker was all but a done deal — the Pictou West MLA had already paid to have the property appraised and footed the bill for an ecological impact study. Those cheques were paid in June and July, sources said.

 

In an interview Friday, Parker maintained that he and his wife have done everything above board.

 

“I think I’ve gone above and beyond,” he said. “I’m just following the same process that many of my neighbours have done in the past. I’m really doing the same as my neighbours.”

 

Parker acknowledged that he’d paid the fees associated with the process but said he didn’t know the status of his request. He said he’s “recused” himself from the file because he’s in charge of Natural Resources. He said he also consulted with the province’s conflict of interest commissioner, Merlin Nunn.

 

“We’ve been paying that (fees) and just patiently waiting,” he said.

 

Andrew Younger, the Liberal natural resources critic, said the province’s rules regarding the purchase of Crown land have not been followed “at all.”

 

“This isn’t even a story about conflict of interest, because you’re not allowed to do it,” Younger said Friday after reading the provincial rules concerning Crown land sales.

 

“The rules say on their own website, ‘No,’” Younger said. “The government policy does not allow sales of Crown land to individuals. It’s very clear.”

 

The Natural Resources website states it’s a “general policy the province does not offer Crown land for sale. … Crown land is not sold for speculative purposes, or for residential or cottage lots.”

 

Department rules also stipulate that a sale should only go through if it benefits a municipality, non-profit group or community organization, bolsters “economic activity” and is in the “best interests of the province.”

 

Younger questioned how Parker’s request fits any of those criteria.

 

“The question is, ‘Would the department even be looking at it if it wasn’t the minister (buying)?’” he said. “If a person walked in (to Natural Resources), the answer would have been no, and that’s really what it comes down to.”

 

Parker said the reason he and his wife want the Crown land — it is no more than .2 hectares — is because it’s adjacent to a landlocked piece they bought last year. (The Parkers live next door to the land in question on Loch Broom Loop.)

 

They thought the land they bought last year included waterfrontage on the West River but it didn’t, even though it was advertised that way, he said.

 

“In the process of working toward the closing, our lawyer discovered that it did not include the waterfrontage,” Parker said in an interview from his home. “That surprised us.”

 

So last fall, he said, he put in a request to buy the Crown strip.

 

“I knew the process,” he said. “Other landowners are buying similar types over time.”

 

In some cases, they were buying back what had been expropriated from them years ago, the minister said. The Crown land Parker wants was expropriated from a Florida man in 1973, property records show.

 

Younger said it’s ironic the province is on a mission to acquire more land but at the same time is selling Crown property to its own minister.

 

The Liberal MLA, who serves on the Shubenacadie Canal commission, said he’s been fighting for government to take over some waterfront land along the canal.

 

“They won’t act on that (Shubie Canal), yet they’re going to act on the minister’s request to violate his own policy … so he can have some waterfrontage?”

 

But Parker said everything has been done properly to ensure there is no conflict of interest.

 

He said he approached Nunn in January, a few months after he wrote his letter asking to buy the land.

 

“I got a reply back from Mr. Nunn in February stating there was no conflict of interest. He advised that I should recuse myself from it and have an acting minister (take over) the files.”

 

Environment Minister Sterling Belliveau has since handled Parker’s case.

 

On Friday, Belliveau said cab-inet has not yet decided on Parker’s request.

 

Belliveau said he’d been briefed and has “put the documents forward.” He said he couldn’t say what he would present to cabinet.

 

Parker isn’t sure how much the value of his landlocked property will increase if he gets the adjacent Crown land. But he and his wife are prepared to pay “market price” for it, he said.

 

Parker said several of his neighbours are also trying to buy Crown land along the West River. Natural Resources spokesman Bruce Nunn said in an email that he knew of 10 such requests.

 

Nunn said previous requests over the past few years to buy Crown land in the West River area have been approved.

 

In January 2012, Natural Resources staff recommended that a bulk sale of riverfront land parcels take place. Only landowners with property abutting those pieces were allowed to buy, Nunn said, adding that the resulting tax revenue helps the municipality.

 

Parker said he and his family have lived in the area for 30 years.

 

A search of orders-in-council over the past couple of years turned up a couple of cases where Crown land was handed over to private individuals. In almost all other cases, the province was the party acquiring the land.

 

According to Natural Resources, the Crown owns 25 per cent of land in Nova Scotia.

 

Although, totally not a done deal yet; this land purchase presents some terrible optics and opens up the transaction to questions.

 

I would be curious to hear how members feel about this land purchase.

 

Is it fair and okay? Is Mr. Parker getting "special treatment"? Does this open up the sale of other Crown Lands to "special" circumstance or even more special people?

 

It's hard enough to find waterfrontage now that hasn't been gobbled up by Developers or wealthy folks. Should the Government be selling the "choice bits" of Crown Land?

 

Just a topic for conversation.

 

Terran


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#2 Terran

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Posted 24 August 2013 - 09:12 AM

Here is the link to the Nova Scotia, DNR site, regarding the "Buying of Crown Land" - http://novascotia.ca...crown-sells.asp

 

Here is a quote from the site regarding:

 

Buying Crown Land

 

In Nova Scotia only 25% of the landmass is owned and administered by the province as Crown land. Because of the limited amount of Crown land in Nova Scotia, and existing commitments on Crown land (e.g. forestry licenses, parks, trails, leases etc.), as a general policy the province does not offer Crown land for sale. In a few limited circumstances, the sale of Crown land may be considered provided no other reasonable alternatives exist. These circumstances include:

 

1. Sale to a municipality, agency, non-profit group or community organization when a public benefit can be demonstrated;
2. Sale to support or promote economic activity (e.g the expansion of an existing business); or
3. Sale to alleviate undue hardship or in extenuating circumstances when it is demonstrated to be in the best interest of the province.

 

 

Thought it might help with the discussion.

 

Terran


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#3 Matt

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Posted 24 August 2013 - 09:56 AM

 I doesn't seem to me that Charlie's application would meet any of the three criteria for selling, therefore it should be denied.


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#4 OleNewfieDog

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Posted 24 August 2013 - 10:17 AM

Thought it might help with the discussion.

 

Terran

 

There is nothing to discuss Terran. There are serious problems with goverment in this province period, and its gonna take a Danny Williams kinda person to fix it.


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#5 Terran

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Posted 24 August 2013 - 10:46 AM

There is nothing to discuss Terran. There are serious problems with goverment in this province period, and its gonna take a Danny Williams kinda person to fix it.

 

From your keyboard to God's ears!

 

Getting tired of the usual mis-representation. But, not much in the way of options. Scary.

 

Terran


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Posted 24 August 2013 - 11:43 AM

There is nothing to discuss Terran. There are serious problems with goverment in this province period, and its gonna take a Danny Williams kinda person to fix it.

Bingo, But we do not have a Danny Williams here I am afraid. Not even close. This particular land deal stinks of nothing but Corruption. For those that are not aware, the DNR, under the Minister, manages , in totality, Crown Land. Fill in the blanks, it is not hard.


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#7 Terran

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Posted 26 August 2013 - 09:24 AM

Bingo, But we do not have a Danny Williams here I am afraid. Not even close. This particular land deal stinks of nothing but Corruption. For those that are not aware, the DNR, under the Minister, manages , in totality, Crown Land. Fill in the blanks, it is not hard.

 

Guest,

 

I couldn't agree more with your "take" on this matter.

 

Cheers,

 

Terran


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#8 Terran

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 06:42 AM

Dexter says Parker's Crown Land purchase bid is "Above Board". Well then, it must be true. <_< 

 

 

Dexter: Parker’s bid to purchase Crown land above board
August 26, 2013 - 2:04pm By DAVID JACKSON Provincial Reporter

http://thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/1150002-dexter-parker-s-bid-to-purchase-crown-land-above-board

 

Rules about sale should be clearer, premier says
 

Premier Darrell Dexter sees nothing untoward about Natural Resources Minister Charlie Parker trying to buy Crown land, though the department should be clearer on the rules for such purchases.

 

Dexter said Monday that sales to citizens are a routine part of government business. The department’s website says the general policy is not to offer Crown land for sale, and sales are considered under limited circumstances.

 

The premier said citizens can apply to buy land, and everyone is treated the same way. He said Parker took steps to ensure there couldn’t be any implication he was doing something wrong.

 

“I’m satisfied with it unless somebody can point to something that is somehow different than it should be,” Dexter said after a seniors program announcement in Halifax.

 

“It appears to me it’s just a, literally, routine part of the business of government.”

 

The Chronicle Herald reported Saturday that Parker, whose department is responsible for managing Crown land, applied last fall to buy a small strip — less than 0.2 hectares — of riverfront property next to a parcel he bought last year on Loch Broom Loop in Pictou County.

 

Parker said in an interview Friday that he thought the parcel he bought included waterfrontage, but it turned out it did not. Parker’s home is on a property beside both the parcel he bought last year and the Crown land he wants to buy.

 

Parker said he’s not involved in any decision-making on the sale. Fellow cabinet minister Sterling Belliveau is overseeing the file.

 

Parker’s application to buy the land was approved by department officials but awaits provincial cabinet approval. It’s one of 10 requests from local residents to buy property along the West River, according to the department.

 

The Natural Resources website states that as a “general policy, the province does not offer Crown land for sale. … Crown land is not sold for speculative purposes, or for residential or cottage lots.”

 

But department rules also say there are a “few limited circumstances” in which someone can buy Crown land, “provided no other reasonable alternatives exist.” Examples listed include if the sale benefits a municipality, non-profit group or community organization, bolsters economic activity or is in the “best interests of the province.”

 

Opposition critics blasted the NDP government for allegedly breaking department rules for selling Crown land.

 

“Selling the minister of natural resources a waterfront lot doesn’t meet any of that criteria,” said Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil.

 

“If you are going to divest yourselves of property, you would think you’d put it out to public tender and allow all Nova Scotians to have a look at it, instead of having the minister who’s responsible for that land hold a heavy stick over the people in his department to ensure this happens, on the eve of an election campaign.”

 

The Liberals and Tories both said they’ve filed freedom of information requests on details of Parker’s land deal.

 

Tory natural resources critic Alfie MacLeod said it looks like there’s one set of rules for the NDP and another set for other Nova Scotians.

 

“We want to make sure no one’s getting special treatment because they happen to be a minister of the Crown,” MacLeod said.

 

Parker said he checked with the province’s conflict-of-interest commissioner, retired judge Merlin Nunn, on the matter in January. He said Nunn told him there wasn’t a conflict but to recuse himself from the file.

 

Dexter said other individuals have purchased Crown land, and Parker is being treated the same as any other citizen.

 

“I would concede that I think the information on the website is not as clear as it should be,” Dexter said.

 

“I think the department should clarify it because, as I said, this same process has been in place for years.”

 

 

But wait, let's back up a second and look at this statement.

 

Parker said in an interview Friday that he thought the parcel he bought included waterfrontage, but it turned out it did not. Parker’s home is on a property beside both the parcel he bought last year and the Crown land he wants to buy.

 

The Minister of Natural Resources and person in charge of Crown Land, in our Province, bought a piece of land that he "thought" included waterfrontage?

 

Did it not clearly state such on the deed? Did he not have the property surveyed beforehand? Did he not have a lawyer check the property for clear title? Did he even ask?

 

This is all common practice when purchasing a piece of property. Yet the Minister bought his land and somehow the fact it wasn't waterfrontage just seemed to slip by? Comforting.

 

So Mr. Parker either purchased his property without due diligence or ,the Minister in charge of Crown Lands, chose to ignore common practice or easily obtained information.

 

There is an old saying that comes to mind here, "Buyer Beware".

 

So now he wants to expand his ownings by getting that little piece of West River waterfrontage. Crown land that is.

 

Unless he wants to close this property off, why would he want to purchase a piece of property with Public Access? It's there for all to use; is it not?

 

But don't worry, Sterling Belliveau is handling the matter. :blink:  We all know how well he handles Aquaculture site grants.

 

Is there NO process in place by which someone without Government ties can address and decide on this issue? An ombudsman, Judge, Priest, Auditor General or Public Panel? Dice?

 

And Mr Dexter thinks the rules need to be "clarified"? Sounds like rewritten to me. That way all the Government can buy up choice Public Lands. :angry: 

 

Standing alone, this piece of property may not represent a substantial value (probably does). However, in conjunction with the rest of his property, Mr. Parker stands to see a significant personal gain from this deal. The Government is deciding if one of it's own should receive special consideration that stands to significantly increase the personal wealth of one of it's own members. And they don't see an ethical, if not legal, problem here?

 

Will Mr. Parker even pay fair market value? Taxes?

 

Just my view on the matter.

 

Terran


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#9 Terran

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 07:42 AM

Now the Dept. of Natural Resources is coming to the aid of it's Minister.

 

This from the Chronicle Herald.

 

 

Land sale disputed
August 27, 2013 - 7:56pm By DAVID JACKSON Provincial Reporter

http://thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/1150283-land-sale-disputed

 

Not all department staff agreed about Crown land sold to minister

 

The history and use of pieces of Crown land along Pictou County’s West River led senior Natural Resources Department officials to OK selling some of it, although others in the department wanted to hang onto it, the department said Tuesday.

 

Natural Resources Minister Charlie Parker mentioned that internal division in a letter the department released at The Chronicle Herald’s request this week.

 

Parker said that the department’s integrated resource management team — scientists and other staff who look at aspects of Crown land transactions from a regional perspective — didn’t recommend sale of the lands “due to concerns over protection of coastal values.”

 

“However, taking into consideration the history of these lands and the current uses, in January 2012, the department determined that it would be appropriate to sell the expropriated lands to the upland owners in the Lyons Brook-Loch Broom area.”

 

Gretchen Pohlkamp, the department’s executive director of land services, said Tuesday that she was the one who wanted a policy on selling the land, and brought the matter to deputy minister Duff Montgomerie in January 2012.

 

“Regional staff looked at it and said, well, you know, it would be great to keep this land for coastal value and access to the coast, but right now, nobody is actually using it except for the individual landowners that abut this land,” Pohlkamp said in an interview.

 

“And so when we looked at the history, and the fact that I think there were eight or nine previous sales in the area, (we) felt that we should continue with that practice of treating these lands as surplus in the sense that they had been expropriated and should go back to the upland owners.”

 

At issue are pieces of land the province expropriated in the 1970s for a reservoir project that didn’t go ahead. Parker is trying to buy one of those pieces of land that lies between the water and a property he bought last summer.

 

The department sold nine pieces of the expropriated land from 1987 to 2009. There had been about 50 parcels taken from about 40 landowners, according to the department.

 

Pohlkamp said about half-a-dozen applications to buy other pieces of land came to the department in 2010 and 2011, and in the interest of efficiency, she wanted to bundle up the usual process for selling them.

 

Rather than do an appraisal, integrated resource management assessment and aboriginal consultation for each one, she said it was done in bulk to streamline the process.

 

The department’s policy isn’t to offer Crown land for sale, but people can apply to buy it. It is not often sold to individuals, and the policy is not to sell it for a residential or cottage lot.

 

Pohlkamp said in the case of this land, the fact that it had been expropriated is an extenuating circumstance.

 

The opposition has accused Parker of bending the rules, but Premier Darrell Dexter has said the minister is being treated the same as any other citizen.

 

The sale to Parker still requires cabinet approval. If it gets the green light, he will pay $1,351 for the land, according to the appraisal on file with the department.

 

([email protected])

 

I wonder how much time, effort and taxpayer supported man-hours are going into the "non-defense" of Mr. Parker's Crown Land boondoggle?

 

Even though Mr. Parker "recused himself" from the process, he appears to still be active in the matter.

 

Natural Resources Minister Charlie Parker mentioned that internal division in a letter the department released at The Chronicle Herald’s request this week.

 

Parker said that the department’s integrated resource management team — scientists and other staff who look at aspects of Crown land transactions from a regional perspective — didn’t recommend sale of the lands “due to concerns over protection of coastal values.”

 

“However, taking into consideration the history of these lands and the current uses, in January 2012, the department determined that it would be appropriate to sell the expropriated lands to the upland owners in the Lyons Brook-Loch Broom area.”

 

Parker mentioned...Parker said...qoutes from the Minister. Yup. He's keeping his distance on this one.

 

And what is with this statement?

 

“However, taking into consideration the history of these lands and the current uses, in January 2012, the department determined that it would be appropriate to sell the expropriated lands to the upland owners in the Lyons Brook-Loch Broom area.”

 

Is Crown Land not only for present use but FUTURE use by all?

 

And I'm curious, is $1351 a going "market" rate for 1/2 acre of waterfrontage on the West River in Pictou County? Has anyone considered how this waterfrontage will increase the overall value of the package of lands held by Mr. Parker?

 

This is not just a matter of "optics" but a case where a Government member stands to increase his personal wealth from the sale of Crown Land (to him) by the Department for which he is the Minister.

 

Disgusting.

 

Terran


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#10 Terran

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Posted 01 September 2013 - 10:08 AM

Parker decides not to buy in "questionable" Crown Land deal.

 

 

Parker drops bid to buy Crown land

August 29, 2013 - 12:23pm By DAVID JACKSON Provincial Reporter

http://thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/1150626-parker-drops-bid-to-buy-crown-land

 

Controversy over Natural Resources Minister Charlie Parker’s plan to buy riverfront Crown land in Pictou County has prompted him to withdraw the application.

 

Parker said Thursday morning that he and his wife made the decision after media attention about the issue.

 

“I guess when I saw the editorial and the cartoon yesterday in The Herald — (it’s) not every day you get both of those — and my wife and I simply made a decision to withdraw it,” he said after a cabinet meeting.

 

The editorial said Parker can reasonably argue that he followed the rules, but he would have been wise to wait to buy the land until he was out of office.

 

The Chronicle Herald had reported Saturday that Parker was buying two-tenths of a hectare on West River, although the province has tight restrictions on selling Crown land. It is usually not sold to individuals, and isn’t sold for a residential or cottage lot.

 

However, the piece Parker wanted to buy was one of about 50 along the river that were expropriated in the 1970s for a water project that didn’t go forward.

 

The province later deemed the land as surplus. Between 1988 and 2009, the province sold nine properties to adjacent landowners. The Natural Resources Department considers the expropriation an extenuating circumstance.

 

Parker’s home is also on a West River property. Last summer, the neighbouring property to the west came up for sale, and Parker said he and his wife decided to buy it to protect what they already owned.

 

The minister said he thought the new lot went all the way to the water but discovered late in the transaction that it didn’t, and that the waterfront portion was Crown land.

 

He applied to his own department last October to buy the piece. It was one of 11 applications from area property owners that the department had received since 2009.

 

Parker has said that he has followed the department’s rules like the other landowners, and handed off the file to another minister, but he felt he should withdraw his application anyway.

 

“I guess it’s perception, it’s optics. As minister, I’m in a different perception than ordinary landowners, and in order to not hold it up for them, I’m withdrawing so their applications can go forward.”

 

Parker said earlier this week he checked with the province’s conflict-of-interest commissioner, retired judge Merlin Nunn, on the matter in January. He said Nunn told him there wasn’t a conflict but to recuse himself from the file.

 

Parker said Thursday no one in Premier Darrell Dexter’s office, or Dexter himself, suggested he should make the withdrawal.

 

Parker said it is not the end of the world if he doesn’t buy the land, which he said includes a steep bank, now. The existing policy for that Crown land along the West River permits only the upland property owners to buy it, so Parker is the only eligible buyer.

 

The land was appraised at $1,351.

 

Dexter has said Parker followed the rules, but the opposition said he hasn’t.

 

Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said Parker has done the right thing in pulling the application.

 

“The fact that it was being done so quietly and behind closed doors doesn’t make a lot of sense,” McNeil said.

 

Progressive Conservative natural resources critic Alfie MacLeod said auditor general Jacques Lapointe should look at the matter to ensure Parker wasn’t trying to benefit personally with inside information.

 

“It’s a reasonable way to go to get to the bottom of a situation that seems on the surface not to be kosher,” MacLeod said.

 

 

The story says Parker and wife made the decision, however I wonder if he received any "outside advice"?

 

Apparently, the PC Natural Resources critic agrees with the idea of having the Auditor General look into the matter. And he probably should.

 

This deal stunk. Would be interesting to air it out a little.

 

In my opinion,

 

Terran


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