Dollar store deal

Frustrated local building developer offers up city block for use for $1 for one year.

Talk about getting a bang for your buck.

A local developer is offering to rent a large parcel of land in the city for $1 per year, after his development for affordable housing has been tied up in bureaucratic process for almost two years.

Cezary Ksiazek has been trying to develop the former Cooke Avenue school site since it was purchased by a trio of local investors in early 2011, but he said his attempts to bring an “affordable, low cost” development to the city have been slowed by red tape to the point he just wants to see something on the land.

This is a big empty lot and nobody is using it in a land-poor community like Rossland, he explained.

“If someone is interested to put on this land a goat, a cow, horses or sheep, I agree without any challenges. One dollar per year is the price,” he said. “Somebody who wants to use this land, go ahead, because this is a shame and sin to keep something big in the middle of the city and do absolutely nothing with it for years.”

The current rezone application first came to light in September, 2011, but it wasn’t until Dec. 10, 2012 that a public hearing was held on the project. The rezone application and a report from the city’s planning department is on city council’s agenda for an Aug. 12 meeting.

The public hearing was followed by a council committee of the whole meeting Jan. 21, 2013 to discuss the issues raised at the public hearing. Ksiazek again met with the city on Feb. 8 and no common ground was found on the contentious points.

Mayor Greg Granstrom said the issue has not been bogged down by the city and has only followed the normal course of a development application of this size.

In any development case it is a back and forth conversation with the city, he said. The first proposal did not work, Granstrom said, and now the latest one will be coming to council on Aug. 12.

“What more can we do?,” he said. “We have to make sure we are protecting the public interest in any development. It’s important both sides do due diligence to make sure it is viable and good for everybody. We need to be sure we do the right thing.”

City planner Mike Maturo’s report on the development has not yet been reviewed by council but it will be aired Aug. 12. The sticking point for the development is it does not address Official Community Plan policies for site development, neighbourhood impact, traffic flow and servicing, according to the city’s planning department.

On July 31 Ksiacek met with three city officials—without Maturo who is on holidays—on the property to review the proposal’s contentious points as a prelude to the council meeting.

He said most of what was discussed there was consensus on, including snow storage, a land swap for snow removal and the size of the units. But he still was not encouraged as it awaits a council decision.

“I still don’t know how long this will take because it’s still the same situation as one year ago,” he said. “If you tell me today, Cezary, I give you one dollar and I put my horses (there), I tell you ‘Go ahead,’ because it’s still empty.”

The development is slated for two large lots to allow mixed residential on what is public institutional, building 24 townhouse units in the form of six, four-unit homes facing Thompson Avenue and Cooke Avenue.

Each unit will include three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a single or double car garage. The total living space will be approximately 2,000 square feet and at $150 per square foot, including land cost, it is the lowest possible price, said Ksiacek.

“The goal is not to make a lot of money,” he said. “The goal is to bring in young families.”

Ksiazek has conducted a preliminary review of servicing requirements for the site—a full city block—and is proposing the multiple-family dwellings within the one-block span on the former Cooke Avenue school site now zoned public institutional.

You can contact Cezary Ksiacek about the land at rosslandbuilder.com.

editor@rosslandnews.com