Coquitlam land sold below value, NDP says

Minister Amrik Virk says appraisal was "overly aggressive" and sale of 370 acres on Burke Mountain was near assessed value

Real estate sale map of Burke Mountain properties marketed as part of a Crown asset sale last year.

The B.C. Liberal government sold land in Coquitlam at as much as $43 million less than its appraised value last year to balance the budget, NDP critics said Tuesday.

The 14 parcels on Burke Mountain in north Coquitlam sold in February 2014 for $85 million. Documents obtained under freedom of information law by the NDP showed an appraised value of $128 million.

One parcel had an appraised value of $5.6 million and was valued by B.C. Assessment Authority this year at $2.3 million. It sold for $100,000 to Wesbild Holdings. Ltd., a long-time residential developer in the area.

Citizens’ Services Minister Amrik Virk, minister responsible for the property sale, said the sale price is similar to the B.C. Assessment Authority value. The appraisal appears to have been “overly aggressive” and the provincial assessment for the lands has declined slightly since then, Virk said.

Port Coquitlam MLA Mike Farnworth said residential development has been expanding along Burke Mountain for a decade or more, and in a hot real estate market the transaction looks like a “fire sale” of land. He and NDP leader John Horgan accused the government of rushing the sale to balance the B.C. budget by the end of the fiscal year, March 31, 2014.

“This is prime land in the middle of the Lower Mainland at a time when real estate is at an absolute premium, and we know it’s going to be built on,” Farnworth said. “The city’s already building on parcels that are adjacent to it.”

Virk said the marketing of the properties was put out for bids and Collier’s International won the contract. He was unable to say if Collier’s was given a deadline to close the deal, which came after the properties were on the market for three months.

Only Wesbild offered to buy all 14 parcels, which total 370 acres on the south slope of Burke Mountain.

The sale included a provision to sell two school sites to Coquitlam at the 2014 price, but the school district found later that it would need two more properties for schools.

NDP critics also calculated more than $900,000 in donations to the B.C. Liberal Party by Wesbild director Hassan Khosrowshahi since 2000, individually and through his companies, Burke Mountain, Wesbild, Predator Ridge, Inwest, Westwood Plateau and others.