Tax sale includes chunks of Bear Mountain

On Wednesday, September 16, the city of Langford posted its annual list of properties going to the auction block for back taxes. Two Bear Mountain properties are on the list, raising more questions about owner Len Barrie's financial future.

The tax sale announcement comes days after city staff disclosed (in response to an inquiry) that Barrie failed to pay back $4.79 million in construction loans for the Bear Mountain Interchange earlier this year. At least one of the larger lots secured as collateral for the interchange loan has now fallen into tax arrears. (See pdf link, below.)

The city of Langford suspended work on the controversial interchange in June without revealing its loan repayment problems. Now, Langford's mayor and council are dodging questions from the media, with the exception of Acting Mayor Lanny Seaton, who told A News last week that city staff did not advise him about the missing payment.

The two Bear Mountain parcels carry substantially larger debts than the other tax sale properties listed in the public notice. The land described as "Lot A, Plan VIP81958, Sec. 81/82/84, Bear Mountain Parkway" owes over $351,000 in back taxes. That parcel is part of the area designated to pay a special tax to the city to recover the bank loan for the Spencer Rd Interchange.

A second lot, labeled "PID 025-088-106, 2198 Navigators Rise," owes over $75,000 in back taxes. In 2004, the city of Langford issued a development permit for that property to Len Barrie and his company, LGB9.

The Tax Sale auction is set for Monday, September 28, 2009 at 10 am, at Langford City Council Chambers on Goldstream Avenue. Minimum bids must be at least equal to the upset price (tax debt). The current owner has one year from the date of the auction to pay the taxes owing to the city, or the winning bidder assumes ownership. Buyer beware - the city takes no responsibility for the condition of the property or any covenants, liens, and mortgages outstanding.

In the event that no one makes a minimum bid on the property, the municipality takes ownership.

The resort development and interchange construction have fought years of stiff opposition by a large cross-section of the local community, including environmentalists, indigenous people, caving enthusiasts, and anti-sprawl advocates. The massive development on Highway 1 next to Goldstream Provincial Park destroyed two rare karst caves and large swathes of sensitive and endangered garry oak ecosystems. Untold numbers of indigenous graves were unearthed and paved over. Now, construction sites are almost empty of workers and machines, while new investors attempt to start the next phase of development, "South Skirt Mountain Village."

Langford voted in March to apply for federal and provincial infrastructure grants to pay for the "100% developer-funded" interchange project. Observers say the project is not likely to meet the granting agencies' requirements for public funding.

Minutes of Langford council April 2007 (pdf)
Page 67 of the PDF document linked above shows the list of Local Service Area properties taxed for the interchange, and see page 68 for a map of the Local Service Area. The Bear Mountain Parkway property referred to in the city tax notice is marked "27" on the map, and we note that -- due to either a clerical error or some unexplained change to the legal description of the land -- two lots from the property designated as "32" on the map are also included as part of the tax sale parcel.

Hat tip to fans of the Vibrant Victoria discussion forum for posting the pdf link and the scanned image!

Interchange loan payback "postponed" indefinitely

Langford's half-built interchange. Photo: Darren Stone, Times Colonist.

Len Barrie, owner of Bear Mountain Resort and LGB9 development company, has failed to pay back $4.8 million owed to the City of Langford for Bear Mountain Interchange construction. The city's agreement with Barrie originally called for the loan to be repaid on March 2, 2009.

John Manson, Langford's chief engineer, confirmed on Friday, September 4 that Barrie has not paid back any of the funds Langford borrowed for interchange construction.

Langford has not set a new payment date. Instead, Manson would only say that repayment has been "postponed." In the meantime, Manson said, the city has stopped work on the interchange until construction can begin on the new development north of the freeway, and until the city finds out whether federal and provincial grants will be delivered for the project.

Manson said that around $14 million has been spent on the interchange in total, and the city still hopes for a federal and provincial grant for what the calls "phase two" of the project, consisting of additional cloverleafs and on-ramps linking the TransCanada Highway to Bear Mountain Parkway just west of Spencer Road.