Town has Purchased Surplus School Land

When the two high Schools in Cobourg amalgamated, the land for a playing field in the West End of Town was no longer being used. (See below for more detail on location). It was therefore likely that the School Board would eventually sell the land but there is a process that they must follow that means that 15 or more entities – including the Town of Cobourg – must be notified first. They did that in 2021 (see the Timeline below) although prior to that they formalized the right-of-way provided for the Boardwalk. Negotiations between the Town (Council) and School board were held in closed session to ensure confidential negotiations.  On September 20, 2022, the School board accepted the Town’s offer of $2M and Staff then notified the public of their purchase at tonight’s Committee of the Whole (CoW) meeting.

The land has an official address of 117 Durham street since that is the access point. It’s immediately West of Legion Village and stretches from the Lake north for 833 feet.

School Land
School Land

At right is a sketch of the land in question based on a Google map – click to enlarge!

Timeline

  • Before 2018, Town had an undocumented agreement with the School Board for permission to operate and maintain a boardwalk crossing the lower half of the School Board property and its use by the Public to travel along.
  • In 2018, the KPRDSB (Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board) declared the property surplus to their needs and required the Town to agree to a legal registered easement of the Boardwalk through an easement agreement that was registered on title. Included was the right to cancel with 6 months notice.
  • November 9, 2021 – Town was notified that the school board declared the land surplus and will be sold.
  • November 12, 2021 – Staff sent school board an initial expression of interest in purchasing.
  • December 13, 2021, an appraisal was received with a value of $2M. A valuation is needed since the Province mandates that any sale must be at fair market value.
  • January 24, 2022 – staff provided Council with an updated report on next steps.
  • April 27, 2022, Town submitted an official expression of interest.
  • Given the uncertainty, the Town’s $900K project to upgrade the boardwalk was put on hold. It’s now expected to go ahead in 2023. An early next step will be a public meeting.
  • School Board informed the Town that they were the only one that provided interest in the property.
  • August 25, 2022, the Town submitted its formal offer of $2M to the School Board for the purchase.
  • September 20, 2022, the Town received notice that the board was in acceptance of the Town’s offer and they would like to proceed with the signing of the Agreement.
  • Staff reported to Council at the CoW on 26 September. Given the Lame Duck period limitations, the CAO had been previously authorized to agree to the deal although due diligence is still in progress and the deal has not yet closed.

The staff report says that:

While the shoreline, beach area and hazards lands will remain in public ownership and form part of the Town’s open space system, the balance of the lands have significant development potential.

The entire parcel is approximately 5 acres however there appears to be +/- 3.4 acres that could be developable.

Development could include housing and since the Town owns the land it could specify that some of the units would be “affordable”.

One of the conditions of sale is that if the Town re-sells the land, the School board would receive an equal share of any profit.

Staff are recommending that:

Council direct staff to bring forward a report to the new Council in the first quarter of 2023 to provide a strategy for the use and potential disposition of the +/- 3.4 acre development parcel. The strategy will include a public engagement component and will also identify opportunities to partner with other levels of government and/or organizations that have an interest in providing housing for all in the Town of Cobourg.

In summary, the Town has purchased the land from the School board so that the west beach board walk will be on Town property. But along with the “open space”, the remaining land could be re-sold and used for purposes that the Town could specify. Staff will make recommendations on this for presentation at a public meeting.

The motion to proceed passed unanimously although Councillors must have been previously informed in closed sessions that this was happening.

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Keith Oliver
28 September 2022 10:10 pm

The acquition of the KPRSB playing field property by the town is good news. The profit sharing agreement with the school board should the Town re-sell the property for more than it paid, is reasonable. To me the obvious motivation shared by both parties was to ensure that any future development serve the public interest.

If, as Marie suggests, the site be developed as 10+ single-family homes, the 3.4 acres of developable land would have a value of at least 4 million dollars if not more.

The first question for debate should be the best use that serves the pubic interest. Housing could be part of the final use to help off-set investment and operating costs that do not produce positive monetary returns.

The “process” that will produce the final use and it’s design is critical.

This is an unusual opportunity created by two forward looking and responsible public institutions. With the final use and programme set, the final design could be determined through an architectural and urban design competition. The challenging opportunity presented here could attract highly qualified participants.

Now … as to the future of Brookside?

Last edited 2 months ago by Keith Oliver
George LK
28 September 2022 7:11 pm

The portion of land that may be developed has no current access to water or sewage. In fact, sewage will have to be pumped up to the start of town sewage just north of 121 Durham Street. The sewage pipe may have to re-sized and may not have the capacity.
It may very expensive!

Keith Oliver
Reply to  George LK
30 September 2022 9:24 pm

The playing field site may or may not have restrictions on its’ use owingt its’ close proximity to the open water of the lake and the unknown and variable structure of the subsurface limestone. The mantel that covers the iimestone is sand with a thin topping of earth. This is typical throughout Cobourg.

At the Sifton-Cook Heritage Centre, which is located higher up on the old shoreline, we had to settle for a basement hieigt of 7 feet and a sump pump because of ground water … while the new condos to the east on Orr St had a problem of finding a solid footing for their foundation. It required back filling with 8-10 feet of compactd rock to reach solid limestone.

What is needed before any final use or combination of uses is determined is a survey across the entire site that locates the level at which subsurface groundwater and stable limestone exist. The existence of Legion Village to the east is encouraging.

Last edited 2 months ago by Keith Oliver
Dunkirk
28 September 2022 7:04 pm

Good news. This a great opportunity for the next Council.
Lets get the former Firefighters, School Teachers and Public Pensioners that get elected on Council to work for the next 4 years with the Non-resident Town Staff on the Firefighter Museum Project. (What could go wrong? Delays? Over-spending? Too much memorabilia?…..)
Lets get the rest of business-minded elected Council and those few staff that actually live here, working on the KPRSB Football Field project. This one matters….

(* anyone not included in these first 2 groups can stand guard at Brookside so the Province doesn’t force another Queens Park ‘opportunity on us)

Rob
28 September 2022 9:55 am

On the surface this purchase seems like a very wise decision. I am curious why there remains any commitment to KPRDSB – seems like a poor compromise by a poor negotiator, however who knows what the circumstance was at the time. The Town would be wise to maintain significant control over any development that goes here – however if past behaviour/decision making is a good predictor of future behaviour/decision making, I don’t have a great deal of hope. I would also caution the Town about getting involved in affordable housing as this is outside of their scope of responsibility, in spite of what some of those running for election/re-election might suggest. I would agree with others, this particular piece of property should NOT be used for this purpose.

Michael Sprayson
Reply to  Rob
28 September 2022 10:34 am

I understand the thinking that this is a poor deal but I respectfully disagree. This deal gives the town advantage and opportunity. I agree that both of those things can be wasted if put in the wrong hands.

I have had a few questions come in through my newsletter about this issue and I’m going to go into more detail about my thoughts about the potential pathways the town could take with this property. Affordable housing is not one of those pathways. As I have stated in other posts, I am not against affordable housing. In fact, I’m in the process of developing housing that would be obtainable for the working poor in our county. A $2M waterfront lot is not best utilized with a plan for affordable housing.

I encourage you to sign up for my daily newsletter : http://eepurl.com/h8DZWb to read more – this response will be posted this week.

If anyone has a question to ask me as one of your new Cobourg Council Candidates please send it through this link: http://www.michaelsprayson.ca/ask-a-question

Rob
Reply to  Michael Sprayson
28 September 2022 12:42 pm

Thanks Michael – just to clarify my post, I believe the deal was positive overall however I’m questioning the profit sharing arrangement that was agreed to. Good luck next month 🙂

Michael Sprayson
Reply to  Rob
28 September 2022 12:51 pm

Thank you, Rob.

My first impression from your post was curiosity, not displeasure. I appreciate the clarification. I think we are on the same page.

Maggie
27 September 2022 1:26 pm

I’m curious, why the School board should receive anything if the Town decides to sell the property? The Board sold it, so no longer own it? If I buy a house, and resell it, I don’t share anything with the previous owner, that seems like greed on KPRDSB

Just a thought
Reply to  Maggie
27 September 2022 2:45 pm

Greed or good negotiation? KPRDSB knows that the property is worth more than $2M. This way, the town wins by getting control over the entire parcel and the school board doesn’t leave significant money on the table should the town take advantage of the opportunity to profit.

Bryan
Reply to  Maggie
27 September 2022 3:51 pm

Maggie,
I agree. The KPRDSB sold it, no longer own it, has no risk. Why should they share in any future profits? If they believe the property is undervalued at $2M, then why did they sell it? The answer, as Just a Thought suggests, is greed and/or good (sharp) business practice.
Now, if the deal is that the SB shares in any loss as well, then that would be somewhat different bacause the SB is assuming some of the risk. Wonder if the Town suggested this?

Last edited 2 months ago by Bryan
Sandpiper
Reply to  Bryan
27 September 2022 6:47 pm

Its only undervalued if a Buyer can do what they want on the property ie Develop it
The Town has the Control over that , There for the average Buyer would easily be discouraged Yet the Town will amend the rules to suit their purpose.
But now thatits public land it should be for Public Use.

ben
27 September 2022 12:35 pm

I just hope the Town does this right this time around. Many years ago when the land mapping was setup to include a 30metre setback from the Lakefront, the policy just sat there until the lot at Log Hall on King St came up for redevelopment after a fire??? had burned down the previous house.

The reason for the setback was to establish public lakefront access. This wasn’t just a pipedream as a plan setup by Burlington was going to be used as a model. This plan, used by the City of Burlington was to buy any lakefront property when it hit the market, sever off the 30metres for public use and then resell the property.

Unfortunately the new owner was successful in persuading the Council of the day, not the Council with ambitions, to revoke the public access initiative and then proceeded to enjoy the privacy afforded by such a revocation.

So if the Town does it right, because the lots along the lakefront are waterlots, the land must be severed to provide public access. When the public access is guaranteed, by retaining the boardwalk property then the Town should sell off the remaining land to maximise the profits and use the money for any other housing initiatives that are in hand. The potential of the Tannery lands comes to mind here.

marya
Reply to  ben
27 September 2022 1:21 pm

Would not the “Zoned Environmental Constraint” that is sketched on the Google Map of the property be a synonym for “setback for public lakefront access?”

Just a thought
Reply to  marya
27 September 2022 2:47 pm

Brent Larmer clearly identified the southern part of the lot as the part of the parcel recommended staying in the public domain so the section of the boardwalk that runs through that property would remain in the town’s control for the public’s enjoyment.

ben
Reply to  Just a thought
27 September 2022 3:12 pm

That’s just a recommendation and they sometimes, for whatever reason get ignores by decisionmakers.

ben
Reply to  marya
27 September 2022 3:11 pm

Nope, the setback is just a line on the map marking where the tsunami would reach. Nobody can build on it but it still belongs to the property owner.

cornbread
27 September 2022 11:21 am

With current market conditions, what is the property worth now? And, if the property was valued at 2 Million, why would the town split the profit on proceeds in excess of this. Poor negotiators on Staff?

George.atto571@gmail.com
27 September 2022 10:27 am

$900K to upgrade our boardwalk? Upgrade to what?

Marie
27 September 2022 9:30 am

… let’s see, that is aprox 540 feet of frontage on Durham suitable for residences. Looks like room for at least 10 lots with 50 feet frontage or more with lesser frontage. Serviced lots of this size sold/sell currently between $400 and 600k . Potential of a healthy windfall for town and schoolboard. Am I hoping for too much???

Sandpiper
Reply to  Marie
27 September 2022 10:29 am

Actually the 4 or 5 water front lots which there could be, would get their $$ back
But some ONE suggested AFFORDABLE AGAIN to justify the purchase
Lets be realistic .
The taxes alone in this area would bring between $ 7 , $10 , $15 +++ K per yr
for singles or Semmies

ben
Reply to  Sandpiper
27 September 2022 12:36 pm

The waterlots should be ‘severed’ out of existence, that land must remain in public hands!

Just a thought
Reply to  ben
27 September 2022 2:48 pm

There are ‘waterfront lots’ along the boardwalk that stop before the boardwalk begins, with an additional set-back. Both can be done.

Sandpiper
27 September 2022 8:21 am

Affordable housing starts with Affordable Land !!!
this equates to more than $5oo K per acre for the buildable area
and if you think that neighbourhood wants affordable in their Back Yard
then Council needs a swift Kick .
Sounds like another Tannery project …………

Small Town Lover
Reply to  Sandpiper
27 September 2022 8:56 am

I didn’t know our town had so much money to spend. All the expensive repairs to the pier etc. yet to come too. Hopefully, our new council, will consider ALL Cobourg residents when making their final decision regarding use of the acreage.

Informed
Reply to  Small Town Lover
27 September 2022 11:22 am

Looks like an investment to me. Maybe proceeds and or future revenue will go towards the pier?Sometimes it seems like the Town can win.