City councillors voted 7-4 on Monday night to a city plan to expropriate 43 hectares (105 acres) from a Fredericton couple who doesn’t want to give up its land.
Coun. Jordan Graham was the most vehement in his opposition to the expropriation of land owned by Bev and Darlene Hazlett.
The city intends to make the land part of its 720-hectare (1,800-acre) Killarney Park.
Graham said the city failed to establish a fair price for the land.
“The fair determination of any private transaction should and can only be characterized by two fundamental principles – the first that the transaction should be voluntary, and secondly that the price is between the maximum that the buyer will pay for it and the minimum that the buyer will accept.
“This is not fair. There’s nothing fair about this transaction. Some may consider this extreme, but I look to this as theft.”
Graham’s comments brought a rebuke from Mayor Brad Woodside, who said while Graham is free to express his views on the expropriation, it’s inappropriate to characterize the city’s actions as unfair.
“We’re trying to be as fair as we can … We’ve had the process discussed legally and it’s absolutely unfair for anybody to say that (we’re not being fair). I really don’t think that’s the case. I think you’re either for or against, ” Woodside said.
Coun. Stephen Chase defended the expropriation as necessary to assemble the land required for a public park.
“I think it would be untenable at this stage, this very late in the game, to have acquired these other properties and to leave a remnant in the middle,” Chase said.
“Killarney Lake Park is a very important part of the (city’s future vision).”
Councillors Dan Keenan, Bruce Grandy and Eric Megarity said the expropriation is unnecessary at this point and prolonged negotiations could lead to the same outcome in time, adding expropriation should only be a tool of last resort.
Coun. Marilyn Kerton said unless the property is acquired now, it might not be protected for future generations to enjoy.
A hearing was held in June before expropriations advisory officer John Larlee.
His job was to hear the Hazletts and the city and make a ruling on whether the expropriation is necessary.
During the hearing, the city said it wanted the land to protect woodland for Killarney Lake Park, assure wetland protection and guard the future of Killarney Lake.
The Hazletts, in turn, said the land has been family-owned for three generations, they have invested in equipment to cut lumber and log their wood, and they’ve built a network of roads through their land.
The couple said they would negotiate agreements for crossings, but didn’t want to give up all their land.
“He (Bev Hazlett) asserts that the city has too much power and that no one should take land unless the owner wishes to sell,” Larlee’s decision noted.
However, Larlee accepted the city’s arguments that the expropriation is justified and needed to assure the safety and security of the future park.
Before the expropriation is complete, the Hazletts will be able to present their appraiser’s report before the expropriations advisory board.
The city will also be given the opportunity to present an appraiser’s report.
After that, the board will make a determination on what price the city will pay to purchase the land.