Chelsea Mayor Pierre Guénard says that if the municipality would have been successful in its bid to purchase 86 acres of land in the Déry Quarry, the group pushing for a new field hockey pitch, sports training centre and protected lands “would have been at the table.”
But the municipality bid 582 per cent more than it was allowed to when it tried to buy the quarry for $6 million – $5.1 million more than the land was valued at; the province’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) stepped in and said it wouldn’t fund a borrowing bylaw for that amount.
“When Mr. Déry suggested that the municipality buy his land, the municipality immediately showed an interest in this transaction with a view to creating social housing, improving the recreational offer and protecting the wetlands,” explained Chelsea spokesperson Maude Prud’homme-Séguin. “The municipality then contacted MMAH to find out about the financing conditions we would need to obtain the loan. MMAH replied that an assessment by a certified appraiser was required and that it would finance only the amount of this assessment plus 10 per cent. After negotiations with Mr. Déry, the municipality signed a promise to purchase for $6 million, including conditions related to financing with MMAH.”
According to a private land assessment from January, obtained through an access-to-information request last week, the quarry – 86 acres of land in Farm Point – was valued at $879,000 in January of this year. This proved a difference of $5.1 million between the assessment and the offer price, and the MMAH said no.
“The municipality subsequently received the appraiser’s report, which valued the land at $879,000,” she added. The municipality initially gave the Low Down incorrect figures, comparing the assessment to market value, when it should have given the munipality’s offer price. “Since the difference between the appraisal we received and the promise to purchase was 582 per cent, the promise to purchase was automatically cancelled.”
A 2023 MRC des Collines property assessment valued the land even lower – at $520,387.
Prud’homme-Seguin said the maximum the MMAH would finance in this deal would have been a $1 million bid for the property.
When asked why the municipality bid so high over the assessed value of the land, Guénard said that it was the price that Chelsea and landowner Laurent Déry had agreed upon when they made a promise to purchase the property in fall 2022. The municipality didn’t receive the private assessment until January 2023.
According to Guénard, council was supportive of former Olympian field hockey player Ian Bird’s idea to build a new field hockey pitch, training centre and a corridor of protected lands with Action Chelsea for the Respect of the Environment. But, because the deal fell through, so did the “dream project,” as some in the community have called it.
“We wanted to support some local groups and create the diversity and the offer of recreation,” said Guénard. “They would have been at the table to plan the whole thing.”
For his part, quarry owner Déry told the Low Down in late November that he is now in talks with private developers but wouldn’t talk about anything specific.