A hastily-organized fundraising campaign by residents has failed to find $3 million to buy 25 acres of Township-owned land in Glen Valley to prevent its sale to developers.
With only a few days to go before a Dec. 17 Township deadline, the residents are far from their goal of preserving McLellan forest, Scott Perry, the chair of the newly-formed Watchers of Langley Forests (WOLF) told Township council Monday night.
While the group has found “passionate support” for preserving the forest located near 84 Avenue and 260 Street, that support has only produced “a small amount of donations to WOLF as well as a small amount of pledges,” Perry said.
Part of the challenge, Perry said, was convincing prospective donors to pay “full market value in 60 days for land that is already publicly owned.”
He described the amount raised to date as “miniscule.”
Council approved selling the 25 acres to raise money to buy the Aldergrove Elementary School site to build a new community centre, swimming pool and ice rink.
It agreed to postpone the sale to give residents time to come up with the necessary money.
Perry said an expert on fundraising has told WOLF that raising the $3 million would be a matter of two or three years, not months.
He urged council to cancel the sale and find the money for the community centre elsewhere.
The same message was delivered by other residents who spoke at the evening council session, many telling council that more than one prospective donor has objected to paying for property already owned by the public.
“You don’t have to buy those wetlands, you already own them,” is how Hillary Ruffini put it.
Some said the Township could find the money elsewhere.
“There are likely other properties the Township could sell,” Susan McCaslin said.
Mark Haddock said recent assessments of the land show it has “high ecological value” and should be preserved.
He cited a biologist’s letter which said the area has “high to moderate suitability” for endangered species like the Pacific Water Shrew, Oregon Spotted Frog and Great Blue Heron.
“One option for you is to sell some other parcel of land that doesn’t have as much ecological value,” Haddock said.
“There’s lots of options to pursue here.”
Councillor Charlie Fox suggested that could mean selling one of two much larger wilderness properties in the same area owned by the Township, one of 110 acres and the other 120 acres to generate the needed funds for the Aldergrove project.
“As they say in the business, show me the money,” Fox said.
Petrina Arnason said while most of the government agencies approached by WOLF agree the site should be preserved, none had the money to do so and one, Metro Vancouver, has a policy against buying property for parks when the land is publicly owned.
“That’s kind of a problem,” Arnason said, because individuals have also been reluctant to donate to buy public lands.
Council has postponed a decision on the sale until the next regular meeting on Jan. 21.
Brendan Perry, 7, couldn’t remember what he wanted to say about the controversial sale of the Glen Valley property Monday night at Langley Township council. But his dad says he’s against it.
Dan FERGUSON/Langley Times