Friday, 11 November 2011

"Put Real Estate Interests First" Coalition, part three, the last

I encourage you to take a drive up Armour Road and have a look for yourself at two properties. You can also see the listings on Lloyd’s own real estate website. Lloyd is the listing agent for two adjoining properties which have recently been severed from one another, both belonging to the Christian Fellowship Centre. 840 Armour Road is clearly visible from the street, on the east side just before you hit Moher’s Auburn Mills Plaza. The Fellowship, whose office is at 300 Milroy Drive, is an evangelical group connected with the Christian Fellowship International movement.

840 Armour was assessed by MPAC in 2008 at $128,000. The following year, construction began on a new church facility on the property. As you can see from the photo below and from the photos on Lloyd’s own website, the construction was never quite finished. The parking lot has curbs, but no surface. The building has never actually been used, and the adjacent property, which fronts on Spencley’s Lane just to the north, is littered with construction remnants.

840 Armour Road

By 2009, the construction was far enough along that MPAC assessed it at a value of $446,000. It’s unclear what went wrong at the Christian Fellowship, but evidently they abandoned the construction and put the property up for sale. Neighbourhood residents have wondered why the construction was taking so long. Because there are no “for sale” signs on the property, however, they weren’t aware that the property was actually on the market.

The current assessment value of the property is $314, 000. Diane Lloyd's website lists the property for sale at five times that figure, or $1.5 million. The Christian Fellows are on the hook for nearly $8000 in municipal taxes on the property this year, but would stand to make a huge profit if Lloyd does manage to sell it for anything close to what they’re asking, while Lloyd or her family members may collect a significant commission. It is unclear what Lloyd's relationship to the Fellowship may be, other than acting as their real estate agent.

The 235 Spencley’s Lane property is currently vacant and incurring no tax burden. Lloyd is listing that property, a vacant lot covered with construction garbage, at $330,000, although it is currently assessed at $240,000. Lloyd’s website states that the property has been zoned for high-density residential with between 16 and 30 units on it, meaning that if developed as such it could be assessed at ten times its current value. There is no “for sale” sign on this property either.

235 Spencley's Lane

“For sale” signs can be seen not only along the condominiums of Armour Road, but throughout the Frances Stewart development, indicating a glut in the property market in that neighbourhood. With the bottom falling out of the real estate market in 2009, it would seem that the Christian Fellowship’s investment income may have dropped to the point where they couldn’t afford to keep the property or finish the construction. Perhaps they had nurtured hopes of funding the church with income from the Spencley’s Lane development.

Many heavily-leveraged property owners across North America at this time got stuck holding properties they didn’t want and couldn’t move, and Peterborough was no different. It’s been tough to sell all kinds of properties in the past few years, but tougher still to sell unusual, expensive ones. It’s even tougher to sell a property when there’s no “for sale” sign on it. What was Lloyd's motivation for not putting her name up in public view for real estate transactions just down the road from a school whose fate she has had a firm hand in helping determine?

At a commission rate of 4.5%, Lloyd's business could perhaps hope to make close to $100,000 from the sale of 840 Armour and 235 Spencley’s – as much as a KPR principal earns in one year.

Let’s look at the possible futures. If TASSS were to close, the already slow real estate market along Armour Road would likely become depressed further still. The odds of anybody wanting to invest heavily in a church/office building or a 25-unit residential complex would be slim. The properties might sit there, draining money from the current owners, while Lloyd might face a very difficult task of selling them, even at their current assessment value.

On the other hand, if TASSS were to suddenly become reinvigorated with the Integrated Arts program, more students, and new KPR investment in the building, she might have a shot at getting considerably more than the assessed value of the properties.
In the second post on this blog, from October 14, entitled “Peter Adams and PCVS,” I stated that it was difficult to fathom why Lloyd wouldn’t heed the perspective of Adams, a former Liberal MP, school board Trustee, and Trent geography professor, in supporting the “vibrant, comprehensive inner-city high school” that is PCVS.

Trustee Gordon Gilchrist asked at the August 25th meeting, when his Baltimore neighbour Ringereide and Lloyd's Armour Road real estate neighbour Moher made their thinly disguised proposal to add the Arts program to TASSS and close PCVS, what would happen if the Board decided not to close TASSS. Lloyd replied, “A school needs to close, and we have to pick one or the other,” as reported by the Examiner.

Lloyd’s real estate business is based in Lakefield. You may recall that the original 2007 Capital Needs Assessment for KPR called for a review of Peterborough-area secondary schools for 2014 before the process was manipulated to focus on Peterborough city schools for 2011. The plain fact, evident to all on KPR’s 2011-12 budget, page 13, is that the lowest-enrolment secondary schools in the Peterborough area are in fact Norwood District, with an estimated 2011 student population of 348, and Lakefield District, with 460, and that these, along with TASSS,  are the least close-to-capacity schools in the area.

KPR enrolment figures for Peterborough area secondary schools
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Lakefield is fed by its own attached Intermediate school, which draws students from Buckhorn PS as well as Ridpath, and by K-8 schools in Warsaw and Apsley. These are the very elementary schools which could reasonably be redirected to feed TASSS if the Board wanted to boost TASSS’s enrolment. This means that Lakefield and TASSS are in direct competition with one another for students.

With Lakefield District already in a precarious position due to Hick’s obsession with large schools and filling capacity, Lloyd, representing her Lakefield constituency, presumably couldn’t support a scheme to prop up TASSS at the expense of LDSS. Without a high school, Lakefield would become nothing more than a glorified retirement village, sending demand for real estate by young and middle-aged families plunging. 

Is it possible that Lloyd failed to make public a personal interest in keeping TASSS open and of adding to it the Integrated Arts program, which had been built from the ground up over a long period by dedicated PCVS teachers?

Between them, Moher and Lloyd hold the keys to $4 million worth of investment property within sight of TASSS, potentially much more.

Moher’s pursuit of profit at the expense of downtown Peterborough may be repaid with a loss of public credibility.

One might question whether Lloyd’s failure to disclose her potential financial interest to the public, the absence of “for sale” signs in front of her properties, her expression of surprise at the results of the far-fetched feasibility study, and her failure to take action in response to the calls of hundreds of citizens, ARC members, and the Board’s own Trustees to address the absurd excuse for an accommodation review process, together suggest a potential conflict.

An honourable course of action for Diane Lloyd at this point may be to clarify her real estate interests, perhaps with an apology for not having already done so, and then strongly reconsider her position regarding the closing of PCVS.   

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