WTF is going on at Bear Mountain??

Photo mosaic by Pete Rockwell
We don't know either! But someone's been talking to David Shoalts over at the Globe and Mail, so he's got the inside scoop. Apparently, Bear Mountain Resort owner and former hockey player Len Barrie is expected to lose his part-ownership in the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team. The team was losing almost $3 million a month the last we checked. It wouldn't surprise us if Bear Mountain turned out to be a revenue-losing bottomless pit too.

Most of the construction crews were laid off at the beginning of 2009. The grocery store that was scheduled to open this year has pulled out, along with Vancouver developer Robert Quigg. A dozen or so lawsuits are pending against Barrie and the resort.

Some highlights from Shoalts' column:

Barrie ... is fighting to save that gamble – a massive development near Victoria called Bear Mountain.

Like many real estate developers, Barrie and his 17 investors – who include current and former NHL players such as Mike Vernon, Gary Roberts, Joe Nieuwendyk, Ray Whitney, Rob Blake, Ryan Smyth, Sean Burke, Rob Niedermayer, Scott Mellanby, Matt Pettinger and Trevor Kidd – were whipsawed by falling prices and the drying up of bank credit.

Nobody saw that coming, eh? Well, greed does strange things to people. Cue the world's smallest violin orchestra, playing a sad waltz.

Some of those investors are angry and some are not, but they all have two things in common: They are not talking about it and all fervently hope Barrie can pull a rabbit out of his hat.

As opposed to blowing sunshine up their butts? These poor suckers must be praying for an obscenely-wealthy rabbit with impaired judgement.

He needs to work out a new financing deal on the 500-hectare development that includes two golf courses, a resort, hotel and as many as 5,000 condominiums, townhouses and residential lots.

And an interchange! Don't forget that. How many resorts come with their very own half-built highway project?

No doubt some were concerned when Vernon, who is one of the largest investors, sold his custom-built Calgary house this week for a city-record $10.3-million. Vernon would not comment on the sale, but one of his friends said it had nothing to do with any problems with Bear Mountain.

Maybe it's a problem with the location. Was the house built on a native burial ground, by any chance?

The B.C. project was going well until last October, when the worst of the recession hit. Suddenly, housing sales dried up and the value of the project dropped. Even worse, Barrie's bankers got nervous about the big loans that came up for renewal this year.

Uh oh. Did someone say "default?"

Barrie did announce recently that he closed a deal worth $350-million with Siraj Capital Ltd., an investment company based in Dubai. ... Under this arrangement, Siraj Capital gets control of the residential side of the Bear Mountain project for what amounts to a $350-million loan with stiff terms.

Does that mean they'll own the rest of the native cultural sites on the mountain? Will they get to blow those up like Barrie did with the cave? We know they don't get the mineral rights with the deal.

But even this depends on Siraj being able to raise the $350-million by selling units in a weak market. If the units cannot be sold by the first week of October, the deal will likely die.

In the past year, they've tried flogging condos in Spain, United States, Canada, and BC, with little success. The sales office in Victoria, 20 km from Bear Mountain, went tits-up way back in 2007.

The reason all of the Bear Mountain investors are keeping quiet, even the unhappy ones, is that none of them want any negative vibrations to kill the Siraj Capital deal. They see it as the only hope of getting their money back, let alone making a profit.

Jeez, STFU and don't queer the deal!

If successful, it may also go a long way to soothing Barrie's major lender, HSBC. Apparently the bank wants to be repaid a lot quicker than Barrie thinks is manageable (say two years versus five or more) and it wants higher fees than Barrie is willing to pay.

Hah! It must be a pleasure doing business with such a gentleman.

Update: Langford Not Abandoning Interchange Yet, Will Finish It Eventually, Needs Bailout Now

The half-built but apparently deserted "interchange to nowhere." Photo: Pete Rockwell
Looks like our little post about the sad abandonment of that oh-so-crucial highway interchange in Langford HIT A NERVE. It got picked up by a couple other blogs and hundreds of new visitors read about it. The story even prompted the Goldstream Gazette, the newspaper of record for wiping Len Barrie's ass, to barf out a whole column of denial, back-pedaling, spin and pure buffoonery. Good job!

We love to deconstruct stupidity and expose duplicity - so cheers to the Gazette for this wonderful opportunity to do both!
Langford in No Hurry to Finish Interchange

Langford officials say there is no big rush to finish the $25-million project, now eyed for 2010 or 2011.
Oh? Is that why Langford called in 100 armed officers with dogs and sniper rifles to clear out a few protestors? Is that why they disregarded established civil law process and then used feller-buncher machines to nuke every last tree in a matter of hours? Is that why they gave Leigh Road homeowners FIVE DAYS to submit to the city's buyout/expropriation order? Is that why they didn't consult with the community al all? Holy crow, WTF would Langford do if it WAS in a hurry? Bulldoze the houses with the people still inside? Drop a bomb?
Last summer, the Spencer Road Interchange construction area was a hub of work. These days the area is quiet and Langford says completion hinges on getting connector roads built on Skirt Mountain.
Of course, let's build the secondary roads first, then maybe we'll put in the highway access. Makes perfect sense!
There is no functional urgency at this point,” said interchange project manager Tim Stevens. “The Spencer Road intersection at the highway is still working.”
WHAT? That's madness! Don't you remember? If the interchange doesn't go forward, everyone in Langford and Victoria WILL DIE!!

Langford mayor Stew Young came out with guns blazing to defend his council’s decisions, telling those in attendance that if the interchange is not built “You will kill Langford’s economy—you will kill Victoria’s economy." ("Bylaws play to packed house," Monday Magazine, January 23, 2008.)

Oh well, that was then. This is now...

Stevens said the amount of planning is considerable, especially along Leigh Road where poles, power lines and other infrastructure needs relocating.
Uhhh, but they told us this thing's been planned since like 1994, when Len Barrie first rode his dirt bike up the hill and decided to piss on everyone below. We're confused now. What exactly does Langford's planning department DO? Didn't they notice the power lines on Leigh Road when they supposedly started designing this monstrosity so many years ago?

Wait, here's the kicker.
Langford acting clerk administrator Jim Bowden said the pace of construction depends on if the City gets millions in government infrastructure grants to help build connecting roads between the interchange and Bear Mountain Parkway.
Ah, yessss, those preciousss government grants. As we've pointed out, there may be a little problem with that. Don't forget the city is including those unreceived grants as revenue in the 2009 Fudge-it Budget. Which reminds us: WTF is going on with Langford's accounting department?
Interchange construction also depends on the pace of the 2,800-unit south Skirt Mountain development, he said.
Ha ha! Good one, Jim! But WRONG. Please refer to the Master Development Agreement, a signed, enforceable contract between the city and the South Skirt Mountain developers. Here's Schedule C, page 26, paragraph 4 of the Agreement:

"The Owners shall not carry out any work on any portion of the Lands, including construction of buildings, installation of works or services, or clearing or grading of land, until Phase 1 of the Trans-Canada Highway Spencer Road Interchange has been completed and is fully in use" (although that could change if they got an order from the Transportation Minister.)

Bowden goes on to say the city hasn't borrowed any money for the project yet, even though it has a $9.75 million line of credit with TD Bank. Whoops! No, he didn't. (Did someone actually fact check that BS?) Here's what the Gazoo says now (updated 2:49 pm August 14)
Bowden said the interchange is still on budget and the City hasn’t needed to borrow beyond $9.75 million authorized by council. Bowden said the City has borrowed between $5 and $6 million for the project.
Here's the original:
Bowden said the interchange is still on budget and the City hasn’t needed to borrow money yet. Council authorized Langford to borrow up to $9.75 million for the project.

Stop the presses! Oh, too late, ten thousand copies have already been printed and distributed. (Ten bucks says we won’t see a correction next week! Ha, suckers.)

Remember, folks, it is NOT ILLEGAL for city officials, politicians, and even journalists to lie (in most cases). So don’t worry – nothing shady is going on, just Langford business as usual!

Langford "Abandons" Interchange Project

The controversial Bear Mountain ("Spencer Road") Interchange project has been "abandoned," WTF Langford? has learned.

Right: the construction site in happier days, when construction was happening. Times Colonist photo.

The new TransCanada Highway connector demolished a rare karst cave and garry oak meadows after enduring a mock counter-petition, a ten-month long tree-sit protest, and a massive raid by dozens of RCMP officers that evicted a handful of interchange opponents in 2008.

Apparently, the situation has deteriorated since then. The Interchange Consultation blog reports on this continuing tale of fail.

Work Grinds to a Halt, a Full Year Behind Schedule

The Spencer Road Interchange (also known as the Bear Mountain Interchange) was scheduled for completion in May 2009. As of August 2009, it appears abandoned. All the heavy equipment, construction crews, and security personnel were withdrawn from the construction site in early July. Gravel roadbeds and a concrete overpass sit unfinished and empty.

Observers suggest that the city of Langford has already spent its $10 million line of credit from TD Bank, and that no money is forthcoming from the property developers the interchange would serve. Meanwhile, Langford's application for a Building Canada Fund grant for the interchange and the connecting road to Bear Mountain Resort appears to be in limbo. In the Goldstream Gazette, MP Keith Martin complains that he can't get a response from Ottawa about taxpayer funding for the project.

The city's application for federal and provincial grant money is controversial. Critics note that the project was billed as "100% funded by the developers" both in verbal promises to voters and in bylaws adopted by the city.

The most serious charge dogging the grant application is that the funding would amount to a cash gift to the developers, a practice forbidden by the Local Government Act. Any borrowing to cover the municipal portion of the grant would also be subject to a referendum by petition. Langford circumvented this step in 2008 by declaring the interchange a "Local Area Service" that would be paid for by the property owners who stand to benefit. However, the city can't have it both ways. Either the interchange is a Local Area Service and funded by the developers, or it is a public-funded project and the voters can approve or reject the spending in a referendum.

More infrastructure grant awards are expected to be announced in September, 2009.
Original construction schedule here.
Witnesses say the bridge has already been tagged a couple times - with anti-sprawl graffiti. Tsk! Kids these days.

Filed under: bridge to nowhere, bailout, cash gift, protest, Langford f----ups, blah blah blah, we told you so.

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