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Community group alleges Halifax broke promise for $1 purchase of historic community centre

HALIFAX – The Lake Loon-Cherry Brook Community Centre means a great deal to Brenton Sparks and other members of community.

“It’s a sense of identity for this community,” said Sparks, President of the Lake Loon-Cherry Brook Development Association.

The building has been a community centre and school in the area for generations, but when the Halifax Regional Municipality took the land over a decade ago, they condemned the building. Now the community wants it back so they can preserve their cultural heritage by restoring the building.

However, they are having trouble reclaiming it and say the city has broken a verbal promise on the sale.

The group’s lawyer Derek Brett says six months ago, the group negotiated to purchase the building for $1 under an administrative rule which would allow only community-based groups to bid on the property. Brett says the city changed that rule in August 2015 to also allow commercial bids — something the community did not expect.

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“[It] could fulfill the worst fears of members of the Lake Loon-Cherry Brook communities that this is only a land grab by developers,” said Brett

The group now fears a private commercial developer will outbid them.

“Who is to say HRM didn’t make this deal to benefit them and not in our community’s interest?” said Sparks.

They protested outside city hall earlier this week to plead their case.

In an interview with Global News, Halifax mayor Mike Savage says the city doesn’t make verbal agreements and there is no record of the $1  promise. He says the community group misunderstands the process.

He insists bidding isn’t open to commercial developers but the bidding process has to remain open in case other community-based groups come forward. He says the bidding process will be open until the New Year.

“We are trying to follow a process that would allow them to successfully bid on that building. You can’t just give away property,” said Savage

However, the community group says they are still hesitant they can reclaim the building until they get a promise in writing.

“We’ve been told so many things by government officials that we are not in a position to trust anybody,” said Sparks.

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