In 2005 Tom Vegh bought land from the Town at Silken Laumann Drive with the aim of developing it. For various reasons this proved to be impossible and the Town bought the land back from Vegh in 2009.
The central question for me is this: Did Vegh get special treatment? Would any other member of the public in similar circumstances be treated in exactly the same way?
Vegh has been a member of Newmarket Council since 2000. He stresses he was not on the Council in 2005 when the deal was done.
We are talking here about a land transaction between an individual and a public body where the details should be publicly available. This information should not be off-limits.
Yesterday Vegh emailed me:
I addressed this on Newmarket Votes on October 4th, but you must have missed it. Here is what I posted. Please correct your story.
It has come to my attention that a few people are making false claims about a building lot my wife and I purchased 13 years ago. Here are the facts:
• In 2005, when I was not on Council, through a blind bidding process managed by a third party, my wife and I were the highest bidders to purchase a residential building lot that the Town declared surplus and advertised in the Era Banner. With the sealed bid was included a mandatory $40,000 deposit. Our goal was to build our dream home.
• We were aware that the Town had an easement over a portion of the property and we had no problem with that because it was not in the allowable building foot print.
• During the due diligence process our engineer discovered that there was an unprotected large storm pipe 40 feet deep under the easement that would require us to build foundations 40 feet deep to protect the pipe, at an additional building cost of $225,000.
• The Town admitted that they were not aware that the pipe was not in a sleeve (protected) and agreed that the need for an extraordinary building foundation ($225,000+) should have been disclosed in the original sales listing.
• It was settled through a mediated court process, not at council. Council only approved the Minutes of Settlement. The Minutes of Settlement was dictated by the mediator (a sitting trial judge) and rested on the agreed statement of facts. It was short and made three orders.
1. revoke the sale of the lot,
2. return our deposit ($40,000) without interest, and
3. each side was responsible for their own legal and professional fees.
To address some of the false statements that have been made on this site:
• The lot is only 40 feet wide and a little over 100 feet deep. There was never an application to turn it into a townhouse development.
• The lot was listed with residential zoning in place. We did not apply for a zoning change.
• The town did not pay our legal or professional fees. That is a claim made by others, but they admit they have no evidence to back it up. The $40,000 we received was the return of our deposit, without interest.
The Town’s Sale of Land policy – which tells me is updated every three years – is silent on reacquisition. Clearly this is something that is not anticipated.
But one of the two stated purposes of the Sale of Land policy is:
“to establish a consistent, transparent and accountable procedure to be followed in the disposition of real property assets by the Town.”
By keeping details of the reacquisition of the Vegh property under wraps the Town is being neither transparent not accountable.
The way to resolve this is for Vegh formally to request the Town to publish full details of the land sale and the subsequent buy-back and to release it from any confidentiality agreement that may apply.