P.E.I. developer offers to sell Greenwich land, says he’s no ‘environmental terrorist’

Island developer Tim Banks says if Parks Canada or the Environmental Coalition of P.E.I. don’t want him to build on a plot of land he’s owned for 19 years near Prince Edward Island National Park at Greenwich, they’re welcome to buy it from him.All he wants is the price it’s worth. He said the land is appraised for $528,000, and he would take payment in the form of cash and tax credits.”It’s unfortunate, I feel that I’ve been painted as some sort of person that’s an environmental terrorist,” he said.”This particular property has been in the news for 30 years. The parcel itself is … former farm land, it’s the best kind of property to build.”His comments came days after the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission dismissed ECO P.E.I.’s  appeal of a decision by the province’s minister of housing, land and development to grant a permit to Banks to construct a single unit summer cottage on Lot 2 of a 70-lot subdivision.That subdivision was already approved for development in 2004, subject to conditions that it be connected to a central water system and that it be developed in accordance with an Environmental Protection Plan.The planned subdivision property, which includes Banks’s lot, can be seen at right, next to the road that leads to the sand dunes and beach in P.E.I. National Park at Greenwich. (Kerry Campbell/CBC)In its 13-page decision, IRAC said it is satisfied with the province issuing a conditional permit to Banks.It said proper procedures and sound planning principles were followed.  Last July, the province gave Banks a permit to build the cottage, as long as the original conditions were met.ECO P.E.I. co-chair Gary Schneider said he’s disappointed, but not surprised by IRAC’s decision. Our concern wasn’t with Tim Banks, we knew he would do whatever he was allowed to do. But our concern was with the province, who we thought didn’t give a fair look at the process.— Gary Schneider”We thought the provincial government flip-flopped on their permits, so our concern wasn’t with Tim Banks, we knew he would do whatever he was allowed to do,” Schneider said. “But our concern was with the province, who we thought didn’t give a fair look at the process; they sort of weighted it in favour of getting a permit to the developer really quickly.”In its appeal, the coalition pointed to an email from a P.E.I. government official, which it felt showed bias and compromised the integrity of the decision-making process.In the email, the province said it would provide Banks with a permit in “short order.”Tim Banks, CEO of APM Group, says he’ll begin building on the land in July if he doesn’t get a deal to purchase it by then. (CBC/Zoom)But the province said discussions had gone on for months, and the minister was aware of the project’s details.”Just because a minister is familiar with something, that doesn’t mean that something should speed up,” Schneider said. “They should really stay out of those decisions.”The coalition’s appeal also argued the minister’s decision was “arbitrary, procedurally deficient, and raises concerns respecting the reasonable apprehension of bias.”Banks, the CEO of APM Group, said he respects the environment, and continues to donate money to wetlands and watershed groups.  I always tell people they should stay in their own lane and in this particular case, I’m a developer and that’s what I do.— Tim BanksBut he said there are no environmental concerns with the land at Greenwich. He has begun litigation against ECO P.E.I., saying it conspired to prevent him from developing his lot.”I always tell people they should stay in their own lane and in this particular case, I’m a developer and that’s what I do,” he said. “And in their case, their mandate I think is to protect our environment, and I hope that they continue to do that.”Nonetheless, Banks said he’s prepared to walk away from the project if he gets his money back from Parks Canada. He said he paid $240,000 for the four lots nearly two decades ago.”What I’m looking for is my $240,000 in cash, and the balance of the property in the form of a tax credit so they don’t have to go to market to get more money or whatever they have to do, and I think that’s a legitimate offer.”Banks said he’s giving Parks Canada until mid-July to purchase the property. If he doesn’t get a deal by then, he said he’ll start building. CBC News reached out to Parks Canada, but hasn’t received a response yet.

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