Farmer James Ripplinger has had his land expropriated three times. Photo by Tennessa Wild.
Land purchased for the West Regina Bypass has recently come under public scrutiny after CBC Saskatchewan’s iTeam uncovered that the government-owned Global Transportation Hub paid $103,000 per acre on land first appraised at $30,000 to $35,000 per acre. The bypass will serve traffic heading to the GTH.
Along the path to the deal, a company owned by Alberta entrepreneur Robert Tappauf earned $6 million in one day, while a numbered company owned by developers Anthony Marquart and Harold Rotstien earned a tidy $21million, CBC’s investigation revealed.
The source of scrutiny is the question of why the government apparently overpaid for these 204 acres, while other farmers, residents and small businesses had their land expropriated.
This is a common theme all along the Regina Bypass route. The value of the land along the route is argued to become of greater value due to the profits that stand to be gained by land owners through its development. Some land owners in the east are frustrated with the price that they were given. They believe it should have been higher.
James Ripplinger owned land along the GTH and the bypass route. All parcels of land were expropriated and he believes he was compensated unfairly. He was given $20,000 per acre for both locations.
Incredibly, Ripplinger was expropriated three different times. First his land west of the city was expropriated to build the GTH; his land that his house sits on in Regina’s south east corner was expropriated for a new housing development called The Creeks. He wanted to move his house to the land on the east of the city but it was expropriated for the construction of the bypass.
"They're trying to steal the land from us." - Farmer James Ripplinger
“The developers pay anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 and the government has offered me $20,000, so what a disaster. I can’t replace this property; it’s impossible for $20,000 this close to the city,” said Ripplinger. “I’m not the only farmer that’s got the same problem; they’re trying to steal the land from us.”
Harry Frank’s mother, Gertrude Frank, was a land owner along Highway 6 before she was given an expropriation notice in late 2014. Frank had the land appraised between $20,000 and $50,000 per acre, but was given $5,700 per acre in the expropriation process.
“On the east end, people have gotten over $100,000 for agricultural land. If it’s agricultural land, it’s agricultural land. Then they say it’s the approximation to the city and things like that. Well, we’re fairly close to the city, we have highway frontage – shouldn’t our land be worth a little bit more too?” said Frank.
Other landowners walked away happier.
Cindercrete Products has owned land east of Regina on Highway 1 since the 1990s. The company was founded by the Tells, a well-known local family. Christine Tell is the MLA who represents the area, Regina Wascana Plains.
Kevin Tell, CEO of Cindercrete Products and president of Tell Properties, said his land was not expropriated. Instead, he sold some of it to the government. Tell said he and the ministry of highways worked together early in the bypass planning stages to create a solution that would not interfere with his business and its location.
“I think that we recognized that we should be part of the solution. It was only to our benefit to see this process actually step through and work itself out and for there to be an agreement. Expropriation should be the absolute last resort. We were never really close to that,” said Tell.
“We have (other) important property along this corridor but because it didn’t affect our business, it was to our benefit for there to be decisions and for us to negotiate, which we did. Now (we) just sit back and whatever is needed from us (we will do) just to aid in the building process as best we can,” he added.
The former title of a roadway section owned by Tell originally had an assessed value of $3.4 million before it was converted to Crown land in December 2015, while the ministry of highways noted assessed its value at $527,589 in transfer documents. Tell did not disclose the actual price paid, something that will eventually appear in the annual provincial public accounts.
Discrepancies in land values left some land owners feeling optimistic, and others let down. The Bypass project has been a difficult process for all of the land owners, but some feel the loss greater than others.