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MD backs away from discount land sale

The MD of Bonnyville has rescinded its offer of cheap land to the Islamic Society of Cold Lake.

The MD of Bonnyville has rescinded its offer of cheap land to the Islamic Society of Cold Lake.

Following a 10-minute closed-door session on the issue at its meeting last week, MD council briefly discussed a motion to rescind its previous offer, then voted 6-1 to rescind the offer.

Only Ward 6 Coun. Del Tolley voted against rescinding the offer. Tolley represents the ward that surrounds Cold Lake.

The rescinding of the offer means the society will no longer have the opportunity to buy a 2.5-acre parcel of land in a Cold Lake area industrial park from the MD for $10,000. The assessed value of the land is about $100,000, or 10 times the amount council voted to offer it at on June 9.

The offer was approved at that time by a 4-3 vote. It was supported then by Reeve Ed Rondeau as well as Tolley and councillors Don Sinclair and Mike Krywiak.

Rondeau, Sinclair and Krywiak all switched their support this time, voting with councillors Barry Kalinski, David Fox and Andy Wakaruk, who opposed the discounted sale when it was first voted on June 9.

Fox, Kalinski and Wakaruk all said they'd heard from MD residents opposed to the sale. Rondeau said prior to last week's meeting that he thought the issue should be reconsidered based on public feedback.

Fox said the concerns he heard had nothing to do with the Islamic faith specifically, but with the idea of selling land to any religious organization at a discount.

Some residents opposed to the discount sale, however, did bring ethnicity into the equation.

Tolley told council he heard from one ratepayer who told him, “The bastards are killing our sons in Afghanistan.”

While Kalinski called that point of view “not right at all,” he conceded there may be an anti-Islamic sentiment among some residents who opposed the sale, but it was not stated in any of the feedback he heard in writing from residents.

The latest vote leaves the Islamic Society of Cold Lake in search of a potential home for a mosque.

Society president Ajaz Quraishi said Monday the society is still interested in purchasing the land or part of it based on its value as determined by an independent appraisal.

He said the society would like to start building soon after it secures land for a mosque.