School District 8 is being sued for allegedly selling this property between New Denver and Kaslo without prior consent from the education ministry. The district is disputing that claim. Photo: Submitted

School District 8 is being sued for allegedly selling this property between New Denver and Kaslo without prior consent from the education ministry. The district is disputing that claim. Photo: Submitted

School District 8 sued for delayed property sale

Michael Sawyer says he paid $40,000 for land he can’t access

A man who claims School District 8 sold him a property without prior approval from the education ministry is suing for both the land and damages.

In a civil claim filed through the Supreme Court of B.C., Michael Sawyer alleges SD8 agreed to sales conditions on a two-acre property east of New Denver in October 2020.

But nearly a year later, Sawyer is still unable to take possession of the land despite paying the district $40,000 in February because he claims the district never asked the ministry of education to review the sale, which was among the conditions on the deal.

District land sales require a review and approval by the ministry before transactions can be completed. A ministry spokesperson told the Nelson Star that the approval process can take up to six months or even longer, depending on the property.

Sawyer, who has named SD8 and secretary-treasurer Michael McLellan as defendants in the civil claim, is seeking $20,000 in damages as well as possession of the property. The district has not filed a statement of defence.

McLellan disputed Sawyer’s allegation that the district neglected to seek ministry approval. He said the delay occurred because the district had previously received ministry approval to sell the land in 2010, but could not find the paperwork and required a new assessment from the ministry.

He said the district has since received a copy of the approval and he expects the sale to be completed within the week.

Sawyer said he bought the land, near Retallack Ski Lodge on Highway 31A between New Denver and Kaslo, to build a small home where he could live near his daughter in Winlaw and take advantage of nearby outdoor recreation.

After paying for the property on Feb. 22, he was told on March 8 the BC Land Titles Office had not received proof of ministry approval.

The district, he alleges, did not request approval until the week of June 7-11, and on June 28 was told it may not be until October before the sale would close.

Sawyer’s claim alleges the original sales date was pushed back three times to allow for ministry approval.

McLellan said the property was formerly set aside to be a school in the early 1900s when there was the possibility a mining community might be built at the location. That never happened, and there was no need for a school.

It’s the second time within the year that a School District 8 land sale has gone awry.

The district sold its former board office on the North Shore across from Nelson in February to Salmon Arm-based Valid Manufacturing for $1.12 million.

Although that sale was finalized, residents have since protested the tech company’s plans for the property. The Regional District of Central Kootenay, meanwhile, is waiting on a public consultation meeting before approving the company’s zoning application.

@tyler_harper | tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

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