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Previous council blamed for Olympic Village fiasco

COPE and Vision councillors took aim at the previous NPA-led council today for a June 2007 in-camera decision they said laid the groundwork for the current Olympic Village fiasco.

Vision Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs said that when Sam Sullivan’s council selected Millennium Development to build the project in 2006, it assured taxpayers that the city would not assume any marketing or financing risk.

“That’s a long way from the situation we find ourselves today, where in my judgement, the city may face the largest financial loss in its history,” Meggs told a special council meeting on the athletes’ village.

In June 2007, council voted behind closed doors to provide a “completion guarantee” to Fortress Investment, the New York-based hedge fund that has promised a $750 million construction loan to Millennium but stopped making payments in September.

That decision essentially made the city financially responsible for the project.

“This is a fundamental change and completely at variance with the commitments that were made public to taxpayers in the spring of 2006,” Meggs said.

Meggs added that the “completion guarantee” wasn’t the only option available to council and called for a “fact-finding” mission to determine how and why the decision unfolded.

Coalition of Progressive Electors councillor David Cadman also took aim at the June 2007 decision, stating that COPE and Vision had both opposed the move at the time.

“We went from developing an Olympic Village to taking on the responsibility for the development of a development project,” he told council, referring to Millennium’s plan to sell 80 percent of the condo units as high-end housing after the games.

Meanwhile, Non-Partisan Association councillor Suzanne Anton defended the previous council’s decision, pointing out that is was made in an “era of high housing prices.”

“We are in a tough spot that is due to the collapse of the financial market and also the decrease in the value of housing prices,” Anton said. She added: “It’s wrong to engage in finger pointing.”

Today’s special meeting was called to give details to the public about the Olympic Village. Council also voted to approve Mayor Gregor Robertson’s motion to ask the provincial government to amend the Vancouver Charter so the city can seek outside financing for the project.

Geoff Dembicki is a staff reporter for The Hook.

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