As The Land Conservancy trims its empire to financially manageable levels, Craigflower Manor and Craigflower Schoolhouse will be handed back to the province.
Both historic buildings, beside the Gorge on the border of View Royal and Saanich, are owned by the provincial government but have been operated and managed by TLC for almost a decade.
“We are not in the business of losing money on provincial properties, and that’s what has been happening,” said Alastair Craighead, TLC board chairman.
Transfer of the properties, built in the 1850s, should be completed early next year, Craighead said.
“We returned Craigflower to museum status, but it’s not well enough known to attract people,” Craighead said. “It needs a lot of rethinking to make it pay for itself.”
Next year, it will be more difficult to attract visitors as Craigflower Bridge will be closed for six months during replacement, which will restrict public access.
Jennifer Iredale, director of the provincial heritage branch, said the province is working to make the handover as simple as possible because of TLC’s financial challenges.
“For the next year, we are likely to be looking at a property management type of situation because of the bridge project, which will make that site pretty inaccessible,” she said.
However, the province is working with View Royal and the public to develop a conservation management plan for the Craigflower properties, Iredale said.
The province is looking for fresh ways to generate new revenue from several historic sites, including Craigflower and Cole Island, Iredale said.
“All over North America, historic sites are experiencing declining use and declining revenue, and it makes good sense to look at what other purposes these places could be put to,” she said.
“I think some great new ideas will come out of [the conservation planning process]. Perhaps some new forms of tenure might be available or new uses that we hadn’t considered before.”
The heritage branch has offered to provide advice to TLC, which is grappling with mortgages and debts of more than $8 million, Iredale said.
“They are a small, very dedicated group of volunteers now, and the board is working extremely hard at solving their problems,” she said.
TLC is also hoping to hand Nicomekl Community Farm in Langley — another money-loser — back to the province, Craighead said.
“And we are in the process of talking to Metro Vancouver about Thwaytes Landing, which is in their jurisdiction. That would be another mortgage handed over,” he said.
A society in Vancouver is anxious to take over Kogawa House, but there are legal hurdles, Craighead said.
TLC is hoping to pay off money it owes Canada Revenue Agency through the pending sale of a Sechelt development property.
CRA has liens on 35 TLC properties as $84,563 is owed in unpaid property transfer taxes and $107,594 in unpaid payroll deductions.
CRA spokeswoman Mylene Croteau said individual cases cannot be discussed, but the policy is to attempt to resolve issues in a mutually satisfactory way.
“It is not uncommon for the CRA to … register liens against assets owned by a taxpayer … to secure amounts owing to the Crown while a payment arrangement is in place,” she said.
TLC also faces three lawsuits brought by creditors, but with donations continuing to come in, it is hoped they will be paid as soon as possible, Craighead said.
“I think we are through our storm, and now we just have a lot of work to do,” he said.
© Copyright 2013