by Yule Heibel on June 2, 2003

Whoa! I spent the better part of the evening at a furious, emotional community meeting that debated the merits of a development proposal in my neighbourhood, the Rockland district of Victoria. High on a hill sits a 110-year-old mansion, originally named Schuhum, a native word for windy place. Mansions aren’t uncommon in Rockland, but this one has acreage, which is indeed rare in a post-subdivision age: over 2 acres. Schuhum has many heritage trees (quercus garryanus) and rock, which is a heritage-protected substance in Rockland. The house came to be known as the Caroline Macklem Home, given in 1950 to the Anglican Church Women of the Diocese of British Columbia by a philanthropist, who presumably needed a tax write-off for a white elephant. The recipients turned the house into an old people’s home, but by 1999, staggering under the expense of upkeep on property like this, they actually gave the house over to a smooth-talking so-called Baron (in reality an American born in Santa Monica, California): the Baron somehow convinced the ladies, perhaps addled from too much sherry, into leasing the house to him for 99 years at $1 per year. Sweet deal.

They did realize relatively quickly that this had been a stupid move, and tried to get the so-called Baron out. But even though he has left the country, he has made enough trouble that the house has to be sold now (at an inflated price of about $2.25million), and lo!, the only buyer currently in sight is a developer with a plan that begins to sound pretty rickety when prodded and poked at. He needs to spend $20 million to turn the estate into an 85-unit independent living complex, complete with several additional buildings squeezed into the 2 acres.

The neighbourhood is having a NIMBY moment, but aside from that unsavoury reflex, the proposal really isn’t a good idea as it stands. The developer doesn’t appear to be playing with a straight deck, and he seems capable of pulling out aces as needed from his shirtsleeves. The only alternative anyone has floated thus far, however, is to build 10 additional single family homes on the site — make the property undergo the process of subdivision — which might alleviate traffic concerns, but which seems a sad and brutal deal for the Windy Place.


Goyo June 9, 2003 at 9:48 pm

George is no Baron , and that’s sure. The family in Germany wants nothing
to do with him, as I understand it. This is a sensational story that is not
over yet. I think the Anglican Church Women at Christ Church Cathedral were
hijacked by a cabal of real estate speculators, centred around the outgoing
Bishop Jencks.
I cannot prove what I am alleging ambiguously here, and I know that I should
tread carefully. However, I have it on very good authority, and that is the
man who originally put the T-C onto this story.
My informant told me that the ACW was taken over by a small circle of Christ
Church Cathedral staffers associated with Bishop Jenks. I believe a key
player is a Deacon or Dean, but I do not know her name. I can probably provide
more info on this group, provided my informant friend’s wife allows us to go
over it again. It almost ruined their marriage the last time he really got
into it, so the evidence of malfeasance is very compelling, and addictive…
In any case, the so–called Baron entered into an arrangement with these
worthies, supposedly on behalf of the ACW. When it became evident that he
was not, in fact, who he had claimed to be, the parties to the original
lease allowed Davis to break the lease and vacate the premises, for a cut
of the subsequent real estate deal.
When I got up to the mike at the meeting the other night, the realtor Patrick Skillings was beaming up at me, smiling. We went to Vic. High together, I
guess…I seem to know him from somewhere. Social Credit father Cabinet
Minister Skillings, VIP family in Victoria…
I didn’t notice what happened to Skillings’ expression when I said that it
looked like an inflated real estate scam to me. I don’t imagine he was
smiling…more likely muttering under his breath, “Shut up , you fool, and quit taliking about stuff you don’t want to know about…”


Yule Heibel June 12, 2003 at 2:47 am

I think it’s a good idea to kick up a stink about these things,especially if there is an indication of collusion and rigging of the (so-called) free market.

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