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White Rock council renews BNSF lease

An Amtrak train cuts through the fog during a journey through the Semiahmoo Peninsula last week. - Dan Ferguson photo
An Amtrak train cuts through the fog during a journey through the Semiahmoo Peninsula last week.
— image credit: Dan Ferguson photo

White Rock council has signed off on renewing the city’s lease with BNSF Railway Company, agreeing to an annual payment boost of $50,000 per year, to $400,000, starting Aug. 1.

The politicians passed a resolution authorizing the move during a closed meeting held Jan. 14.

City manager Dan Bottrill confirmed Friday the city is nearing the end of its current five-year term, which expires on July 31. Aside from the term’s first year – in which a $50,000 reduction was negotiated in exchange for the city providing various upgrades – the annual cost since 2008 has been $350,000.

The climb to $400,000 in the coming term was outlined in the original agreement, which was inked in 2003. It replaced a month-to-month lease which had allowed White Rock to reap millions from parking on railway property while paying just $200 in monthly rent.

At the time, city negotiator Dale Mumford described the deal as fair.

The extra $50,000 will be partly recouped through an increase announced last fall in the price of resident parking decals, which rose to $40 from $30.

The railway owns 12 hectares south of Marine Drive, including the Promenade, Totem Plaza and the city’s 486-tonne namesake.

If the lease is renewed for a fourth term, the annual rate will climb to $450,000.

The decision to renew for Aug. 1, 2013 to July 31, 2018 was to be released at the Jan. 28 council meeting, after Peace Arch News deadline Monday afternoon.

Bottrill said there has not been any talk as yet regarding possible changes to the lease terms.

“At this point, we haven’t introduced any changes to the lease agreement. We haven’t even had that conversation,” he said. “This is simply council’s concurrence to renew the agreement. Council just wanted to inform the public that that’s what we were going to do.”

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