Valemount Saas Fee property up for sale; asking $3M

By: Laura Keil

Saas Fee developer Shirley Sander is looking for a buyer for her 6-acre property and Saas Fee development plans after last year’s failed effort to get bridge financing.

The 6-acre property and development plans are listed for sale for $2,999,000.

Edmonton-based Sander bought her properties seven years ago under her company Saas Fee Land Developments and has been seeking funds to build a 200,000 sq ft condo-commercial complex between 5th and 6th Ave. It is the former site of Valemount Secondary School, and is currently a grassy chain-linked field spanning six acres. She says the global downturn of 2008 made investors reluctant, and stalled “Valemount Village Resort and Spa” known locally as the Saas Fee project.

But the following six years have been equally unfruitful, and Sander says she has searched high and low for financers. Sander was proposing 12-14 commercial spaces spanning 40,000 sq. ft and 181 condo units spanning 184,000 sq ft. She said the target of the condos would be visiting snowmobilers.

We requested an interview with Sander last week who said she would return our call but didn’t. We emailed her some of our questions and, through email, she said the answers were “confidential” and she would let us know when she is ready to send out a press release.

Our questions to Sander included whether she was going to mow and maintain her property while in the process of selling it, which has been an ongoing issue for neighbours; the reason she is selling it; whether she’s selling the plans for the Saas Fee development; and what happened since last year’s bridge financing effort.

Last year, Sander had approached Council for a draft Development Agreement that she could bring to an Ontario financer to bail her out of her current financial troubles. Heeding legal advice, Council did not sign the document but provided an agreement in principle instead, citing a need to avoid potential lawsuits.

The Development Agreement would not have given her permission to build, but would have helped her secure a short-term loan to pay off debts and keep the project afloat.

Now the Saas Fee land and plans are both for sale. Sander’s real estate listing on realtor.ca says “Professional architectural design and development plans available to serious buyer.” Casey Tanner, Sander’s Edmonton realtor representing the property, says all hard costs – the studies, environmental assessments, and architectural plans – are included in the asking price.

The real estate listing says the price is “below (the) appraised value.” Sander’s Valemount realtor Jeannette Townsend told the Goat that, generally speaking, the assessed value of the land and the appraised value of the products for sale are different. She would not disclose the appraised value of Sander’s property and development assets to the Goat.

The BC Assessment assessed value for just the land at 1300 6th avenue, Sander’s 6.09 acre lot, is shown as $780,000 for the past three years in a Landcor Property Report. That’s down from the 2011 assessment of $1,047,000. The report shows Sander paid $950,000 for her property in 2007. Since that time, Sander has reportedly spent millions to develop and push forward the Saas Fee project.

During the public comment period of that council meeting last year, Sander explained to the packed room of residents and Mayor and Council her struggle to build Saas Fee.

“In order to get financing for this project it’s been almost impossible. I’ve been to every lender in all of Canada and the States, and overseas. But I have not forsaken or left this town. I’m not one of those developers. I could have walked away a long time ago and just given up. But I have not because I love this town, I love the mountains and I love the people and I’m dedicated and devoted and determined to get this built so many people can enjoy it.”

If Sander had been able to secure the bridge financing, pay her outstanding property taxes and acquire full investment and permits to build Saas Fee, she says build-out would have lasted 2-3 years, would have provided a new tax base for the village, created jobs and attracted new residents.