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Surrey councillor distances from brother's property on proposed road

Coun. Mandeep Nagra does not think he is in a conflict of interest despite questions from political opponents.
Coun. Mandeep Nagra at a Surrey city council meeting.

The brother of city councillor Mandeep Nagra has purchased an $8-million property on 84 Avenue, months after the City of Surrey fast-tracked a controversial extension of the road at Nagra’s behest.

Now, critics of Nagra and his Safe Surrey Coalition slate are questioning if he was or is now in a conflict of interest.

“Obviously, increased traffic along 84th is going to increase business and drive up the price of commercial real estate: a logical consequence of turning 84th Avenue into an east-west connector,” stated Sebastian Sajda, via an email statement to media Monday (Oct. 4).

The property puts a new wrinkle in the project’s timeline, particularly if another vote is required.

Sajda is a local environmentalist with Friends of Bear Creek Park who has announced his intention to run for council next year with the Surrey Connect slate, which is led by mayoral candidate Coun. Brenda Locke.

Last February, Nagra’s council partner Coun. Doug Elford tabled a request to have staff expedite a two-part extension of 84 Avenue that would see a continuous corridor. Nagra seconded and spoke in favour of the proposal at council and at a subsequent agricultural committee meeting.

The extension is controversial as it cuts through green space connected to Bear Creek Park’s southern border. The road will be set atop a salmon-bearing stream. The extension has been rejected by citizens in the past but has been one of the city’s long-term (10-year) traffic management projects, to alleviate nearby traffic gridlock, at least temporarily.

Between February and July, the project has moved along with Coalition support of road building contracts totalling $16.2 million. However, Friends of Bear Creek Park has successfully applied for a court injunction, claiming the city is intending to build a road on land designated as park. Without the injunction, the city was planning to complete the road alongside the park by next fall.

Sajda shows on Sept. 27 an $8.05-million transfer occurred for 12033 84 Ave., from buyer 1320168 B.C. Ltd. to seller Scottsdale Lanes Ltd. Nagra’s brother Harpreet Nagra directs the numbered shell company buying the property. Together, the brothers operate Fraserview Meats, which shares the same address as the Aug. 17-incorporated shell.

The property is an old bowling alley called Scottsdale Lanes, located near 120 Avenue/Scott Road, just four blocks away from where the city intends to extend 84 Avenue in a second phase. The road in front of the bowling alley will also be improved and the city expects to draw traffic away from busy nearby east-west roads to 84 Avenue. A new bus line is also envisioned.

Sajda says the Community Charter “prohibits council members from participating in any discussion or voting on a matter in which the member has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in a matter or another interest in the matter that constitutes a conflict of interest.”

The B.C. Government states: “In broad terms, a locally elected official has a non-pecuniary conflict of interest if the following qualifications are met: “The locally elected official, or one of their relations or associates, stands to realize a personal benefit from a favourable decision on the matter.”

When asked by Glacier Media if he was or may now be in a conflict of interest, Nagra explained his brother purchased the property after his vote was cast on the project.

“I don't see that as a conflict of interest. He bought it, and in fact he had no plans of buying that property when I voted. And I was not aware of that,” explained Nagra.

Sajda said it’s unclear when the deal was put together.

Regardless of whether or not there are to be any future votes on the project, Nagra said he does not see it as a conflict of interest moving forward, as it is his brother’s property and Fraserview Meats has no business on 84 Avenue. Nevertheless, Nagra said he would check with his lawyers.

Sajda said a ruling from the B.C. Supreme Court on the injunction application could happen as early as Tuesday. It is possible the judge could rule the road is a violation of proper proceedings by the city. In that case, the project would need to be amended and potentially return to council for a new vote.

“It’s up in the air right now,” but “any vote going forward, he (Nagra) has to be recusing himself and I’ve put forth a complaint to the (City of Surrey) ethics commissioner,” said Sajda.

The Coalition holds a 5-4 majority on council at the moment, with councillors Locke, Jack Hundial, Linda Annis and Steven Pettigrew in opposition during many votes.