PADOVA CITY: Political, economic scandal once loomed over Kamloops Tranquille farm | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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PADOVA CITY: Political, economic scandal once loomed over Kamloops Tranquille farm

Long after it was a sanatorium but long before plans for a winery, the sprawling 300-acre Kamloops property on Tranquille Road was a site of political and financial scandal.

In the 1990s, an Italian businessmen wrote his own colourful chapter in the history of the site.

Giovanni Camporese managed to “buy” it and planned to build a golf course and marina. He called it Padova City after his hometown.

His vision never became reality. He got a sweet deal to buy it, squandered it all and left taxpayers on the hook.

That’s because the Social Credit government in September, 1991 backed off plans to auction the lands, largely used for agriculture at the time, to sell it directly to Camporese’s company, complete with an $8 million taxpayer-backed mortgage.

The opposition NDP helped make it into just one of many scandals for the government at that time, because Camporese's companies already had known credit and regulatory issues, according to the Vancouver Sun.

A few months earlier, in May, his company A & A Foods attracted the attention of the then-B.C. Securities Commission. Regulators investigated a stock promoter who "hyped up" A & A Foods stocks in February, nearly doubling its share price before Camporese tried to sell off one million of his shares.

By 1992, the cheese-producing company had spent so much money promoting its own stocks that the costs ate into its revenue, while Camporese and his wife profited by selling shares in the company.

Vancouver Sun business reporter David Baines quoted Camporese as saying: "We don't make money on the cheese. The money's made on the stock.”

READ MORE: The deep, dark and mysterious history of Tranquille Sanatorium and psychiatric institution

By 1994, A & A stopped paying the mortgage for the property entirely, and was under investigation for mislabelling its cheese products.

In January of that year, federal food regulators seized 1,990 cases of parmesan cheese from its Port Coquitlam facility. A & A Foods was hit with 24 criminal charges for falsely labelling its products by November 1994.

Camporese and his wife sold more than $380,000 in A & A Foods stocks after food inspectors seized the products, and it wasn't until November 1995 that Camporese notified investors of the criminal charges.

He filed 20 declarations that he had "no knowledge of any material change in the company's affairs that has not been generally disclosed," according to the Sun.

The province eventually foreclosed on the property in 1997, and Camporese's plan to build a tourist destination with a golf course and marina never progressed beyond an idea.

The NDP criticism wilted when it formed government and in 2001, it forgave the loan to A & A, which grew to $12.8 million by then.

The City of Kamloops was also owed $850,000 in unpaid property taxes.

READ MORE: Spooky Tranquille Sanatorium? Staff loved it there

The property has always held some fascination, mostly because of its distant past. Its history as an institution dates back to the early 20th century when it opened as a tuberculosis hospital in 1907.

The King Edward Memorial Sanatorium housed tuberculosis patients where it would eventually amass 360 beds, but by 1958, healthcare treatments for the chronic illness rendered the hospital unnecessary. The province repurposed the property to run as a psychiatric institution and community, complete with homes, a farm and its own fire department.

In 1984, the province closed the Tranquille psychiatric institution on the western edge of Kamloops, and it was looking for a developer to buy the property

It was amalgamated as part of the City of Kamloops in the 1970s.

In 2001, the property was sold through the courts to developer Ed Neilsen of B.C. Wilderness Tours for $1.5 million, and the City got a large chunk of the sale to redeem its missing property taxes.

It was then dubbed Tranquille on the Lake and the plans for a tourist hub were shifted. Instead, its new owners planned to build a farm-focused community, incorporating a farming lifestyle into an eventual suburban neighbourhood.

A future plan for the Tranquille property is now being peddled under the banner of a new company, but the B.C. Wilderness Tours project lead, Tim McLeod, is still at the helm.

McLeod lives on the property with his wife Annette. Through the company Ignition Group, McLeod has been trying to develop the property for years, finally appearing to make progress with the exploration of a future winery taking place on the property for the next two years.

With previous private endeavours like offering heritage tours, an escape room experience and running Tranquille Farm Fresh, McLeod has managed to bring some activity to Tranquille as he continues to try to develop it.

The deteriorated property has long been admired by locals fascinated with its history, paranormal investigators and property developers.

On the western edge of Kamloops, the former Tranquille Sanatorium gathers dust, where it will eventually be torn down.

Both Camporese and Nielsen had plans to keep the buildings and incorporate them within future development, but they've now sat for too many years that it's not feasible to keep them at all.

McLeod said there are no plans to keep the buildings, including the homes and former hospital. The nearly 40 buildings on the property have deteriorated and have too much asbestos inside to bother keeping, he said, with the exception of the barn.

READ MORE: New plans for Tranquille Sanitorium farmland on Kamloops Lake include vineyards and winery

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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