Coun­cil re­futes sug­ges­tion it is com­pet­ing with pri­vate sec­tor

Port aux Basques coun­cil­lor ad­dresses town’s role in hous­ing and busi­ness ini­tia­tives

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - Front Page - BY ROSALYN ROY

The Town of Chan­nel-Port aux Basques is not com­pet­ing with the pri­vate sec­tor, main­tains Coun­cil­lor and former town man­ager Melvin Keep­ing, who is also a direc­tor of Gateway Vil­lage.

Speak­ing on be­half of coun­cil, Keep­ing ad­dressed con­cerns raised by res­i­dent Greg Sheaves in a let­ter to the ed­i­tor in the July 30 edi­tion of The Gulf News.

“We don’t feel we are (com­pet­ing),” said Keep­ing. “There’s a great need for ac­ces­si­ble and af­ford­able hous­ing.”

He noted that like most com­mu­ni­ties along the south­west coast, Port aux Basques has an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion and that de­mand for af­ford­able hous­ing will only con­tinue to grow. Keep­ing says coun­cil must take steps to ad­dress that now.

“We’d love to see the pri­vate sec­tor take an ini­tia­tive, but there ap­pears to be lit­tle or no in­ter­est here, so in con­junc­tion with Gateway Vil­lage we de­cided to move for­ward with the ini­tia­tive,” said Keep­ing.

On Tues­day, July 17 the prov­ince an­nounced that Gateway Vil­lage Cor­po­ra­tion had been suc­cess­ful in its bid to build eight new units on the site of the old Bruce Arena. The prop­erty, which be­longs to the town, was eye­balled by a pri­vate devel­oper last year.

By then the town had al­ready con­tracted a con­sul­tant and was draw­ing up its own ap­pli­ca­tion to erect se­nior hous­ing, but when a pri­vate devel­oper ex­pressed in­ter­est coun­cil halted its own ap­pli­ca­tion.

“We had told him we were in that process then but given that the pri­vate sec­tor was in­ter­ested we de­cided look, we’re not go­ing to move for­ward with ours now,” re­calls Keep­ing. “Even though with the af­ford­able hous­ing there’s non-profit and for profit.”

Keep­ing points out that the Gateway Vil­lage units are non­profit, whereas the pri­vate devel­oper was seek­ing to build for profit units.

“We had Shauna (Strickland), the de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer, work with him,” said Keep­ing, and says the town even pointed the devel­oper to its own con­sul­tant to de­velop his pro­posal.

“We could not just sell him the old prop­erty up there be­cause of the re­quire­ments of the Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties Act and we put out a re­quest for pro­pos­als. He put a sub­mis­sion in,” said Keep­ing, “My un­der­stand­ing is that his price was be­low what the as­sessed value of the prop­erty was.”

Mov­ing ahead

Even­tu­ally the devel­oper wrote a let­ter to coun­cil with­draw­ing his in­ter­est, so Gateway Vil­lage once again went ahead with its non-profit pro­posal.

Keep­ing has con­firmed that the eight new units are slated for se­niors. Dur­ing the af­ford­able hous­ing an­nounce­ment, cur­rent town man­ager Leon MacIsaac es­ti­mated the town’s wait list for the units at around 60.

“So, eight units. We’re only scratch­ing the sur­face,” said Keep­ing. “If we had 50, we still wouldn’t be meet­ing de­mand.”

Keep­ing notes that the units aren’t just af­ford­able for se­niors, but that they will be ac­ces­si­ble, which is also key. Cur­rent pri­vately- owned apart­ments within the town can’t al­ways meet th­ese cri­te­ria.

“There’s none of th­ese units avail­able around town, or very few of them.”

In ad­di­tion to lo­cal se­niors, Keep­ing said other se­niors along the south­west coast may choose to down­size and re­lo­cate closer to the hos­pi­tal, which will also drive de­mand in fu­ture years.

“As a coun­cil we get the res­i­dents com­ing to us, say­ing they have con­cerns, and se­nior hous­ing is a big is­sue, and I’m talk­ing about ac­ces­si­ble hous­ing,” he noted.

Keep­ing said be­fore the cur­rent coun­cil even took of­fice, dur­ing the pub­lic meet and greet ses­sions, each can­di­date re­peat­edly ad­dressed the is­sue with wor­ried vot­ers.

“We put in for (fund­ing for) 10. We were lucky to get eight,” said Keep­ing, who noted that the town may have to look at fu­ture non- profit units, but should a pri­vate devel­oper show in­ter­est coun­cil will al­ways choose to back off.

“Not only that, we’ll work with them. Right now, we’ve got Shauna work­ing with a pri­vate devel­oper in town who’s look­ing at go­ing through (the ap­pli­ca­tion process). They can ac­quire quite a bit of fund­ing for this and Shauna is work­ing with them.”

Keep­ing de­clined to say more, cit­ing con­fi­den­tial­ity is­sues, but has con­firmed meet­ings have taken place and that the town will con­tinue to work with the devel­oper.

Hous­ing is­sues aside, Keep­ing also says the town has done what it could to drive new busi­ness in the town while be­ing care­ful not to com­pete with the pri­vate sec­tor.

Fish plant

In his let­ter, Sheaves also cited the former Barry’s fish plant, which is cur­rently owned by the town, as com­pe­ti­tion when it comes to small busi­ness lo­ca­tions.

“I can re­mem­ber when Bill Barry, when he was in the process of shut­ting that down, and it was just through word of mouth that we (coun­cil) found out that they were go­ing to to­tally dis­man­tle and knock down the build­ing,” said Keep­ing. “Pres­sure was on from the com­mu­nity that we should not let that piece of in­fra­struc­ture go to ruin.”

Coun­cil re­sponded by pur­chas­ing the build­ing from Barry for $1 but un­der cer­tain con­di­tions.

“For a pri­vate sec­tor to take some­thing like that on, it was go­ing to be dif­fi­cult, be­cause they can’t ac­cess gov­ern­ment fund­ing to re­fur­bish it, and we were for­tu­nate,” said Keep­ing.

In con­junc­tion with Gateway Vil­lage and gov­ern­ment, the town suc­cess­fully availed of grants and other funds to save and main­tain the build­ing. Keep­ing main­tains the town would have been neg­li­gent not to take that op­por­tu­nity.

“It’s our plan in the fu­ture to sell it off, hope­fully get a po­ten­tial buyer to cre­ate busi­ness in the town,” said Keep­ing. “We’re hope, as I said, to sell it as a whole piece and we’re ac­tu­ally in ne­go­ti­a­tions with a cou­ple of po­ten­tial buy­ers right now.”

He noted that John Os­mond of Co­droy Seafoods ac­tu­ally owns one por­tion of the plant and has over a dozen sea­sonal work­ers on staff there.

“Right now, there’s no large in­dus­trial space in town,” said Keep­ing. “Over the years since we’ve had it, rather than see po­ten­tial de­vel­op­ers com­ing in and go­ing else­where or not get­ting off the ground at all, we rented it out on short term leases.”

Keep­ing main­tains that the town only sought to pro­vide tem­po­rary space for th­ese types of busi­nesses that had no vi­able al­ter­na­tive with the pri­vate sec­tor.

“That’s be­ing pro­gres­sive here you know, look­ing at the town for po­ten­tial em­ploy­ment, whether it’s short-term or long-term.”

ROSALYN ROY/THE GULF NEWS

Port aux Basques Coun­cil­lor Melvin Keep­ing.

J. R. ROY/SPE­CIAL TO THE GULF NEWS

The new af­ford­able hous­ing de­vel­op­ment is ear­marked for se­niors.

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