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Picton Town Hall submissions deferred; council seeks best of both plans

UPDATE: Several councillors spoke of the difficulty of voting with their heads, to be fiscally responsible, or their hearts, to honour community and heritage, on the issue of Picton’s Town Hall.

Following several deputations and about two hours of discussion, a motion seek the best of both worlds put forward by councillor Bill Roberts was approved.

Moving to the next council meeting for approval is a motion to defer the two submissions, directing staff to provide council with an expedited request for proposals process including full consideration of a public private partnership option that would assure the public good and permanent heritage value; as well as assure indefinite public access at no or minimal cost increase to Prince Edward County community groups. This request be completed, including final recommendations, within eight months.

Council also wants a recent market analysis on the property and an update on capital repairs needed.

Councillor Phil Prinzen likened the issue to a squirrel on the road that is constantly runing back and forth because it can’t decide which way to go, and often ends up getting run over.

Community takeover of Picton Town Hall recommended over ‘pod-style’ hotel

Council will be asked to select the Save Picton Town Hall Community Working Group’s submission over an expression of interest for an innovative “pod-style” hotel at the 2 Ross St., Picton building.

A report from the Community Development Department before Committee of the Whole Thursday asks council to provide the “A Hall for All” group one year from the appointment of a board of management, to secure the necessary capital funding required. Ongoing operation would be contingent on the board’s ability to achieve full cost recovery for operation of the facilities and securing a suitable lease with an anchor tenant.

-Community meetings generated ideas for the Picton Town Hall. – Sharon Harrison photo

The group proposes to maintain municipal ownership, operating the facility through a board of management. The upper level would continue as a Town Hall, the lower renovated and operated as office, commercial and retail space. Capital repairs funding is requested from the County but not required for proposed use to move ahead. Renovations are estimated at $350,000. The group plans to access grants, tenant contributions and funding for leasehold improvements. It expects operating cost recovery within two to three years (approximately $55,000 annually).
A seasonal farmers’ market is noted for space outside the building. Public parking would be maintained for the building and public, subject to arrangements for the market.

At a Committee of the Whole meeting in September, council directed the Picton Town Hall (old fire hall) be listed for sale through a request for proposal process and invited alternative proposals.

The Save Picton Town Hall group was formed in response and membership includes a cross-section of the community, including the PEC Arts Council as a key partner and future user group.

Should the municipality move forward with the Hall for All proposal, staff would consult with the working group to develop terms of reference. Examples of this management structure are in place in the County with Mount Tabor, the South Marysburgh Town Hall, a portion of the Bloomfield Town Hall and a current proposal for the Wellington Town Hall.

The other proposal received was from Hymus Holdings Inc. offering $525,000, plus a $250,000 donation to the Picton Library expansion.

A 50-unit modest pod-style hotel/hostel was proposed with funding for the library to ensure groups currently using the hall would have an alternative space. Rates for the pods would be $30-$45 per night. Some outdoor space could include an outdoor rink.

The proposal states the price point would service the sports tourism and younger visitor market with affordable, centralized accommodation, noting this segment is under-serviced in the community and currently relegated to branded, traditional accommodations north of the County in neighbouring communities.

Michael Hymus has 14 years experience operating an international automobile wholesaling business. The County resident has become a significant local developer, property owner and investor with more than 20 local commercial properties and a number of community partnerships for philanthropic causes including the Picton Splash Pad, the Wellington outdoor skating rink, Save Picton Bay and the PEC Lookout property donation on Hwy 49. He owns short-term accommodations and a number of long-term residential properties and is a commercial landlord.

Though both proposals align with current priorities in the municipality, the community proposal was favoured for its potential to reduce operating costs of the facility while allowing activities that support seniors needs, education, agriculture, cultural heritage, arts, business start-ups and “sense of belonging”.

It was also noted that an increasing number of the County’s Town Halls are being operated successfully under board of management models similar to that proposed by the Save Picton Town Hall Working Group.

Should council wish to pursue the sale of the property to a private buyer, it could direct staff to negotiate directly with Hymus, or re-list the property exclusively for sale.

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  1. Jim McMillan says:

    At one time in the last 40 years the then closed Regent Theatre was being considered for Picton’s Canadian Tire Store. Read about that in a large newspaper article of the day many years ago. Service department at the foot of the hill, floor of the auditorium levelled for displaying merchandise and the apartment at the front used as offices. Not sure what would have happened to the marquee.
    Instead a generous citizen bought the building and donated it to the newly formed Regent Theatre Foundation. A historic building was preserved and developed into a mostly self supporting building and the cultural hub for Prince Edward County . Current tax cost to each of us per year is about a dollar and a quarter.
    So what do we want, another restaurant and some accommodation jammed in behind the restored Royal Hotel or do we do the right thing and preserve a beautiful appropriate genuine historic building for all of us who live here to enjoy forever and ever. Pretty obvious call as far as I can see….Hall for All!

  2. Gary says:

    Let’s all do our best to save Historic Picton Town Hall.

  3. Fred says:

    Oh, they are municipally run and rented. But besides this Picton deserves and needs it’s Town Hall. This Council concern is being raised by rural Councilors that have their halls. They face no opposition from their electors under our inequitable electoral system.

  4. Mike Rodgers says:

    The halls I am aware of are either private enterprise or if public not to the extent of the ones here.

  5. Fred says:

    Belleville, Trenton and Napanee arenas all have halls for rent.

  6. Mike Rodgers says:

    AK
    I was referring to buying not selling. But let’s consider the fact that the special groups that want to save the hall. It is central and the fees are low. There are two arenas in this county that are central and empty 90% of the time. The county needs to give these groups a lower fee so that the halls are well used not just sitting. By keeping the hall there is a added expense added to the taxpayer. The one thing I do not understand is why is this county in the hall rental business anyway. Both arenas have halls. Look around. No other municipality in this area have halls. The private sector are the hall builders not tax payers.

  7. Michelle says:

    Thanks Susan. I apologize as my intent was to encourage discussion on the importance of maintaining Picton Hall. As you and your tremendous work we feel the same. Please share that message with your Councilor as that would be helpful.

  8. AK says:

    Mike, the county has zero input into the sale of schools. This lays with the school board.

  9. Paul Cole says:

    Benson Park rehab I could go on with expenditures that are questionable when The County is struggling financially. Picton Town Hall like other Town Halls with in Prince Edward County should not be sold off..

  10. Paul Cole says:

    The County seems to have no problem finding ways to spend money The cost to erect the John A McDonald statue that will need to be maintained, the new storage tanks at the marina which when finally paid for will need to be replaced, the proposed new connecting road between Talbot and Highway 33 The County can’t afford to maintain the roads it has now. Maybe a moratorium on expenditures needs to be put in place unless something is absolutely needed like an emergency situation. Selling off our valued Heritage is not the answer to The Counties financial problems…

  11. Susan Wallis says:

    In response to Michelle suggesting to sell the Athol Town Hall.

    The Athol Recreation Committee runs numerous programs from our hall like and not limited to yoga 3 times a week, Clothes Swaps, Scrabble drop-ins and tournaments, the annual Strawberry Social, music nights, dances, comedy nights candidate debates, community meetings the list is endless. Go to https://atholreccentre.com/ for details. In addition, our hall is located outside of any main town, in a rural setting and really is the only local place where residents in our ward can meet. We have hundreds of persons through the doors of our hall on a yearly basis. For example in February over 50 persons at our music concert featuring local musician Kashka and during our Comedy Country events that start in the Spring and go to the Fall we have a minimum of 35-40 persons at every show.

    The answer to the problem is not to have each hall face off against another, but to work together and support each other.

    Our recreation committee will be meeting this week to discuss and draft our letter of support to Save Picton Hall.

    Thanks,
    Susan Wallis
    Vice Chair
    Athol Rec. Committee

  12. Kevin Spafford says:

    In addressing Fred. It takes a community to raise a child.

  13. Gary Mooney says:

    One of the legacy benefits of the the pre-1998 County should be that each ward retains a town hall or, alternatively, has a community centre.

  14. Michelle says:

    Can we consider selling the Athol Town Hall? Worthy of discussion.

  15. Fred says:

    How about parenting kids so they do not fall between thhe cracks.

  16. Kevin Spafford says:

    How about go total humanitarian and make this a place for displaced kids to get warm and fed. Stop the lining of our pockets and reach out to a need. While the rich get richer, the kids of this town are slipping through the cracks.

  17. gilles says:

    Several points:
    1) The Picton Town Hall is designated and protected under the Ontario Heritage Act, but there is absolutely nothing to guarantee the protection of much of the building: we could very well see a mammoth addition to the building, or a recladding of the exterior with plate glass….
    2) In spite of the Heritage Advisory Board, rarely (if ever) does Council heed the advice of the Heritage Advisory Board.
    3) Currently, Council does not heed the advice of its staff, in the recommendation which favours the comprehensive proposal of the SPTH Working Group.
    4) There is no evidence that Picton Town Hall was committed to be sold to offset the borrowing costs of the new fire hall, but merely (quote) contemplated (end quote) (Staff document, COTW June 19, 2017).
    5) There is a process in place to sell off municipal-owned buildings: first, they are defined as vacant or unused buildings; second, they must be declared as surplus properties. Picton Town is not vacant, nor is it unused (except for the lower floor, and absolutely nothing has been done by The County to occupy or use the lower floor, while the prosal of SPTH fills that space, and ably covers the operating expenses of the entire hall.
    6) No, the system is not working perfectly. If you witnessed the COTW meeting on Feb 28th, you will recognize first: the SPTH proposal was not fully read (or comprehended) by many members of Council, as demonstrated by the questions asked by those members (questions, which are all answered in the SPTH proposal); second: these questions were not asked when the deputations were made when they would have been easily answered by the presenters of deputations; rather these questions were asked when the public could not respond, according to the rules of procedure in the chamber–and this is part of the ongoing problem with Shire Hall. Because there is no opportunity to answer these questions, and the resulting misinformation becomes assumed fact amplified, the system is inherently flawed in providing good decisions or sound governance.
    6) The first line of this article says it all: “Several councillors spoke of the difficulty of voting with their heads”.

  18. k.b says:

    I agree Susan and Mike. Who do you think will flip the cost to staff and maintain these sites if we hold on to them. I wish we could keep all of them although the reality is that we are broke and need to start making decisions that reflect our financial goals.

  19. Chuck says:

    Council would spend the 500k from a sale in a second. Then we have lost our commuinity driven Town Hall forever. If they choose to sell this vital hub then let’s get serious and sell every hall in the County as a goal.

  20. Mike Rodgers says:

    Correction, I did not mean kings and queens needed to be elimination or changed.They were part of the though process.

  21. Mike Rodgers says:

    Right on Gary John A lived in a different time. When people owned slave and non white society needed to be eliminated or changed. These included kings and queens. That was then and accepted. We now see that is wrong in a great part of the world. Statues of John A and persons such as him highlight their achievements. But through history is a reminder also highlight the wrongs of the majority of civilization at that. These monuments help most people reflect on the two sides of history, the good, the bad. I wonder what will be said 100 plus years from now about these nay sayers who desire to erase any evidence of persons who do not fit into their rational. We learn from history’s mistake and accept the mistakes as a learning tool.

  22. Gary says:

    Our Father of Confederation is quite fine where he stands. Getting back to the Town Hall discussion, I believe it is designated as a heritage property. It needs to remain a Town Hall.

  23. Steve Staniek says:

    There was a third suggestion for Picton Town Hall. I suggested in the local paper, that it be converted into a colonial museum, where the statue of John A. could be safely stored. There, it would no longer offend a growing Canadian population who recognize Macdonald’s legacy as the prolonged criminal abuse of indigenous Canada…

    The Heritage File has been mismanaged in PEC. Picton Town Hall is the most historically significant building in Picton, and yet it was allowed to escape designation in the Heritage District.

  24. Mike Rodgers says:

    The old arena in Wellington, The general store in Wellington, Pine crest school and maybe Queenie now this hall. I have said before the council in Prince Edward should get out of the real estate business. Sell them all with control of use.

  25. Gary Mooney says:

    Damned if they don’t; damned if they do.

    The previous Council got hammered for not obtaining adequate public input before deciding what they wanted to do about Wellington’s general store. Thankfully, they took a step back, got that input, and changed the plan.

    The same Council requested expressions of interest for Picton Town Hall. The County received only two proposals, but there could have been more. For instance, Greg Sorbara might have been interested in extending the scope of the Royal Hotel. But now, Council understands what interest is out there, which puts them in a good position to come up with their own vision. This process is working perfectly.

  26. Susan says:

    We now have a dithering Council on this matter. A Council that easily sent an 8% tax increase to the taxpayer shouldn’t be looking at our Town Hall meeting place for a means to recover $$! Historic meeting places make a community whole. This Hall should never be considered for sale.

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