Friday, April 18, 2014

WILL SOMEONE EXPLAIN THIS TO ME?

The headline reads:

Fort Erie on Verge of Major Industrial Land Purchase

Huh? Why is the Town of Fort Erie purchasing a parcel of land that belongs to foreign-based race track owner Nordic El-Ad? It is unused industrial land near the race track. Although it has been described as not being part of the new deal to keep the horse track going for at least another year, it makes one wonder why the town is purchasing the land.

Of course, the whole deal is cloaked in secrecy by closed meetings with the GM of Fort Erie's Economic and Tourism Development Corporation and head of the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium, Jim Thibert.  The latest closed session was concluded on Monday, April 14, 2014, with council directing staff to bring forward a by-law for purchase of the property.

Again, it is being stressed that the purchase of the property from El-Ad "does not concern the 117 year-old racing facilities or the stables which are currently leased from Nordic by the FELRC." (From the Niagara This Week article)

I have to give props to James Culic for his coverage of the story. He makes a point to draw the connections between Thibert, Mayor Martin and David Kompson, a local developer who is representing the still un-named party who is rumoured to be interested in purchasing the race track. Seems that Kompson is a good friend of the two as well as a campaign donor to Martin's 2010 election campaign. I believe that these connections may play a big role in the town's desire to purchase the property. As warned by Ward 5 Councillor Don Lubberts, such actions can be interpreted as bonusing.



Here is what has been said about bonusing:

"This restriction is set out in section 106 of the Municipal Act and states:Despite any Act, a municipality shall not assist directly or indirectly any manufacturing business or other industrial or commercial enterprise through the granting of bonuses for that purpose.Section 106(2) defines the specific activities that municipalities may not conduct. The prohibited activities include:(a) Giving or lending any property of the municipality, including money;(b) Guaranteeing borrowing;(c) Leasing or selling any property of the municipality at below fair market value; or(d) Giving a total or partial exemption from any levy, charge or fee.The restriction on municipal bonusing was implemented in 1962. The prohibition on the ability of municipalities to grant bonuses to industrial or commercial enterprises was caused by municipalities placing themselves in dire financial circumstances resulting from excessive assistance and tax relief to certain companies. It is reasonable to state that as a general rule the public is opposed to municipal bonuses for private businesses. Public opinion is that municipal spending of taxpayer dollars should be utilized towards public services and improvements to the municipality and should not be used to bonus private interests."


So I will ask again: What is going on here? Why is the cash-strapped town that just gave $500,000. to the race track to keep it afloat for another year, now buying a piece of industrial property from the race track owner?


And what benefit will this purchase be for the taxpayers of Fort Erie?

10 comments:

  1. While I don't know anything about this particular deal I do know about another deal that happened 30 years ago, under Heinz Hummel and Doug Martin , The Town bought a huge piece of land next to the QEW , the land owned by a group led by Jim Ashby the promoter of an Aircraft Museum project that never really got off the ground. It was reliant on Bingo Revenues, when Doug martin refused them anymore Bingos the project faltered, and the land was put up for sale, the land was picked up by the Town Council of the day for future development, it had a huge sign for about 15 years touting the property, with no buyers it was eventually sold for a huge holding area for transport trucks and restaurant, plus gas station. The Town paid about $120.000 dollars in 1984 dollars, what it sold for 15 years later, I do not know, I do know that it did get the trucks off the QEW which was sometimes backed up to Netherby Road. I guess the Town figures that we will induce business here. as JT is always moaning about not having any free industrial land to promote. the family that bought the property died in a horrible plane accident along with a Town Councillor An annual golf tournement is held every year in his honour.

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    1. Yes, I remember that now. It was Mike Anderson who was killed in the plane crash along with the couple who owned the property. Rick Shular replaced Anderson in Ward 2.

      Here's another question: What happened to the dropped development (that was never even in the planning stage) on Ridge Road? Saw some guy cleaning up the rather small lot the other day. I think the town should have held onto the land and built washrooms and a tourist centre on the lot. (LOL)

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  2. Not a happy camperApril 18, 2014 at 2:35 PM

    Where was the public discussion regarding the "grant" to the Fort Erie Race Track?
    Are there not rules regarding the "budget" and public consultation? Are there not rules which prevent municipalities from making major changes to their budget without public consultation. If any organization requests a "grant" is this not done in open session and where/how the dollars will be spent is identified. This should not have been a closed session meeting!!!! We the taxpayers deserve to know the details prior to the awarding of this "grant" so that public concerns could have been heard. Let me guess " the sky was going to fall and we were all going to die" if the race track did not get their $$$$$$.
    But why are the "four" allowing such nonsense??? They are in a position to stop this.

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    1. I agree with everything you say. Other than Lubberts, all the other councillors voted for the racetrack welfare package. That's what it is IMHO. Lubberts wanted the council to take its time regarding the "grant" but no one listened to him. It's all about the race track and Jim Thibert's wishes. Sorry, it should be treated like any other industry. Just think if all that money were invested in start-up grants for small businesses - or training programs for displaced track workers. Isn't that looking mmore to the future than subsidizing an enterprize taht has been bleeding red ink for decades?

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  3. The best question not asked is why do we need to purchase more industrial land when the EDTC site lists over 80 acres of available industrial zoned land in various locations in Fort Erie? This is vacant land and does not take into consideration the abandoned industrial sites with buildings nor the vast listing of commercial availability. The whole deal reakes of another pie in the sky sales job JT has pulled off on our guilible Council. Very tired of hearing year after year of a buyer for the track and how it will soon be self sustainable. What a crock!!!

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  4. The next question if you want to ask that one is why is the town dropping another $100,00 to re-do a Crystal Beach/Bay Beach plan when one is already in place... Enough already, there is more to this town that Bay Beach too !

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  5. Well, it was the former town planner and the previous council that threw away all the hard work of those who drew up the Neighbourhood Plan for Crystal Beach and the C.A.U.S.E. Study to accommodate the deal with the Molinaros. That is the real travesty here.

    As to other parts of town: if you want something done in your part of town, get busy. Here's an example for you: the Kinsmen Pool. The councillor from the Ward, Rick Shular said that the pool is beyond saving. No one called him out on that. All they did was complain about the money spent for the lighthouse restoration. Then Stephen Passero swans his way into the pool situation, like he did with Shorewalk and it goes nowhere. A lot of hot air and promises and still no progress on the pool. Yet, some of you prefer to blame the four councillors who have nothing directly to do with the project. Young Jessica, who started the Save the Pool effort was pushed aside by the grandstanding Passero. And, like Shorewalk, the effort is dead in the water (excuse the pun.) If some of you complainers put half as much effort into getting the pool fixed as those who opposed the condo tower, you'd have a new pool by now. Instead of whining, take action and demand action from you ward councillor and that other phony from the North End.

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  6. That Kinsman pool was built for the tiny Town of Fort Erie , and is over 40 years old, also there is no parking available since the library was built. it has served the people around there, but no longer viable. it is too small. It is time to locate a new pool that can serve the whole Town of 30,000 thousand residents, including safe splash pads, the whole deal, memberships should be used to finance the project, possibly near Knights Hideaway. it could be a more central location . season bus passes for children on the transportation system would make the project more appealing.

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    1. Or put it where everything else in town is located: at the Leisureplex site. Running out of room there though. Hey! Here's an idea! Put the new pool on that industrial land the town is about to buy. That will satisfy the North Enders who are worried that kids are going to swim in the river.

      Seriously, back in the day when I sat on the Crystal Ridge Community Centre board, I suggested a pool for that end of town. Someone told me that was ridiculous, "there's a lake right there." Yeah, a lake that you shouldn't allow unsupervised children to swim in. I do believe there should be an outdoor pool where kids can swim safely and learn to swim. As long as it's on a bus route and kids can ride the bus for free or at a greatly reduced price, should it matter where?

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  7. Actually you need to clarify that comment by Councilor Shular because your comment is not 100% accurate.

    When he made that statement it was made when the fundraising was being done by the public, primarily a beautiful young teenager who showed everyone in this town up.

    The Fort Erie Underwater Recovery Unit was not part of the picture at all at the time when he made that comment. So he was not in favour of supporting the town putting in roughly $120,000 of taxpayer money to have it repaired etc and re-opened while also assuming all operating costs... THAT is what he would not support.

    Once the Underwater Recovery Unit came forward and expressed interest in a lease agreement with the Town, which given that group is incorporated as a not-for-profit will allow them to apply for grants such as Trillium ( as one example of many that are out there) to assist them in any upgrades/future repairs etc etc. The town given the population size is not eligible for many grants such as trillium so that avenue was now opened by this move

    Further, they are also assuming any/all operating costs and all they asked for was that the current equipment there be inspected and ensured it was in operating order. No different than anyone that buys a house, you ask for hime inspection and ensure your furnace works, your plumbing works etc.

    SO with those changes etc having brought forward from the original discussion which happened over a year prior to this one when Councillor Shular made that statement and now seeing the taxpayers would not be footing the bill for all upgrades/improvements etc he then agreed that this plan was good for the Town, and as such publically supported the plan and request to just ensure the equipment was operational That is the amount that was incorporated into the budget

    We all agree that a centralized pool would be a better option but that isn't obviously in anyone's plan, other more pressing issues to some have been shoved to the spotlight and as such any thought of a new pool is a pipe dream currently, but one which has been discussed, but it aint happening.

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