SCUGOG: Council has decided to take a wholistic approach to decide the future of the Old Mill and the Port Perry waterfront.
At a meeting on Monday, November 20th, council decided to direct township staff to work with the Phase 2 Waterfront Steering Committee, to establish a comprehensive proposal that would include the waterfront area from the Scugog Memorial Public Library to the south side of Queen St., comprising also the township parking lot behind CIBC in Port Perry.
As well, the motion directed staff, during the process, to consult with the heritage committee, economic development and tourism advisory committee, the Port Perry Marina and the Port Perry Seniors Club and to then report back to council. The motion was made by Ward 5 Councillor Jennifer Back.
At the meeting, councillors saw a report which included a proposal from “small –from natural to cultural resources” and the Queen’s Water Beverage Company. The proposal was to make the Old Mill a “cultural hub.” In the proposal, the main tenant of the mill would be a craft soda company, but there would also be a heritage market, food service, public washrooms at the mill site and licensed event space in the mill.
The report recommended, should council wish to continue with the restoration of the old mill, the proposal be approved in principle, subject to certain conditions. Conditions included: that the Old Mill Structural and Building Envelope Improvements project, and Old Mill Public Square construction project, receive 2018 capital budget approval; and that staff, as well as proponents, present the proposal to the Phase 2 Waterfront Steering Committee, heritage and museum advisory Committee, economic development and tourism advisory committee, members of the Port Perry Seniors Club and to residents for input.
Some of the other conditions included: authorizing staff to negotiate a tentative leasing arrangement with the proponents; that staff be authorized to continue to apply for grant funding; that sufficient grant funding be received for the proposals; and that staff report back to council on he results of the consultation process and a recommended leasing arrangement.
The report stated, the old mill structural improvements and the public square construction would be funded, with a total township contribution from the hydro reserve of $516,440.
$100,000 of that would be drawn in 2019 for the public square project. The extra funding would comprise $300,000 in grants, and $450,000 in other contributions. These included $250,000 from a buy a brick fundraiser and $200,000 from tenant contributions.
Councillor Back explained the intention of her motion.
“It frees us up to more possibilities. More possibilities of attracting larger investment which could perhaps help offset the [township’s] portion of restoring the Old Mill.”
Ward 1 Councillor, Betty Somerville questioned whether the township should have an economic assessment study done on the cultural hub proposal “to see if it is viable.”
“I’m so concerned about that hydro reserve. If we use our reserves up, what do we have left?,” she expressed. “ I don’t want to see money spent frivolously.”
Kevin Heritage, director of development services, explained that the mill “needs a use, in order to be financially viable.”
Ward 2 Councillor Guido said there was an “outcry” from the public when the Township spent money to paint the old mill.
During discussions on the report, Mayor Tom Rowett cautioned councillors not to treat staff like they are on the “firing range”, because staff were simply reporting on the expression of interest the township shared regarding leasing the mill.
“This is [the result of] the expression of interest that [council] asked them to do. It’s coming back with the best proposal that they had, given the time of this report. I do want to remind council that we asked staff to go out and do this undertaking,” he said.
Mayor Rowett added, if the expression of interest came back with minimal cost to the township, council would not be having the discussion they did.
CAO Paul Allore explained, it would be hard to find a lease situation that would come back with minimal or no cost to the municipality.
“In our opinion, as staff, the reason that the amount, that is being requested from the municipality, and the grants, and so on, is the way it is, is it is tied directly to council’s direction to retain ownership of the Old Mill and to have it as a lease opportunity. What we have found is it is very difficult to generate financing when you are leasing the building,” he explained.
Regional Councillor, Bobbie Drew said, she could not support Councillor Back’s motion, and urged councillors to take a second look at the recommendations in the development services department’s report.
“It doesn’t state that anything is set in stone. Just as any item in the capital budget, it may be studied, revised and reconsidered,” she said, later adding there were “a lot of provisions” in the report.
Councillor Drew also called the cultural hub proposal in the report an “appropriate use of reserves.”
Council later approved Councillor Back’s motion.