In an article that appeared in the Midland Mirror on February 1st, we can see some pretty disturbing commentary from our new CAO about the careless and unilateral disposal of a valuable parking lot to the first developer to come sniffing around looking for a home for their new business.
We sounded the alarms over this secretive in-camera deal to declare the lot as surplus and sell it to the, as yet unnamed, developer who promises a $3m investment and 55 new jobs but only if he gets the lot he wants at the price he will pay… even though it was not for sale.
We are reminded of those infamous words uttered by Deputy Mayor Mike Ross where he said that everything in Midland is for sale, for the right price… seems he wasn’t kidding.
Now, after much public outcry about Council’s secret decision to forgo their own bylaws and choice to sell this land without consultation or the normal advertising which would see interested buyers (including the developer in this case) submit bids to acquire our land – assuming we want to part with it, a notice was placed in the local newspaper this Thursday and on the town’s website declaring their intention to sell it… but not asking for bids from anyone else.
“This raised the ire of downtown business owners such as Dennis Brabant, co-owner of Bayshore Lanes. He said he is concerned the municipality did not inform business owners or the Downtown Midland Business Improvement Area (BIA). “I just don’t think the town should operate this way,” he said. “Doing things in secrecy and choosing to sell town property to who they want to without consulting people.”
Ordinarily, the town follows a process that involves a declaration of interest in declaring a property surplus. However, the bylaw provides for certain exemptions, said Midland CAO John Skorobohacz.
“If a municipality views it has an economic development opportunity, it can exempt itself from the provisions of the bylaw so it can pursue it,” he said.
Skorobohacz then goes on to say “the town will be undertaking a review of downtown parking in conjunction with the King Street project. As well, other interested buyers are able to put in an offer for the property now that it has been declared surplus. Council would, of course, have to look at it,” he said. “But, at this point, any other bidders would have to have a pretty darn good case.”
So, nowhere is there any notice that would alert prospective buyers that they could submit a bid for the property AND who would waste their time when he has all but said that the decision has been made. This token half-hearted attempt to backtrack and follow their own bylaws on disposal of town assets is effectively rendered meaninless by that statement.
Council and our new CAO are showing contempt for the ratepayers of Midland and a willingness to forgo process and procedure at will. The promise of investment and jobs were made under a veiled threat that if the deal was not made they (the developer) would go elsewhere… Council cowed to this developer since they need a feel good story in the wake of the loss of businesses and industry in Midland but this is not the way to earn that respect.
All they had to do was follow the process, do the right thing and let the process unfold and there would be no story here other than a “welcome to Midland” to a new business and employer when the time was right.
Instead they get to come to Midland under the shadow of controversy and an opportunistic land grab not unlike the one Waypoint and Chigamik pulled off when they aquired Edgehill Park away from residents at the exclusion of all other lands available to them.
This only rubs salt in the wounds of those who expect our elected officials to be better than the lot we elevated to power two years ago and who are now dismantling every major asset we have from our waterfront, to the profitable MPUC, our local police force and the lands that are under their stewardship for two more years.