WATERVILLE - A Kings County councillor is questioning the county's approach to developing the new Waterville Business Park.
Coun. Jim Winsor says he's not sure the municipality can do the best job developing and marketing a business park on the remaining Waterville airport land.
However, council has decided to stay the course already plotted.
In January, council voted to award a contract for engineering services work for the Waterville Business Park to WSP Canada Inc. for $39,695 plus HST. This was the only option council was given to consider.
At the March 15 committee of the whole session, Coun. Jim Winsor brought forward the business model for the development of the park for discussion.
“We never had options put in front of us about how to do this,” Winsor said.
He said there are people who develop land and market it for a living and he believes the business community could do a better job than government.
“It’s their bread and butter,” Winsor said. “I’m concerned we’re taking an opportunity away.”
Winsor suggested exploring other alternatives, including issuing a request for proposals, turning the subject land over in a sales transaction and allowing the business community to tell the municipality how to best meet the objective of developing the park.
Chief administrative officer Tom MacEwan said half the airport land has been sold to Michelin for a possible future expansion and rezoned Heavy Industrial. Council has agreed to sell parcels of land occupied by hangars to respective owners. He said the remaining land would be rezoned Light Industrial Commercial to develop the business park.
MacEwan said Michelin wants space nearby for businesses that deal with the tire company regularly to set up shop. Other interested businesses have approached the municipality, as well, the CAO said.
MacEwan said the approach staff put forward was in response to a desire of businesses to get the park established as quickly as possible. The rezoning process is ongoing and a contract has been awarded to WSP Canada for detailed design work and a traffic study. Nova Scotia Business Inc. and the Regional Enterprise Network are helping identify businesses for the park.
“In response to a desire to act more efficiently, we’re moving all aspects forward at once,” MacEwan said.
He said the difficulty staff member see in putting the land up for sale is that the municipality could do nothing until it sells. There is commercial land for sale in the county now that isn’t moving.
MacEwan said businesses would step back if they see a mixed message from council. Commercial assessment is down and the municipality is trying to improve that, he added.
He said there would be seven to 10 additional lots for businesses to develop depending on how much land they need. The municipality hopes to use the park to access other county-owned property that is currently land-locked.
MacEwan said the timeframe would be taken completely out of the municipality’s hands if an outside third party were to purchase and develop the land. MacEwan said staff is looking for economic development and they don’t want to loose money on the project.
There’s $500,000 in this year’s proposed capital budget for the business park.
What they said…
“We can’t keep up with mandate responsibilities let alone taking on financier, developer, marketer responsibilities…and I know from discussions there are businesses out there who would have liked the opportunity to consider this kind of work under business partnerships.” Coun. Jim Winsor.
“I know three firms interested in moving there and they won’t want to wait another year…this park will fill up quickly whether we want it or not.” – Coun. Dale Lloyd.
“We have an opportunity here to do something for the county. I was shocked when this was brought up again. I think we’re doing a good job. The only concern I have is don’t wreck the Valley Drive-In.” – Area Coun. Bob Best.
“I’d like to see reasonably priced commercial land and companies creating good paying jobs.” – Coun. Kim MacQuarrie.
“I understand Coun. Winsor wanted an opportunity to debate a different approach. The CAO said businesses have approached us. I think this council has already accepted an approach.” – Deputy Warden Brian Hirtle.