Brian Smith’s statements regarding city business are inaccurate

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On June 29, 2022, Brian Smith posted a social media post full of opinions and inaccuracies regarding city-owned beachfront land.

Mr. Smith is entitled to his opinions, but it is important that inaccuracies be corrected. From there, you can form your own opinion. Mr. Smith’s comments are in “quotes”.

  1. “We gave them a great deal with a world-class developer chosen by a committee of local employees and citizens. This company, Fram, was ready to fully implement our plan for the great benefit of our city.

A formal agreement was never reached with Fram. Both parties signed a non-binding “letter of intent”.

Fram was recommended to council after the downtown steering committee completed a request for expressions of interest process. The intent of the process was to “…evaluate the interest of developers in working with the city on city-owned land. Based on advice from the Town Center Steering Committee, Council decided not to issue Requests for Proposals to the five developers who responded to the Request for Expressions of Interest and instead chose Fram Building Group Ltd. & Slokker Canada Corp. (Fram) as preferred developer. A request for proposals was never issued.

As stated in the non-binding letter of intent, Fram proposed to pay between $12.9 million and fair market value for the land for Beach Area 2 and build in phases, “a mix of residential units residential that may include townhouses and/or freestanding buildings to be registered as a condominium, which may include….243 units,…and four stories.

The city and Fram were to work together on a plan for the grounds of the festival plaza. Fram was also granted a right of first refusal to purchase other beachfront land, but no purchase price was established at that time.

What was not mentioned was the optional requirement that the city purchase adjacent private land in order to continue the beachfront residential project or any future development of the downtown lands. If this had been sued by the city, it would be at taxpayer expense, as noted in the next paragraph.

Details that emerged after the 2018 election indicated that without the council’s knowledge or support, a proposal had been submitted to Gateway Casinos during Smith’s tenure to locate the new casino in the Playland parking lot, with parking in the Spruce Street parking lot. The proposal was contained in a memorandum of understanding that was brought to the attention of the current board in January 2019. The proposed commitments are outlined in a staff report dated January 31, 2019. (see page 73) and are highlighted below:

  • the city would be responsible for purchasing and assembling all land, including private property required for the casino, public square, parking structure, and infrastructure upgrades. Cost to the city to purchase the private properties in addition to the land already purchased on the waterfront between $8.22 million and $21.0 million depending on the asking prices
  • the city would pay for, build and operate a 300-space above-ground commercial public parking structure – $9.0 million (2018 prices) and make it available to casino users
  • the city would pay for a 100-space underground parking structure $5.5 million (2018 prices)
  • the municipality would grant a tax refund increased by 10% per year over 10 years

Additional municipal fees:

  • relocating the chlorine contact chamber, realigning sanitary manholes and relocating services to accommodate the parking structure – $1.4 million
  • supply of electricity sufficient to serve the casino – $1.5-2.0 million (2018 prices)
  • finance the creation of a public square adjoining the Casino

Gateway would pay $1.2 million in cash in lieu of parking to help pay for the parking structure and $120,000 a year in rent over 20 years, with an option for the City to renew on the same terms for another 20 years .

The big benefit would have turned into city financial commitments of between -$26.1 and $38.9 million (2018 costs) in addition to the $13.5 million purchase price for the waterfront buildings.

2. “So the Bifolchi administration started from scratch because the mayor insisted they had better developers in mind. After spending tens to hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to undergo a new process”

The council has decided to let the letter of intent with Fram expire on December 31, 2018 and to undertake an appropriate process to select one or more developers to develop the waterfront, as indicated in the implementation section of the master plan downtown. The city spent less than $100,000 to undertake two separate processes – a request for expressions of interest, then a request for proposals, with the help of an equity monitor, lawyers and experts in these types of complex transactions.

Additionally, the city undertook an environmental assessment of the road network in the waterfront area which was a prerequisite for any development occurring in the area.

This two-step process is what most municipalities follow to select a developer to sell and then develop municipal property. Just look to Collingwood and Orillia who have gone through similar processes

3. “They are currently negotiating with the fifth-ranked company which only scored 38% on the city’s rating system.”

Baycliffe (Bayloc) finished fifth out of nine companies responding to the call for expressions of interest. They were then invited to submit a proposal in response to a formal Request for Proposal. They finished second to Slate in the evaluation of the proposals.

4. “…while Bayloc’s current plan bears very little or no resemblance to the original plan.”

The Bayloc plan has not been made public as it is being discussed as part of the negotiations. Bayloc’s development concepts are consistent with the Downtown Master Plan and any necessary adjustments will be made during the site plan approval process. The developer has indicated that when it signs an agreement, it will make its concepts available to the public. Please check the latest update published by the city.

5. “Bifolchi and Bray campaigned on ‘no condos on the beach’. Since their election, they have voted to increase the density from three stories to six stories and with the CIP, possibly eight stories”

Mayor Bifolchi and Deputy Mayor Bray did not vote to increase density as reported. This is an error.

The Cal Patterson council passed By-law 2014-92, which permitted three- to four-story apartment buildings, which could be increased to six stories with a CIP. If a hotel were proposed, the height could be increased from six to eight stories.

Brian Smith Council, under By-law 2018-57, established the principle of six storeys for certain areas of the waterfront. The by-law permitted a maximum building height of six (6) storeys in the B1 area and four ( 4) floors in zone B2. Zone B1 covered most of Beach Zone 1 and Beach Zone 2. Zone B2 covered half of the Playland parking lot at 3rd Street.

Nina Bifolchi Council rezoned the lands zoned B2 to B1 under By-law 2021-37, establishing the B1 zone through the Beach 1 and Beach 2 zone.

For clarity, the city does not build condos on the beach. The municipality does not own the beach. The beach is owned by the Ontario government and is part of Wasaga Beach Provincial Park.

The city is redeveloping city-owned properties between the Spruce Street parking lot and 3rd Street, and north of Mosley Street and south of the sand covered part of Beach Drive.

6. “The closure of Beach Drive was a disaster and very costly for taxpayers.”

During the high water season in 2019, the city conducted four major sand cleanups at a cost of $15,000 per cleanup. Each cleanup took several days and required public works to reallocate personnel and resources from basic maintenance tasks. High water levels were expected to continue for at least another year. Action had to be taken. The capital cost of the temporary separation wall and other measures taken to improve vehicular traffic at the end of Spruce Street was approximately $125,000.

During the environmental assessment of the road network in the Beach Drive area, a public meeting was held at the RecPlex on February 6, 2020, attended by approximately 100 people. Of the options presented, the overwhelming favorite of meeting attendees was to keep Beach Drive closed. Seaside merchants also showed their support.

seven. “The decision to demolish buildings…. This should only be done by the purchaser and only when the replacement buildings have been planned and approved. »

The Council’s objective was to prepare for the development of Block 1. The demolition of the five buildings in the Development Block contributes to achieving the objective. For later phases, the developer will be responsible for demolition. Preparation of land for development is common practice.

8. “In the recent release they talk about the cost of…. eight hundred thousand a year to transport. If they had just moved forward with the grand plan and letter of intent they had left, it wouldn’t have been. If they had kept the beach market and bar open and collected the rents, the annual cost would have been half or less of what they claim to be.

Fact: The part of the Letter of Intent with Fram dealing with the waterfront talked in detail about the development of Beach Area 2 as an early phase of development that would occur over time, subject to market conditions. The commercial portion of the Beach Zone 1 lands would not be impacted by the development of Beach Zone 2. The costs of owning the Beach Zone 1 commercial properties at $800,000 per year would have continued indefinitely.

The Main Street Market was created as a temporary feature on Main Street intended to last approximately four years. When the Main Street Market closed after the 2019 season, it had an accumulated deficit of $217,000. When the cost of entertainment provided on the Main Street Market stage was factored in, the market lost money, with the exception of 2018 when it made $5,000. Any money gained by the market would have been applied against the debt and not to reduce the costs of owning the rental properties.

9. “…the value of the land is well over thirty million based on the last four years of sales.”

Fact: The city has had its proposed redevelopment land appraised by a professional land appraiser and the appraised value is lower than speculated by Mr. Smith and others.

For a detailed look at the city’s efforts to redevelop waterfront lands, see our website.

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