Wasaga Beach mayor defends town’s decision to buy seven properties
By Katherine Ward CTV News Barrie
The mayor of Wasaga Beach is defending the town’s decision to seek the purchase of seven properties along the municipality’s main drag.
Brian Smith says the town has seen a downward spiral in the number of tourists coming to Wasaga Beach each year. Something he hopes can be remedied.
“We’re down about 100,000 tourists a year; over 55 per cent over the last ten years and we need to move it forward,” he says.
At a committee meeting on Tuesday night, councillors voted five to two in-favour of buying up properties around Beach Area One. The plan is to spend $13.8 million to purchase the seven properties and 28 commercial units, including Dardanella, Bananas Night Club, and Copa Cabana.
“The town would act as a landlord, leasing out the properties to help attract more people to the beach,” says Smith.
Half of the money for this purchase would come from the town’s general reserve fund – the other half from the bank.
“Certainly the intent is not to own these for a long period of time,” says George Vadeboncoeur, CAO for the Town of Wasaga Beach. “It’s going to be a landlord, get the beach back going, get these properties leased and then as they are leased and there is activity down there, people will see the attraction of coming down here and redeveloping.”
However, some people are concerned the decision is happening too fast and are worried the public was not consulted.
“The use of the reserves for the first few years could put off other projects within the community, but beyond that, after the 2018 election, after the tax payers start contributing, they will most likely see an increase in taxes,” says Nina Bifolchi, deputy mayor of Wasaga Beach.
Bifolchi is worried there could be additional costs.
“The purchase price is $13.8 million that is to just purchase the properties, that does not include any construction work or repairs that would need to be done on it to bring it up to accessibility standards there’s a lot of unknowns right now.”
But Smith says the future of the town won’t be in jeopardy.
“We fully plan on paying this back. It’s not coming out and staying out. How will this affect the future? It shouldn’t affect the future at all,” he says.
The decision will be up for ratification by council next Tuesday