In plain view
Councillor says Lane Creek options will be presented to the community
Councillor Jim Dunlop confirmed to a meeting of the Wellington District Business Association on Thursday that the fate of the convenience store will not be decided before this community has the opportunity to assess the options and offer its opinion on the various alternatives.
Dunlop said, contrary to a report in The Times, the community’s voice would be heard by way of a public meeting. Though he conceded that council might eliminate some options at its Committee of the Whole meeting before the public’s opinion is heard.
Dunlop said that the engineering firm contracted to prepare a series of options for the rehabilitation of Lane Creek, which passes under the former convenience store and pizza shop at the corner of Wharf and Main Streets, is nearing the completion of its report that will present an array of potential options along with cost estimates—but will not make a recommendation.
That report is expected next month.
When municipal staff recommended purchasing the two buildings on the northwest corner of West and Main Streets in 2015, they had hoped to smash them in order to rehabilitate the creek bed and forever eliminate the liability risk of either building collapsing into the waterway underneath.
By then, the price tag to reroute the creek had risen to nearly $1.8 million, more than double original estimates. Purchasing the buildings for $640,000, staff explained, would avoid rerouting the creek, thus saving about $200,000 net of the purchase cost. Shire Hall officials suggested a tidy little parkette or a parking lot could replace the buildings on the village’s primary commercial corner.
But a public outcry emerged immediately. Many didn’t want another hole on Main Street. They sought to preserve—at least—the size, scale, shape and character of the 118-year-old convenience store. Others considered it unnecessarily wasteful not to try and recover all or part of the $640,000 purchase price, by leaving the rehabilitated creek as an empty lot. They argued that instead the County ought to resell the property after the creek is fixed or redevelop it to enhance the retail and residential apartment opportunities in the village and reap the stream of taxes and fees that would flow from this primary commercial corner.
More than a year ago council passed the file to the County’s Community Development department headed by Neil Carbone. A public meeting followed, filling the Wellington town hall to standing room only. Nearly all insisted that the municipality consider the heritage value of the existing structure and, that whatever happened, any notion of a park or parking lot should be scrapped.
Last January, Carbone’s team arranged another community meeting to solicit and consider ideas about what should happen with this property. Armed with feedback from this meeting the project was turned over to an engineering firm to determine what might be feasible.
More than a year has passed, but the engineering report is expected next month.
In a recent twist, however, a committee of council says it now wants to see the options prepared by the engineers, before the public meeting. Dunlop says this is just to ensure that he and his colleagues understand what is being proposed in advance of a public meeting. Yet some of his colleagues are not as predisposed to public input. They believe the building has no value and should have been destroyed a year and a half ago. They complain the cost of the necessary repairs to the creek continues to rise with each passing month. They recoil at the prospect they may be required to invest in it in order to maximize the potential return on their purchase price.