Council seeks report in wake of public-private partnership proposal for Picton Marina

(Gazette file photo)

 

SARAH WILLIAMS

STAFF WRITER

The face of Picton Harbour is changing with proposed developments. Exactly how much change will occur was brought to Council’s attention last Tuesday when CJ Thompson of Tenacity Capital spoke at Shire Hall during the Regular Council Meeting.

Thompson presented his vision for an improved marina, replete with boardwalk and functional operational facilities as part of a public-private ownership between his business and the County.

Though Thompson’s request did not die on the floor, so to speak, council did pass a motion requesting a report from staff on operational options for marinas in the County.

“I don’t know if everybody’s aware, but I purchased the property at 35 Bridge Street recently. It’s the old Tip of the Bay Motel and Marina or The Innovation Centre. That’s about 500 feet of water frontage. It goes from Bridge Street to Head Street, which is actually a municipally owned property at the end of Head Street. That municipally owned property has fuel pumps, minimal dockage, and a few other services that I want to talk about,” began Thompson.

In his presentation, Thompson made note of the marina boardwalk that wound around The Innovation Centre and toward the boat launch. This boardwalk fell into such disrepair that it had to be removed. The boardwalk was slanted, slippery when wet and broken in places.

Thompson also recalls the summer of 2017 when the harbour was host to a sizeable vessel looking to dock.

“There was a 60 foot vessel that came in the summer of 2017. It belonged to a CEO from Quebec who came with his wife and some other friends-they just wanted to come here for two days and nights, eat at our restaurants, indulge in our wineries and visit local shops,” said Thompson.

As Thompson recalls, the boater was unable to get fuel obtained through the municipal property or even get a pump out.

“I’m pretty sure I had to secure his boat to a tree. Don’t tell anybody, because it’s probably illegal. That’s the kind of stuff we’ve been dealing with,” Thompson stated.

Because he wanted the boater to stay, Thompson did not charge them for their time spent in the harbour, but instead encouraged them to return once he had “built a world class marina” there instead.

“The previous owners did nothing with this property. So, I bought this property this summer because I want to move forward with a world class marina here,” he said, adding that municipal workers are doing a wonderful job with what they have to work with.

“What I’m proposing is a public/private partnership. I would love to pursue a lease on the municipal property and operate. I think together we can use our two assets and build a wonderful space for boaters to come for decades and for not only the tourists but locals to walk on boardwalks like this,” added Thompson.

Some core objectives for Thompson would be to stabilize/normalize the hours of operation at the marina with full time staff, expand on harbour services and invest in capital improvements to the property, for example a poured-concrete pad to facilitate emergency lift-out for crane operators.

Part of their plan is to include over 70 berths for dockage and a U.S. Port of Entry.

To this end, Tenacity Capital is requesting a lease agreement from Council to the tune of one dollar per year for 99 years, hence the public/private ownership.

Notably, the request put forth by Thompson also asks Council rezone the property as Tourism Commercial, allowing for such things as a recreation facility, convenience store, tourist establishment, restaurant, and other accessory uses for the marina.

Presenting letters of support for Thompson’s endeavour were David Cleave, owner of the Port Picton Homes development at the harbour, David Walcott, Managing Partner at The Picton Harbour Inn and Greg Sorbara, writing on behalf of the Royal Hotel Group.

Councillor Stewart Bailey questioned Thompson about his self-described ethos of environmental stewardship.

“I’m on page eight of your proposal and you mention the philosophy of environmental stewardship and I have a large concern about water these days. This would mean many more boats going in and out of the harbour right past the water intake for town,” insisted Bailey. “That is not deep water-two feet and you’re dredging up sludge.”

Bailey further asked Thompson how he planned to practice environmental stewardship with the development in light of the County’s recent declaration of a climate emergency.

Boating emergencies aside, Bailey inquired as to the proposed marinas broader environmental impacts.

“You’re building a large facility and again, more traffic going through, especially past our water intake. More boats, more parking, that kind of thing. In terms of environmental stewardship, how would you handle that,” posed Bailey.

In responding Thompson cited Poralu Marine, the company that he is commissioning a boardwalk from.

“Poralu is a very sustainably minded company, both for the purchaser, such as myself..it’s a very sustainable product long term and environmentally. It does have certain metrics that other companies don’t, one being the amount of light that comes through the product to the underwater environment is of far higher light emittance than every other company,” Thompson iterated.

“As far as the water intake plant, that’s something we’re going to talk about. I have not gone into great detail on how to deal with that. We can have that conversation, but I don’t have an exact plan here for you today,” he said.

Councillor Phil Prinzen inquired as to when Thompson hoped to have the marina ordered and installed.

“In the event I get approval of some form of lease, I would like to move forward. I would order the marina we need for this property which would take roughly 12 weeks to deliver and a month to install. Obviously, I’m motivated to make this happen for the summer season, because I don’t think any of us want that property that I showed you, the current property, looking that way for the rest of (next) summer,” stated Thompson.

Councillor Phil St. Jean put forth the amendment to refer the deputation back to staff for a report.

This amendment was opposed by Councillor Kate MacNaughton, who believes the municipality needs a firmer grasp of current marina operations within the community before moving ahead with any revitalization projects.

“I have concerns about tailoring the amendment for a specific purpose, like this one particular project. I would prefer, if we are going to send it to staff, that it is a more open-ended task that we leave them with to come back to with information about the marinas and about how it’s worked out over the past few years and what the plans are going forward-for both Wellington and Picton- so we can assess the overall picture before we embark on a specific goal for the harbour,” implored MacNaughton.

St. Jean iterated he simply did not want the revitalization proposal to “die on the floor”.

“I was here at a time when it (the marina) was contracted out to a third party and that didn’t work, so it ended up back in the municipality’s hands. The main reason I want to have discussion with staff about this is to keep it moving forward. If we simply receive it, this dies on the floor. I simply want staff to take a look at it, work with Mr. Thompson, and see if this will work..let’s have a conversation-that’s what I meant by asking staff for a report,” stated St. Jean.

Councillor Brad Nieman requested a recorded vote. The motion was carried 8-2, with only Nieman and MacNaughton opposing both the amendment and the motion as a whole.

The report from staff will come back to Council in the new year at date that is still to be determined.