Staff recommend community working group solution for Picton Town Hall

Picton Town Hall (Adam Bramburger/Gazette staff)


A motion recommending council selects the submission from the Save Picton Town Hall Community Working Group also known as ‘ A Hall for All’ as the preferred proposal received in response to the Municipality’s Request for Expressions of Interest will be brought forth at the Committee of the Whole meeting at Shire Hall on Thursday.

Late last summer, Council had chosen to list the former Town of Picton fire hall and municipally owned meeting space be listed for potential sale through a request for proposal process while also inviting alternative proposals for use for the property and allowed six months from the issuance of the RFP for submissions to be brought forward.

In total, a pair of proposals were received through the process and staff is recommending that Council select the proposal submitted by the Save Picton Town Hall Working Group (A Hall for All) as the preferred submission for the use of the property at 2 Ross Street.

According to a report accompanying staff’s recommended motion, the motion calls for staff to be directed to work with the Save Picton Town Hall Working Group on the establishment of a Board of Management to oversee the operations of the property as per the proposal and subject to the conditions outlined in the recommendations of the report.

Those recommendations also include that Council provide the Save Picton Town Hall Working Group with one year from the appointment of a Board of Management to secure the necessary capital funding required for those leasehold improvements deemed necessary to meet the objectives of the proposed operating plan as determined by Council in its sole discretion; and the ongoing operation of 2 Ross Street by a Board of Management be contingent upon: a) the Board’s ability to achieve full cost recovery for operation of the facilities; and b) securing a suitable lease with an anchor tenant as outlined in Schedule 1 to this report, the specific requirements of which are to be outlined in the Terms of Reference; and that staff be directed to report back to Council in one year’s time regarding the operation of 2 Ross Street under the Board of Management model and the progress towards or achievement of the requirements outlined above.

The A Hall for All group’s submission hinges on maintaining municipal ownership and operating the facility through a Board of Management process and under the preferred proposal, the upper floor would continue to operate as a Town Hall space while the lower level would be renovated and leased as office/commercial/retail space including an anchor tenant

Capital repairs funding could be requested from the municipality but not required for proposed use to move ahead and Group will access grants, tenant contributions and/or other funding for proposed leasehold improvements.

Ultimately, the group expects full operating costs, approximately $55,000 annually, to be recovered on a moving forward basis within 2-3 years.

The other proposal submitted to the municipality came froward from philanthropic local businessman Michael Hymus and his company Hymus Holdings.

For the purchase price of $525,000 plus a $250,000 contribution to the Picton Library expansion, Hymus, developer of the Cribs brand in Prince Edward County, suggested developing the 2 Ross St into a 50 unit, pod-style hotel/hostel for the entire property. The library funding would be used to ensure those community groups and organizers that currently utilize the Picton Town Hall space could continue their activities at the new Picton Library.

Rates for the accommodation would be low cost at $30-45 per night and the planned development would be contingent on planning and other approvals.

Based on the determinations of the report’s authors Grace Nyman, Community Development Coordinator and Todd Davis, Community Development Supervisor, the proposal from the Save Picton Town Hall Working Group is favoured for its potential to reduce operating costs of the facility for the municipality while allowing for activities that support numerous strategic priorities of Council, including seniors needs, education, agriculture, cultural heritage, residents’ sense of belonging, and support for the Arts and local business startups.

The Save Picton Town Hall proposal also demonstrated a significant amount of community support and highlighted the need for community space for a number of groups in Prince Edward County. It should be noted that an increasing number of the County’s Town Halls are being operated successfully under board of management models similar to that proposed by the Save Picton Town Hall Working Group,” the report said. “The proposal from Save Picton Town Hall also highlights future capital repairs and the need for capital improvements in order to accommodate anchor and other tenants in the lower level of the building. For this reason, staff is recommending that a timeframe of 12 months be given for the proposed Board of Management to secure necessary capital funding and to meet other targets of their business plan, following which staff will report back to Council on the status of the building’s operation.”

While the hotel proposal from Hymus Holdings Inc. presents a more immediate financial benefit for the municipality, the longer term implications concerning parking, neighbourhood compatibility and loss of public space are more difficult to predict the report offered.

The development would also be subject to a number of planning approvals.

Although the hotel proposal has the potential to address some local accommodations and transient housing needs, the County would lose a valuable prime piece of real estate in the heart of a busy settlement area. Further, although the built form is protected through the heritage designation of the building, the long-standing cultural heritage value of the property would be lost or at least diminished if it were no longer in public ownership or no longer available for community uses,” said the report.

The choice whether to accept the recommended option of embracing the community group, accept the Hymus proposal or ultimately list the property on the open market are all potential options that could emerge from discussions at Shire Hall on Thursday.