Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Brockville to purchase land from St. Lawrence College to build new recreational facility

Brockville City Hall – Photo via City of Brockville

At their regular meeting on June 25, Brockville City Council voted to purchase 9.16 acres of land at 100 Magedoma Blvd for $806,000.

Council needed to buy the parcel of land from St. Lawrence College in order to move ahead with the proposed new and larger multi-use recreational facility (MURF), as the design plans straddle land they don’t own yet.

Director of Economic and Development Services Robert Nolan was welcomed into council chambers to provide an overview of his report on the situation. He explained that the council was being asked to authorize two separate land agreements that night, one being a lease agreement and one being a purchase agreement. 

The discussion began in 2022, when the City of Brockville signed a contract with N45 Architects Inc. and Idea Inc. to provide conceptual and detailed design for the new MURF where the Memorial Centre now stands at 100 Magedoma Blvd. The lease Agreement between the college and the city was established in 1980, wherein the college leased the land at a rental rate of $1 for a term of 99 years.

In January 2024, the college commissioned a valuation firm to estimate the current market value and market rent of the lands being considered of the lands, and it came in at $806,000, or $87,041 per acre, Nolan said. This appraiser concluded that the market rental price of the parcel that is proposed to be leased is $27,700 per annum and this market value was subsequently validated for its accuracy by a peer reviewer.

The most notable suggestion in this proposed agreement is to extend Magedoma Boulevard into a public highway.

“While presently the roadway extends onto the college’s land, the legal description of the lands conveyed to the city end at the boundary of the college lands,” Nolan’s report explains. “To ensure that the college has access to its parking lot, the college requires that a right-of-way across parts of the lands be granted until such time as the city dedicates and assumes these lands as a public highway.”

Some other key terms and conditions outlined in the agreement drafted by St. Lawrence College are:

  • Lease term of 25 years with an option to renew for another 25 years on the same terms
  • Rent of $1/year  
  • The city may only use the leased property as a parking lot
  • The city is not permitted to sublet the property
  • The city will be responsible for the security and policing of the lease parking lot only 
  • The college will grant a right of way over their parking lot for motor vehicles and people  

The report concludes that the purchase of this section of land from St. Lawrence College would cost the city $806,000 and it is recommended that this be funded as part of the new MURF project. 

When the floor was opened for questions and comments, Mayor Matt Wren was the first to ask for clarification. He reminded councillors about the 99 year lease agreement and reiterated, “If we weren’t doing this, we’d still have another 46 years left on the lease. That includes maintaining the same parking lots that we would now be leasing in a new lease for 25 years. In other words, the obligation of maintaining those lots is already something the city is doing today.”

When Nolan confirmed this statement, Mayor Wren continued “The reason we’re facing new leases on those parking lots is because we’re purchasing and the parcel is different so as a result we need to enter into a new lease for the smaller lands. But basically, the terms, conditions, and obligations of the city won’t change, correct?”  Once again, Nolan confirmed this notion.

Councillor Wales spoke next and asked why the land near the small creek situated near the Memorial Centre fields is being purchased in the agreement. Nolan responded, “The city has infrastructure there. There’s a creek but there’s also a stormwater management pond…The college owns that land but we have a legal right of way for that infrastructure but we would be requiring our own right of way,”

Councillor Wales concluded by sharing his thoughts on the matter and with a sympathetic sigh he said, “It’s expensive but we’re essentially dealing with a bit of housekeeping here in regards to the land. Land is an asset. This money isn’t just disappearing.”

Council Earle spoke emphatically, stating “If I were spending my own money, as I like to think when spending the city’s money, then I would not pay for that for a parcel of open unserviced land. Plus, we have 50 years of building and maintaining a parking lot in that space so I’m not happy with the price and in my mind, I can’t justify it.”

In response to the concern over finances, Mayor Wren asked Nolan whether they would be still buying this land even if they did not receive the proper funding to move forward with the MURF project. Nolan confirmed, “The intent would be that we close it as soon as we can. Director Woods is looking for potential grant funding but they are looking for “shovel-ready” projects and owning the land would make it “shovel-ready.”

Councillor Fullarton shared her thoughts on the matter stating, “I’m in support of purchasing this land. Would we all like to get it cheaper? Yes, we would. We have gone through all the processes here to get an appraisal and peer review check which we have done. This piece of lank has our rink on it, it has our major rink on it. The city must own this piece of land so that we’re not renting the land that our Memorial Centre is on.”

Fullarton reminded councillors that a previous study showed that even if the city were not to completely rebuild the Memorial Centre into a twin-pad arena, it would still require $6 million to adequately repair and renew the current building. She also reiterated that the city has already invested a million dollars by this stage into preparing designs for the MURF. 

Councillor Deery seconded the opinion of Councillor Fullarton, explaining “If we were to vote against this tonight, that would be a vote to dead stop the project in terms of where we are right now.”

After a long discussion and debate, the vote was called and all councillors voted yes, except Counc. Earle. The matter was then carried. 

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