Leeds and Thousand Islands council defers decision on Turkey Fair Garage

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The council of the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands has deferred a decision on authorizing a lease of the Turkey Fair Garage to the Lyndhurst, Seeley’s Bay and District Chamber of Commerce.

This was unanimously agreed upon by council during Monday’s committee of the whole meeting in the  Lansdowne council chambers.

The reasoning behind the deferral stems from concerns regarding organization of the garage and handling of access to it.

“It gives us the opportunity to pick up the phone and have some additional conversations with the other user groups,” said Mayor Corinna Smith-Gatcke.

Staff proposed a form of lease similar to the existing lease with the Friends of Rockport Customs Restoration Society for the Rockport Customs Dock.

The initial term of the garage lease would start on Jan. 1, 2024 and run for five years, with an annual rent of $1. The chamber would be responsible to insure the structure and contents. Further, any alterations or improvements to the garage would be at the expense of the chamber and subject to the township’s approval.

“If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out,” said township chief administrative officer Stephen Donachey. “If it doesn’t work out with the chamber, we still have ownership of the building, and we could always look at it from a different lens if we need to.”

The township owns the property, located at 172 Jonas Street in Lyndhurst, upon which is a large garage that is locally known as the “Turkey Fair Garage.”

The garage is available to community groups for storage of items used in local events. The township does not use the property or garage for storage of municipal assets, nor does the township have a need for the property for the foreseeable future, staff’s report on the matter reads.

Access to the garage is not controlled and the township does not know who or when people are entering the structure. The township also has no control over what is stored in the garage. The current situation means there is an elevated level of risk to the township should someone be injured in the garage or there is property damage.

Earlier in 2023, staff met with representatives from the Lyndhurst, Seeley’s Bay and District Chamber of Commerce to discuss the garage. The chamber presented ideas for improvement to the garage and wished to discuss the future of the property.

Subsequent to the meeting, staff considered the possibility of leasing the garage to the chamber on condition that it would still be available to community groups for storage. The chamber is in favour of leasing the garage.

By leasing the garage, the chamber would become responsible for access and contents. Thus, the township is able to mitigate risk by transferring it to the chamber. The proposed lease includes a covenant that the garage continue to be available to the chamber and community groups for storage of items that are used in connection with community events.

“I’m fine if we want to stall this for another week and bring in other groups that care to come forward,” said Deputy Mayor Terry Fodey. “Quite frankly, it appears to me as a power struggle. We need to decide who wants to be involved and be part of the power, join forces and take care of everything.”

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