Vionell Holdings won its bid to buy the former Brandon Police Service Station land and building at 1340 10th St., for $1,040,000 at Monday’s Brandon City Council meeting.
The deal, which was approved by 6-5 margin, also includes a Vionell Holdings plan to buy a generator on the site for an additional $10,000.
Coun. Jeff Fawcett (Assiniboine), Coun. Jeff Harwood (University), Coun. Murray Blight (Victoria), Coun. Len Isleifson (Riverview), Coun. Jim McCrae (Meadows) and Coun. Stephen Montague (Richmond) voted in favour of the bid. Mayor Shari Decter Hirst, Coun. Shawn Berry (Linden Lanes), Coun. Corey Roberts (Rosser), Coun. Garth Rice (South Centre), and Coun. Jan Chaboyer (Green Acres) were against the motion.
The conditions to the purchase include an environmental assessment done by Vionell Holdings and a follow through on its proposal to develop the land as conceptualized. The land will also need to be rezoned from institutional to residential. Now that the deal has been approved by council, it can be finalized and the paperwork signed to close the deal.
During the lengthy debate, Decter Hirst made several passionate appeals in favour of affordable housing initiatives.
“There isn’t another available spot for this kind of investment for affordable housing right now,” Decter Hirst said.
“We have done several projects where we have done them for a family at a time. There are hundreds of people on waiting lists. This is very, very (slow) return on investment. We have an affordable housing reserve, whose purpose is to do exactly what the (Canadian Mental Health Association and Western Manitoba Seniors Non-Profit Housing Co-op) are asking.”
Decter Hirst said if there aren’t enough funds in that affordable housing reserve fund, that needs to be addressed in the 2013 budget.
“When I look at this frugally, we don’t have any other projects on the go except for a couple of one-off houses,” Decter Hirst said. “Saving that money at the expense of not doing this project is penny wise, pound foolish.”
McCrae was equally steadfast that while there is a need for affordable housing, there is also a need to have other partners at the table to help fund those projects.
“One of the main reasons we have not made very much progress in this over the last 10-15 years as we would have liked, is because the only level of government that I believe can address that playing field is the provincial government,” McCrae said.
“I don’t believe this can be done by us. I don’t think we can do enough for the non-profit sector that can make the kind of progress that we all talk about wanting to make. That’s the kind of problem that we haven’t solved and we have had two years to do it. I’m not taking any blame for that and you shouldn’t either, Your Worship.”
Rice, while moving the motion in favour of approving the motion to accept the Vionell Holdings proposal, spoke out and voted against the motion because it didn’t do enough to deal with the city’s affordable housing shortage.”
“Weighing all the options …and I know affordable housing is so hard to find in this community that I don’t think we can even reach out enough with this project to deal with it,” Rice said. “For that reason alone, I am voting against it.
While the city’s books are still being audited, it is expected that between the surpluses generated in 2010 and 2012, the city will have a $1.8 million allocation to reserve funds, the Audit and Finance Committee reported. The city expected to break even in 2011, but the 2012 surplus is $990,000.
These surplus funds will go towards reserve funds that were not replenished at a desired rate last year because of budget issues.
City councillors approved a $25,000 grant to Hockey Brandon for the Tournament of Champions, which will come out of the accommodations tax reserve.
Every year, councillors have to vote for a deputy mayor and acting deputy mayor. Rice was elected deputy mayor, while Isleifson was chosen as acting deputy mayor.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition November 20, 2012