City council chose the current Canadian Canoe Museum property on Monaghan Road at Romaine Street for the site of a new Peterorough Transit garage at a council meeting on Monday night.
“This is an important project for Peterborough, this transit garage,” said Coun. Kim Zippel, who urged council to pick the canoe museum site because it will allow the city to clean up industrial land contamination with funding from the federal and provincial governments.
Coun. Henry Clarke said he “totally” agreed with Zippel and added that council is on deadline to make final applications to receive $38 million in federal and provincial grants for the plan.
“We do need to move ahead for the grant money … and this is the right decision to make,” he said.
The vote was 6-5 in favour of the site.
Voting in favour for the canoe museum site — which was the top choice for consultant IBI Group — were Zippel and Clarke, plus Coun, Kemi Akapo, Coun. Gary Baldwin, Mayor Diane Therrien and Coun. Lesley Parnell.
Voting against it were Coun. Dean Pappas, Coun. Keith Riel, Coun. Stephen Wright, Coun. Andrew Beamer and Coun. Don Vassiliadis.
Council had heard earlier in the meeting from neighbour Bill Betz, who said there had been no consultation about potentially locating a bus garage in his residential neighbourhood.
“Yet you’re ready to make a decision on this tonight,” he said.
Coun. Riel said the site — formerly the Outboard Marine industrial property — will be a “money pit” for the city.
Riel predicted that the cost to clean up land contamination on the property will far exceed the consultant’s estimate, and that plus he thinks the city ought to leave this prime commercial land for a developer to clean up and reuse.
Riel wanted to defer the decision for now, leaving a new council to deal with it after the municipal election in late October.
“I’m not saddling that council with this decision tonight,” he said.
But a recent city staff report states that the current bus garage on Townsend Street is worn out and getting too small to accommodate a growing bus fleet — and that it will need to be replaced within two or three years.
The city’s consultants took five years to consider more than 130 properties where a new transit garage could potentially be located.
They chose the canoe museum site as their top-ranked location: next summer, the museum is moving into the new building they now have under construction on Johnson property on Little Lake (which is off Ashburnham Drive, across the street from East Gate Memorial Park).
The idea is for the city to buy the current museum site, at Monaghan Road and Romaine Street.
The cost to buy the canoe museum property, clean up any land contamination and build a new bus garage was estimated by the consultants to be $53.1 million; now city staff will negotiate a deal with the canoe museum for the sale.
That idea concerned Riel, who said he didn’t want to give “carte blanche” to city staff to buy the property. But council directed staff to go ahead and start negotiating with museum officials for the purchase, at a price “consistent” with the consultant’s estimates.
The consultant’s second-ranked choice was 420 Ashburnham Dr., a vacant city-owned property on the edge of the city where consultants estimated would cost $47 million to build a bus garage.
Nichea Vass and her father Len Vass — who is a former city councillor — asked council to forget about that site for good.
The Vass family plans to open their new business there, 100 Acre Brewing Company — but that plan’s in jeopardy if there’s a bus garage next door.
Nichea Vass said that’s because the brewery was to offer “a local, rural experience” to tourists — difficult to do, if there’s a bus garage next door.
Plus she noted the consultant had estimated it will cost $200,000 per year to operate the bus garage from Ashburnham Drive than from the more centrally located canoe museum site, due to the ferrying of buses to and from the garage.
Coun. Stephen Wright had concerns about both sites: he wanted them both rejected. He moved to defer the decision, but the motion lost.
“There’s no one holding a gun to our heads tonight, saying you have to make a bad decision about two bad sites,” Wright had argued.
Furthermore Wright didn’t think it ought to be top priority for the city to be cleaning up an old industrial site.
But Coun. Lesley Parnell said she did support the canoe museum site since the city can count on funding from the federal and provincial governments to help pay to clean up contamination.
“If I have the opportunity to clean that up, and protect those residents — I’m going to take it.”