• Monday , 21 April 2014

Future of proposed TNI building becomes increasingly dismal

Wilson Stratulat (left) and Donald Heinzelmann (right) add a stonework feature to the exterior of the Edgewater Hotel building as part of a larger renovation project currently underway where a new TNI building was formerly proposed to be built.

Wilson Stratulat (left) and Donald Heinzelmann (right) add a stonework feature to the exterior of the Edgewater Hotel building as part of a larger renovation project currently underway where a new TNI building was formerly proposed to be built.

With thousands of dollars of renovations now taking place in the Edgewater Hotel and former Aegean Grill buildings, it seems highly unlikely the proposed TNI building for that block of Beach Avenue will go forward.

Last year TNI president Steve Allison presented plans to tear down the buildings and replace them with a three-storey mixed-use building. A related parking licence agreement that would allow TNI use of the district’s parking lot located along Waldo Way in exchange for upgrades and improvements to it was approved pending adoption of the bylaw amendment for the building. The zoning bylaw amendment made it to third reading, but was rescinded due to new information being received during a very public spat between Allison and the district.

At the request of the developer, the bylaw amendment has been sitting at second reading since last October, rather than proceeding ahead with a third reading and adoption.

A district development approval procedure bylaw states that every amendment bylaw that has not been finally adopted within 12 months after the date of the last reading be brought back to council for termination or an extension.

Last month, district council asked staff to contact Allison regarding his intentions with respect to the zoning bylaw amendment and related parking licence agreement for the properties in question.

At last Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting CAO Elsie Lemke advised council that Allison would prefer to leave everything remain as it is now until the next election, which led to a debate about what to do with the troubled development’s zoning bylaw amendment still floundering in limbo.

“I don’t see an advantage or a disadvantage for leaving this in place. I believe this to be, if it were ever to come to fruition, a great asset for Peachland,” Councillor Peter Schierbeck said. “I’d like to see this remain in place as per the request of Mr. Allison. Should he want to do something in the future it is there so I can’t see an advantage of taking all the work that’s been done and throwing it in the garbage can.”

While all members of council pledged their support for the project at the meeting, there was a lack of agreement about how exactly to proceed under the current circumstances.

“I think to cancel the agreement would perhaps send a message that is inappropriate because it is basically an administrative situation now. I think, as it should be, we understand the sensitivity of the situation so I would support an extension for say 18 months, which drops the ball in the court of the new council since Mr. Allison has indicated that is what he is looking for,” Councillor Eric Hall said.

Councillors Schierbeck and Moberg supported Hall’s motion for an 18-month extension, while Mayor Fielding and Councillors Kerbes and Fortin opposed it. Councillor Condon was not in attendance at the meeting so the committee of the whole motion failed.

“Essentially I think this is political because, as has being pointed out, we are being made, to some extent, scapegoats here for what I think was purely a business decision on Mr. Allison’s part not to proceed with this development and it adds fuel to his rant against council or me in particular, as were some members of council, in suggesting we are attempting to obstruct his progress,” Mayor Keith Fielding said. “All of us wanted that development to proceed and the fact that it didn’t was a business decision on Mr. Allison’s part and not a result of council’s obstruction.”

Mayor Fielding suggested Allison be contacted for a definitive answer as to whether he anticipates resurrecting the proposal at any point.

“If the answer is ‘yes’ then that’s brilliant. I think we would all be happy with that information and I would be happy to support keeping the zoning in place. But if the answer is ‘no’ or ‘certainly not for years and years’ then there is no point in keeping it there,” the mayor said, adding that council needs a specific answer to handle the decision responsibly.

A subsequent committee of the whole motion to extend the zoning and parking agreement for one year subject to consultation with Allison about his plans was passed unanimously. The item is expected to appear as an action item at the next council meeting.

Prior to the committee of the whole meeting, The View contacted Allison to ask him about his plans, given that renovations are now visibly underway at the properties in question.

“No one is going to develop in downtown Peachland. It’s not going to happen. I was willing to because I was trying to have a place for my family, my business, and as a resident in town was willing to do that but then they just treated me like crap, lied to me, pushed me around and treated me unfairly so now of course I am not going to do that. So then if you are me you say, ‘well then, what are you going to do?’ Well, I’ve got to do the only responsible thing I can do as a community and business person and put some money into it and make it work the way it is because God knows they’re not going to let me do what they should have let me do,” Allison said. “So obviously that’s that.”

Allison went on to say that nothing is going to happen in downtown Peachland because the economics are not there to support it and the town is increasing the fees rather than doing what the charrette report recommended.

“Sooner or later people are going to realize this is ridiculous … people are going to want change, positive change, and they’re going to vote in the kind of people that will bring positive change,” Allison said.

The View asked Allison if he would consider building a new TNI building at a different location if not on Beach Avenue.

“I’m exploring all of my options for TNI obviously, inside and outside Peachland. I won’t say more about it than that. But I would say that this particular building once I’ve put the money into it, the amount of money I’m putting into it as such that I won’t be breaking even on it for years. It will take me years to break even on that so obviously for years I won’t be able to bring that down, not even if a more positive council ever comes and says, ‘well, you were right. We made a mistake there and we’d like to reverse it.’ So that ship has sailed so too bad. So that’s not going to happen but in the meantime if they say, ‘we’d like to keep you in town. Is there somewhere else you’d like to build your building?’ then yes, of course, I’d consider it.”

Allison says right now he’s taking it one day at a time.

“We’re moving forward and I think the town will be pleased in the end with what we’re doing down there with the building. It is going to be more attractive than it has been.”

Allison says the renovation project includes a new stonework façade, renovation of the hotel rooms on the backside of the hotel, paint, a new roof, and new garage doors at the restaurant.

While he plans to continue with his renovations, Allison says he is dismayed that a big part of his project doesn’t qualify for the revitalization tax exemption.

“Not one dollar of that counts toward the $50,000 minimum to qualify for the revitalization tax exemption (RTE),” Allison said. “It only applies to something that requires a building permit … if you’re making a list of things that don’t count toward downtown revitalization it would be anything to do with painting, rock, roofs – anything that someone might notice if they drove by … I was just shocked when I found that out. What do you mean you don’t count any of that?”

Allison said he does qualify for the revitalization tax exemption for one of his renovation projects. In the Edgewater Hotel building where there used to be a lounge and restaurant on Second Street the building will be divided into two or three units, one of which will be occupied by Allison’s Effective Printing business.

Allison says the print shop will relocate to the back corner of the building, which hasn’t been used in many years and one or more tenants will go into units on Second Street.

Allison is also renovating the former Aegean Grill building, which is currently in the process of getting new paint, porcelain tile flooring, furniture and a roof.

“That one won’t qualify [for the RTE] at all either. I’m doing out of the goodness of my heart and as a business decision to try to make that building viable. If nothing is going to happen for five or 10 years I can’t have that building decaying away and I want it to be a productive part of the community. I’m paying tax on it anyway. I might as well be making some money on it.”

Mexican restaurant Latin Fiesta, which has a popular branch in Rutland, has agreed to lease the former Aegean Grill building.

“We’re excited about it all. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” Allison said. “We’re going to put some money into these buildings and ride it out. Let time be the ultimate judge of right and wrong … I believe some more positive people will be voted in in the next election. The problem is I can’t bet on that and wait until 2014, 2015 and keep turning away revenue and paying property taxes to what end. I’ve had to be realistic and go ahead and put some money into it to make these buildings work. That means I won’t be able to do that project on that spot.”

Allison says he believes residents of Peachland are disappointed the proposed project didn’t move forward but feels the renovations will make it easier to swallow.

“The bottom line is the taxes on these buildings after I’ve fixed them up still won’t be a drop in the bucket of what the taxes would have been if I was allowed to build my new building. So in the end the ultimate losers are the people of Peachland. It’s actually better for me quite honestly. I take less risk. It’s costing me a lot less money. I already bought the buildings. The property is the same either way. So the amount of money I’m investing to do these renos compared to the amount of money I would have had to put in to build the new building, there’s zeros at the end that are different and there is more than one of them. So if you’ve knocked a couple of zeros off my risk and I get to rent these buildings out everything is happy-happy. I’m a happy camper,” Allison said.

Despite his disenchantment with the building development process, Allison is enthusiastic about the renovation work underway.

“It’s going to be a great building. We’re excited about the new tenants. We’re excited about the new look,” Allison said. “It is exciting. I love going over there to see it. People have been stopping by and everyone is excited to see something change. When people go in [the new Latin Fiesta restaurant] they’re not going to believe it. It’s going to be absolutely new and it is so exciting … residents who are looking for a nicer-looking downtown and new services to enjoy, I think we’ll all be very pleased when it is all finished in the next few weeks.”

The Latin Fiesta restaurant is expected to open on August 1. Additional new tenants are expected to occupy parts of the Edgewater Hotel building in the next two – 12 months, Allison says.

Joanne Layh
Peachland View

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