The mayor sets the record straight about the PRA


PRA dome conceptThe following is a statement made verbally by Mayor Sandra Cooper, at Collingwood Council, Mon., Jan. 28, 2013. It explains the timeline of events between the Pretty River Academy and the Town of Collingwood. It should set the record straight and clear up the misinformation around this issue:

JANUARY 28, 2013 – MAYOR’S STATEMENT ON THE PRETTY RIVER ACADEMY

As noted at last week’s Council meeting, as Mayor, I agreed to provide an update to the community about the facts surrounding the erroneous and misleading statements regarding the Town’s past and present dealings with the Pretty River Academy, that have been alleged in the press, social media and a recent letter mass-mailed to Collingwood residents.

Fiction vs. Fact

1. FICTION: A public private partnership (community use agreement) was signed on November 30, 2009.
FACT: Council authorized entering into an agreement on November 30, 2009. That was signed only by the Town. The Academy did not agree to the terms and conditions and suggested revisions. After ongoing discussions with respect to the community use agreement, a letter from the former CAO, dated October 12, 2010, was sent to PRA to confirm that the original intent of the agreement as approved by Council had not been maintained. The Town would not be in a position to repay or finance the capital investment of the private asset. If the original intent of the agreement was not maintained, then the Town would be unable to support this initiative. An agreement was never finalized.

2. FICTION: On the date the Dome was completed (December 19, 2012), with no forewarning, we (PRA) were handed a letter from the Town stating we could not rent the facility and the zoning was wrong.
FACT: Representatives from the Academy had been advised of the limits of their current zoning since the consideration of the Community Use Agreement (2009), Site Plan Amendment application (2010), and prior to issuance of the temporary permit on December 6th, 2012. The Academy applied for the rezoning on December 14, 2012.

The Town became aware that the School was aggressively advertising the rental of this facility. Staff contacted the school to reiterate that renting the facility was not in compliance with the zoning by-law until it is approved by Council. The matter was reviewed with our solicitor, and it was agreed that a formal letter be forwarded to the school to confirm that the Town would forebear enforcement of the zoning by-law until the zoning application was received and processed. The school was advised of this prior to receiving the formal letter. The letter never stated that they could NOT rent the facility.

3. FACT: The School is not legally allowed to rent the facility at this time.
However as noted above, the Town has formally advised the School that we will not enforce the zoning by-law until Council has considered the School’s Zoning By-law amendment application that, if approved, will permit the school to rent their facility, similar to other public schools in Town.

In conclusion, I want to reiterate that the Town has been, and continues to work cooperatively with the Academy to achieve their goals, and expand opportunities.

Timeline

The Town has been working cooperatively with Pretty River Academy since it was constructed in 2006.

Discussions with respect to a sports dome commenced in 2009 after the school was successfully awarded government funding. Concern was raised with respect to a private school being awarded public funding. Council, at that time, also had an appreciation for the benefits that a year round sports facility could have for the community and offered to partner with the Academy for community uses that are permitted by a public authority (being the Town).

Council authorized entering into such an agreement in November 2009 (it was signed by the former Mayor and Clerk). However, the Pretty River Academy was not satisfied with the terms at that time, and the agreement was never finalized. The Academy committed to revising the agreement to terms that would be mutually acceptable.

In May 2010, the PRA submitted an application to amend the site plan that would provide for the construction of a sports dome. A site development meeting to review the application was held in June 2010, together with representatives of the PRA. The internal comments submitted to the PRA expressly addressed the zoning and permitted uses.

Council authorized executing the amending site plan agreement on August 2010 to allow the construction of a sports dome. Unfortunately, in a staff report, it was incorrectly noted that an agreement for the community use had been executed, as approved in November 2009.

In October 2010, after ongoing discussions with respect to the community use agreement, a letter from former CAO was sent to PRA to confirm that the original intent of the agreement as approved by Council has not been maintained. The Town would not be in a position to repay or finance the capital investment of the private asset. If the original intent of the agreement was not maintained, then the Town would be unable to support this initiative (community use agreement). An agreement was never finalized.

In September 2012, the PRA was now in a position to proceed with the construction of the dome and apply for a building permit. Upon issuance of a building permit the respective development charges for the Town, County and School Board become payable. The PRA was not aware that changes in 2009 to the development charges by-law required the PRA to pay (development charges) in excess of $278,000. Following a deputation from the PRA in October 2012, staff has been continuing to work cooperatively with representatives to identify any mechanism available that would allow the Academy to construct the dome, with no impact on our taxpayers or infrastructure, and be economically viable for the school.

At that time, it was also suggested that if the Academy was able to manage their own bookings they would also be able to retain the 15% fee that was to be provided to the Town for the service.

The amicable solution was to proceed with permitting the dome as a temporary structure.

PRA’s zoning amendment application seeks to revise the limitation of the current zoning maximum 120 days that the dome could be erected. In addition, they requested that the use provisions be changed to allow them to rent out the facility on their own – without the involvement of a “public authority” similar to the zoning rules for public schools. The Academy filed their application on December 14th, 2012.

As earlier noted, they could continue to use their facilities as they were, and the Town would forebear enforcement until the rezoning was decided. A public meeting is scheduled for February 4th, 2013 on this matter.