Why are we doing this, as an investor withdraws? says reader

To the Editor:

Honourable Mayor and Councilors

On December 16, 2019, I presented the attached delegation at a public meeting before Council regarding the Cedar Crescent Village plan.

A lot has happened since that time not the least of which has been a global pandemic that has locked us down and shut us in. All of our lives have been impacted.

Restaurant and event planning businesses have been particularly affected. When is the next time any of us will feel comfortable attending a crowded indoor space rubbing shoulders with hundreds of people.

The question I kept posing at the meeting after reviewing areas of concern was “So, why are we doing this?”. In light of the events of the past year this is a particularly poignant question now.

A 300-person convention facility was never something the public or citizens of the Town wanted. It was near the bottom of the amenities selected by those who completed the Town’s survey. But those behind the project made it clear they would not proceed without it, presumably because they believed it was the necessary revenue driver that would make their plan succeed.

In meetings, Council was frequently asked about the economics of the plan, its sustainability and whether a business plan had been submitted and properly vetted. Even if one had been, after the events of the last 15 months it needs to be revisited and hard questions asked and answers scrutinized.

Was a rigorous analysis done at the outset that supported the viability of a year round convention centre? Was there any credible data to support its usage during winter months? How will COVID affect consumer behaviour and what will that mean for this plan?

Another development was the withdrawal of a significant investor.

These events should give the Town pause.

In public meetings, we heard individuals with experience in commercial lending raise questions about the feasibility of this plan and urged due diligence in assessing it, the credit worthiness of the investors and their ability to finance and post credit for the project (current estimates at 8 to 12 million dollars).

None of us know, or are good, at everything – that is why it is important to retain outside assistance to make sure we are on the right track and avoid blind spots that could lead to poor decision making. The location, cost, and inherent importance of this historic piece of beloved public land demands that we bring our best analysis to this project.

I sincerely hope that the proper due diligence is being exercised which at a minimum would demand employing external expertise to properly vet the state of the plan and the people behind it to ensure this does not end up a significant debt burden for future generations if it is not financially viable.

The world has changed as a result of COVID. There has also been a change in investors.

Please Councillors … ask to see the original and updated business plans and credit information. Test and challenge the credibility of where the information is coming from.

Being a fiduciary is not easy but it is important. You are doing it for us all.


Melanie Reist