The historic Signal Hill Arts Centre building has been sold, and Weyburn city council approved an offer of $114,500 on the facility, less than half of the asking price.
The sale was passed by a 5-1 motion, with Mayor Marcel Roy opposing the sale mainly due to the buyer’s request for a tax concession for the next five years.
The building was first built and used as a hospital, and then it served as a seniors care home, known as Mount St. Mary’s, before the City took it over in 1987 and renamed it as the Signal Hill Arts Centre.
The City selected Bree Patterson of Royal LePage Signature as the agent to represent the City, and the building was put on the market in “as-is” condition for the list price of $249,900.
The offer to purchase came in June for the building and the small parcel of land to the east with the small statue and park, for the price of $114,500.
The buyer wants to take possession on Aug. 14, and asked it include the miscellaneous furnishings and equipment located throughout the building, and approval for a five-year tax concession as the buyer has plans for commercial and residential development. Patterson said on Tuesday morning she is not able to say who the buyer is yet, as the purchase transaction process has to be completed.
In the motion to approve the offer, the boiler equipment is to be accepted in as-is condition, and the City is to provide a completed survey of the property.
Leisure services director Andrew Crowe noted that the furnishings will not include the arts equipment that the City needs for its programming, such as in the pottery studio, or for their ongoing operations.
Mayor Roy asked about the renovations after there was a burst pipe and water damage occurred throughout the building, shutting it down for any further operation.
Crowe said the areas they needed access to were repaired, and other areas were not repaired, such as the flooring in areas they aren’t going to use any more.
The taxes on the building, once it’s rezoned, will be in the range of $10-13,000 a year, said Crowe.
This prompted the mayor to point out that, over the course of five years, the City is only selling the building for about $50,000, taking the value of the taxes off the price for the property.
“Giving tax incentives, I will not agree with this. If you give it to one, you should be giving it to all,” he said.
“I think it’s great we have someone who is looking at purchasing it and developing it,” said Coun. Mel Van Betuw, who admitted he was struggling with the tax concession also.
He suggested the City forgive the taxes instead of calling it a tax concession, and “that way we’re protecting the citizens of Weyburn.”
“I’m going to support this, I think it’s important,” said Coun. Jeff Richards, asking if the tax concession will be non-transferable.
Getting the nod from city manager Mathew Warren on this point, Richards pointed out the City gives tax concessions to support growth, and “every city that wants growth does that. Part of the use of the building will be commercial.”
Crowe noted this was the only serious offer the City has received on Signal Hill, as there were other “tire-kicker” offers that were for less money and didn’t have any kind of a business plan attached.
Coun. Dick Michel pointed out he was on council when the City wanted to put the building up for sale a decade ago, and the council chambers were packed with people who were upset and didn’t want it to be sold.
The difference now is there will be a home for the arts and culture programs that have been housed at Signal Hill, in the new Weyburn Recreation and Culture Centre which is set to be open by September of 2021, he said.
“This building never did bring any tax revenue,” he pointed out, and it’s in a beautiful prime location.
“We do not want to lose out on this sale,” he said forcefully, before the vote was taken.
• In other council business, council approved bylaw provisions for a mail-in ballot for the municipal election on Nov. 9, in light of the COVID-19 situation continuing on.
Council earlier approved use of electronic voting equipment, and city clerk Donette Richter wanted the mail-in option to be added for any voters who would not feel comfortable about coming out to vote, but would be okay with mailing in their vote.
She pointed out that in 2016, they had around 50 electors mail in their ballots. She also pointed out the City is in a bit of a rush to get everything in place with the election coming up this fall, and asked council to do all three readings of the bylaw to get it passed.
For those who contact the City for a mail-in ballot, Richter will send them a ballot with a couple of envelopes, with the ballot to go in one, and then that envelope goes into a bigger one that is sent in for counting.
Richter is hopeful to have things in place by mid-August so people can get their voter registration in for the ballot.
“As long as we receive their information by 4 p.m. on the last business day before the election, they will be registered to vote. If the ballot is to us by 8 p.m. on election day, then the vote will be counted,” she said.
Mayor Roy said the City is going down “a very dangerous road” by allowing this, as voter fraud could occur.
He voted against the bylaw, but allowed for the third reading to take place as it has to be unanimous for all three readings to occur in one council meeting.