Holyrood approves brewery in squeaker of a vote

·8 min read

Holyrood Mayor Gary Goobie was one of three members of council, the other two being councillors Roger Myette and Kevin Costello, to vote last week against an approval-in-principle for a micro brewery application that has been the talk of the town for months.

“I was optimistic that this proposal has potential. However, as we delved through the details, I soon began to realize that the associated challenges would become far outreaching,” said Goobie.

Most of his concerns centred on the need for a better road to the festival grounds and marina. “It’s obvious, with a micro-brewery in that location, the volume of traffic would increase exponentially,” said the mayor. “This road would have to be widened and upgraded to municipal regulation standards which could cost in the vicinity of $100,000 to $150,000. It is my understanding that the developer is not prepared to absorb that cost, or provide any consideration for a cost-shared arrangement. This is unacceptable, and we certainly would not expect our taxpayers to bear this capital cost. If we have to spend significant dollars – non-budgeted dollars if I may add – to upgrade the road and other infrastructure costs and acquire land to accommodate boats for dry dock at the marina in order to make this work, then it clearly tells me we’re trying to square a circle, and that’s concerning to me. To put it quite bluntly, the more visits I’ve made to the festival grounds, and believe me there were many, the more I realized that given the sheer size of this proposed building, it would not be a good fit for that area. In my opinion, trying to salvage the festival grounds, consideration for future marina expansion and then trying to squeeze a huge building in between them is simply impractical. I just don’t think we have sufficient land for all three to co-exist. Believe me, I’ve given this every consideration in the fairest and most neutral manner possible; but in the end, I just don’t feel comfortable with this location. With that said, I’ll be voting against this motion.”

Goobie also said that council was actively listening to residents, many of whom expressed concerns with the application through letters to The Shoreline, social media, and emails and phone calls to council members.

Goobie credited his fellow councillors for adopting such a consultative approach with the public regarding the application.

“It’s obvious many residents have serious concerns with this application,” he added. “I can’t speak for everyone; however, in gauging opinions from those I did speak with, it’s quite clear the vast majority of them are apprehensive and reluctant about sacrificing any space at the festival grounds, and selling any of that public property for the proposed use. As a (former) long-serving councillor often said: the residents are always right. Those words of wisdom certainly hold true, and as elected councillors, we must never lose sight of that.”

Goobie said the decision was one of the most difficult he’s had to make in 20 years on council, allowing the brewery would provide many opportunities for the town and that the applicants were creditable. But to approve the application would mean council having to sacrifice its long-term plan to transform the festival grounds into a “family park,” he argued.

Deputy Mayor Curtin Buckle saw it differently. As chairman of council’s business development marketing committee, he has been working closely with the applicants over the last two years.

“Their commitment to having a brewery in Holyrood was firm, and they were willing to answer our questions and meet our demands through the early stages before the application actually came for a vote,” said Buckle, who added the application process took as long as it did because of the thorough work of the Town investigating other possible sites, as well as considerations such as water, wastewater, and access.

“I am voting for this proposal. It is good for the town, and it brings in opportunity to improve our public safety by providing fire hydrants along Byrne’s Road,” said Buckle. “It gives us a chance to support the HMPC (Holyrood Marina) in a real way by ensuring future boat storage. It gives us a designated family park area for our residents. It gives people a reason to come to our town. It gives us the opportunity to build our tax base, so we can do things in our town. And, it gives us a group of investors who have demonstrated their respect for our town through their eagerness to work with us over the last two years.”

Councillor Kim Ghaney was also in favor of the brewery.

“I have spoken with quite a few people the last few weeks or so. Some have been against and some have been in favour, with strong opinions on both sides,” said Ghaney. “As councillor, I believe it is important to listen to both sides to weigh the pros and cons to make the best decision for the town. And from the recreation and community events (committee’s) perspective, I believe that a brewery at this location would add to the value of the Festival Grounds.”

Ghaney said community groups such as Girl Guides and seniors will still be able to use the space. It will also increase the town’s tax base and possibly attract other businesses, she said.

Councillors Sadie King and Jim Joy also voted in favour of the brewery.

King said that ‘brewery’ was all she needed to hear.

“I’ve seen the success they had in Whitbourne. So, I thought it was a great idea,” Kind said. “I think it will bring needed improvement to the area. And I think it’s going to create a new economic base for our town, because we are going to get a lot more people coming here. It’s also going to give us a much-needed space for our groups, because like know, seniors and Guides, they don’t have a place to go. So hopefully, this will provide it for us.”

Joy said micro breweries have proven to be successful across the province, and that most people were in favour of having a micro brewery in Holyrood, but were concerned about the location.

“The majority of comments received expressed concerns about the planned location on our festival grounds. These concerns I see as in mainly two areas: first, it would involve the sale of approximately half an acre of our beautiful beach front property, that being the Festival Grounds in the middle of the open space recreation zone,” said Joy. “And two, it would involve removal of boat storage space from HMPC and could block access for planned expansion of the marina, which is now operating at full capacity, with a waiting list.”

Joy said the loss of the half acre will be addressed by an extension of space along the harbour side of the Festival Grounds. And there have been ongoing discussions between the proponents, the marina and the Town to solve the boat storage problem.

Joy pointed out a number of conditions are attached to the approval in principle.

Councillor Roger Myette was not in favour of the application, although he thanked the proponents for considering Holyrood for their brewery.

“We’ve had many meetings with the proposed brewery, some with the public, some with the proposed brewery owners, and many with ourselves as council. I can confidently say that we did our due diligence as council with this brewery application,” said Myette. “As much as the residents of Holyrood feel that a brewery would be a great asset to our town, many feel that the Festival Grounds location is not an appropriate location for any business, not just a brewery. Therefore, I will not be supporting the brewery application on their behalf.”

Councillor Kevin Costello agreed with that reasoning.

“As discussed many times in the past, a development of this location has the potential to provide an economic uplift to our town and stimulate the growth of other, complimentary businesses,” said Costello. “Tax revenue, from a development of this nature, could be significant, and could allow the town to have additional cash flow that it currently does not have. I have been weighing the potential economic impacts against temporary loss of open green space. Council had come up with a concept plan to potentially replace the green space — but it does come with a hefty price tag. Depending upon a number of conditions, this space could be replaced in three to four years. We also have to solve the problem of replacing the boat storage for the 10 to 12 boats that will be displaced by this development. Simply moving the boats to an offsite location is not feasible and there are only a few potential solutions in the immediate area. The one location that is being considered is very costly, and I am unable to make a case for myself for how the purchase of this potential new boat storage location could make economic sense.”

Costello added that a major component missing from the application is the purchase price the Town will receive for the land, as council currently does not know its fair market value.

“I have been asking myself the following questions for a number of days,” said Costello. “Should council be undertaking the responsibility, and liability, of purchasing property for boat storage? Replacing green space on the Festival Grounds by infilling a portion of the harbour? Potentially upgrading Byrnes Road, and a magnitude for other small initiatives, so a business can be accommodated in this proposed location? Potential price tags for the above scopes are very hefty. There is government funding that might be available, but that is not 100 percent committed at the moment. The provincial government procurement process is not conducive to council knowing what they could sell the property for, but my guess is that it would be much less than what we think it is valued at.”

Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News