Saint Andrews town council has tabled until May a motion to open up the lease on the campground at Indian Point to public tender.
Instead, council voted Monday night to ask the town's chief administrative officer to begin new negotiations with the longtime leaseholder, the Kiwanis Club, to which three of the seven council members belong.
Mayor Doug Naish believes the interim move has satisfied a group of local citizens led by Jay Remer, who had raised concerns about the tendering process for the Oceanfront Camping site not being open to the public.
"By the end of the evening, what really came out of it was the notion that this is about the community going forward and all about what's best for everyone in the community," Naish said of the special meeting, attended by "well over" 100 people.
"The Kiwanis Club have been good stewards of that piece of land owned by the public. The question of it is, is the general public getting enough benefit out of the activity that takes place there? And that will be much of the subject of the new negotiations."
Council could still vote in May to open up the lease "to anybody who wants to put in a bid," he said.
Earlier this week, Remer had described the campground lease as a "golden egg." He told CBC News the campground generates an estimated $600,000 to $700,000 a year and the Kiwanis Club gives about $40,000 back to the community in the form of various grants.
"It would seem that an asset that had the potential to generate that kind of income, more of that income should come back to the town coffers," Remer had said.
Asked Tuesday how much the campground makes and how much the town receives, Naish said that's a "multi-level question."
Under the now-expired 25-year lease, the Kiwanis Club pays the town $1 in rent for the campground site and pays the municipal property taxes of about $10,000 a year, he said.
"The second level of the issue is the 500 or so people that on a busy night in the summer are occupying spaces there and spend money in our community," Naish said. "So there's a huge economic development and tourism benefit from having the campground there.
"And I think you can lose sight of the fact that some 60 years ago, when this all began, that was actually a complete wasteland of undeveloped property and no benefit to the community was coming from it."
100% of profits go to community
A public notice being circulated about the meeting indicated the Kiwanis have spent nearly $1 million in infrastructure at the site over the years.
Coun. Guy Groulx, a Kiwanian who has served as the club president, did not respond to a request for an interview but said in an email to CBC News that Remer's revenue estimate is "not only incorrect, but fails to mention the considerable operating and capital costs associated with running a campground."
"The Kiwanis Club donates 100 per cent of the profits from the campground to the community … not one penny is kept by the Kiwanis," the email said. "Last year, this amounted to about $186,000."
Conflict of interest rules
Groulx and the other councillors who belong to Kiwanis — Kurt Gumushel and Andrew Harrison — did not recuse themselves from Monday night's vote, Naish said.
They were not obliged to, he said, according to conflict of interest rules under the provincial Municipalities Act, which has an exemption for service club members.
"It's an issue that the provincial government needs to address," said Naish, adding he hopes to make suggestions in the next few months on how the legislation might be amended "to avoid that kind of problem."
Naish said he expects a new draft lease between the town and the Kiwanis Club to be presented for council's consideration by the regular May meeting.
He said he personally hopes to see a shorter-term lease and one "that citizens in the community will look at and say the town is getting market value for the lease of the land."