It appears a bid from five local businessmen to redevelop the former Sarnia General Hospital site will go right down to the wire.
Council deferred a decision on the proposal Monday to allow the public a chance to weigh in on the deal, which could cost the city and its taxpayers $5.4 million.
A meeting to hear from residents is set for July 31 and the bid expires Aug. 1.
“I do support this and unless something major changes I will be voting in favour,” said Coun. Mike Kelch. “But here’s the thing, the public has not had the opportunity to ask questions about this proposal.”
A company called GFIVE Inc. and its five principals — Charles Dally, Alex Jongsma, Mark Lumley, Kenn Poore and Marty Raaymakers – has offered to buy the land for $1,000. It would then be paid $5.4 million incrementally by the city to raze and redevelop the site with new housing and low-rise commercial buildings.
Should the deal fall through, the city will continue to own the boarded-up property and could be on the hook for $8.8 million needed to remove asbestos, level the building and remediate the land.
If council does accept the bid, the $5.4 million paid to GFIVE would come either through a combination of higher taxes and money taken from reserves, or by the city issuing new debt.
The same five investors entered into a legal agreement with the city in 2014 to purchase the land for $1,000 and redevelop it into a $15-million medical campus.
But council tabled a zoning application and that deal came unraveled in March of 2015.
The deferral followed a presentation by Essex Street resident Mike Hurry, who lives across the street from the derelict hospital and has long wanted it gone.
Hurry said the developers’ latest proposal takes many of the neighbours concerns into account. But asking for a decision five days after it went public left little chance for community input, he said.
“I just wonder why has it has been hurried along so quickly, and why is there not an opportunity for the public to have some input?” he asked.
The sale involves the former hospital at 220 Mitton St. and adjacent nursing residence at 327 George St.
The cleaned-up land without buildings could be worth $1.75 million on the open market.