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Councillors dodge questions about airport sale

Little to no information on buyer or future of site; councillors defer questions to CAO due to "limited communications" motion passed in July
Collingwood Regional Airport. Collingwood Today file photo
One week after the town announced it had sold the Collingwood Regional Airport, there are still very few details about the company who purchased the airport and the terms of the sale.

The town’s announcement, released late afternoon on Aug. 2, stated the airport was sold for $4.1 million to Winterland Developments Ltd. with a closing date for the sale on Sept. 25.

The announcement suggested further details on the future of the airport will be addressed by Winterland Developments Ltd.

An Internet search for the company turns up no information on past projects or directors.

CollingwoodToday reached out via phone and was told by Emer Murphy the company was preparing a statement, but she didn’t have an estimate on when the statement would be ready. The company appears to have been incorporated in 2001.

CollingwoodToday also reached out to Collingwood CAO Fareed Amin, but received an automated out-of-office response saying he would return Aug. 13.

CollingwoodToday reached out to every member of town council. Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson forwarded the inquiries to Amin.

“In light of Council's recent delegation to the CAO of communications on significant issues, he should be involved in this discussion,” said Saunderson in an email to CollingwoodToday.

He is referring to a motion passed at council on July 12 stating all questions related to the judicial inquiry into the 2012 Collus PowerStream deal and other “high-profile matters” be referred to and addressed by the CAO.

Coun. Bob Madigan introduced the idea on June 25 with a motion asking staff to look into options to limit and reduce councillors' responsibilities for communications while the judicial inquiry was ongoing.

At the time, Madigan said the decision was about stopping misinformation. He said limiting council’s ability to communicate to the public and media about the ongoing inquiry would “diffuse” and “depoliticize” the issue.

While councillors are directing questions about the sale to the town’s CAO, all decisions made along the way were done so by members of Collingwood council.

Coun. Kevin Lloyd did respond to CollingwoodToday’s questions to say he “cannot comment.” He did, however, express frustration with the process of the sale.

Lloyd voted against the airport sale, as did Coun. Deb Doherty.

Coun. Tim Fryer also responded to CollingwoodToday, again referring questions to town staff.

“As per our protocol I have reached out to staff and confirmed that further communication is being prepared,” said Fryer in an email. “My understanding is that it is to be released in the near future.”

Mayor Sandra Cooper did not participate in the sale of the airport due to a conflict of interest since her brother, Paul Bonwick, does business at the Collingwood Regional Airport.

Amin is on holidays until August 13. Town Clerk Sara Almas sent an email to CollingwoodToday to confirm the purchaser has “a due diligence period until Sept. 21 to ensure the property is good and free from all encumbrances except those permitted.”

“As noted, any further communications regarding this matter should be directed to the CAO next week,” said Almas.

Councillors Mike Edwards and Cam Ecclestone were present at the last council meeting and voted in favour of selling the airport to Winterland, but they did not respond to the email from CollingwoodToday.

According to the town’s Biddingo website, there were three successful bids placed for the airport from Winterland, Clearview Township, and The Commercial Realty Group.

The airport is situated in Clearview Township, and Clearview had expressed a strong interest in the airport early in the process, even asking Collingwood to allow Clearview the chance to match other offers that come in for the airport. Collingwood turned down the request.

Clearview CAO Stephen Sage said the township is preparing a statement on the airport sale. An email to Clearview Mayor Chris Vanderkruys has not yet been returned.

The airport sale process began in September 2017 with council declaring the Collingwood Regional Airport lands a surplus and put out a call for offers. In February 2018, council approved a five-phase process and a consultant to lead the sale at a cost of $93,850.

Since then, there have been several in-camera meetings closed to the media and the public. On July 17, councillors came out of an in-camera meeting and voted in favour of pursuing final negotiations with the top bidder, and later it was revealed the top bidder was Winterland.

There is a reference to Winterland Developments Ltd. in Collingwood council minutes from Sept. 9, 2013, where council passed a bylaw to sell 7.57 acres (three hectares) of airport land to Winterland. Questions emailed to councillors and forwarded to town staff on whether or not that sale went through were directed to the CAO when he returns to the office on Aug. 13.

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Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter and editor. She has 13 years of experience as a local journalist
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