Is there a change in the way Discovery Landing is going to be operated by company with lease – and done at public expense?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  June 21, 2012  –  There is something going on with Discovery Landing  and Spencer’s Restaurant down on the waterfront.

The city went into one of their Closed Sessions to talk about some changes that had to do with the use of the Discovery Landing.

Both the restaurant and the Discovery Landing are on public property with the city getting rent from the operators of the restaurant.  The Discovery Centre had not managed to develop an audience of its own when it was run out of city hall.

Perhaps the finest restaurant in the city - with a balcony overlooking the lake that is THE place to be on a summer evening.

An agreement was put in place between the Landmark group that operates the Ancaster Mill in Ancaster, Ontario and the city that had the restaurant acting as a booking agent for the Discovery Landing,  which is one of the premium locations on the waterfront.

There now appears to be a request to change the agreement that includes the spending of public money on a publicly owned facility that will be used exclusively by a private company.

Councillor Taylor objected to going into Closed Session and said he would do so on the understanding that if the agreement in the confidential documents was approved it would be made public.  Doors to the Council chamber were closed to the public and about 20 minutes later they were opened – and all they had to say was that the report would go to a city council meeting – and at that time the agreement would be made public.

Which might meet the letter of the law but certainly not the spirit of the law.  If the public wants to delegate and give their views they need to know what the discussion and agreement was.

While we don’t know exactly what the discussion was about we do know this:

Are there going to be new arrangements on the operation of the Discovery Landing? Will taxpayer's money be needed to make it happen?

The Discovery Landing and the restaurant are located on public property

Councillor Taylor said “what started out as public is now becoming private but public money is being used to fund changes”.

We don’t know yet what the changes are.  All we know is that they were discussed behind closed doors because some of the details, if made public, would damage the interests of the company that was asking for some kind of a change.

We always understood that Council and city staffs were in place to protect the interests of the taxpayers.

Councillor Dennison said that private enterprise in public places should not be funded with public money.

Parking spaces exclusive to restaurant in the evenings.

The restaurant has first call on 40 parking spaces to the west of the restaurant from 4 pm until midnight seven days a week.

We do know that former city manager Tim Dobbie, now a consultant with a reputation for being able to “fix it” if there is a problem at city hall delegated recently on behalf of the restaurant operators, the Landmark Group that operate the Ancaster Mill.

The revenue to the city from the leases of the restaurant with the 40 parking spaces is not insubstantial – it amounts to: The tenant lease revenue for the last three years is as follows:

2011       $308,553

2010       $301,088

2009       $246,453


Let’s see what they come up with at the city council meeting July 3rd.



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