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Norfolk marinas not for sale – for now

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Norfolk County says it has no immediate plans to sell municipal marinas in Port Dover or Port Rowan.

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County staff has confirmed that Norfolk has received an unsolicited offer to buy one or both of the marinas. The potential buyer suggested they wanted to complete the deal in time for the 2021 boating season.

But Norfolk councillors said a marina sale isn’t going to happen anytime soon. They said municipal staff members have too much on their plate with the COVID-19 pandemic to take on the work involved with such a sale.

“With COVID going on and staff stretched to the limit, I don’t think now is the time,” said Coun. Chris VanPaassen. “I’m not saying it’s not going to happen but not in the next year or year-and-a-half.”

Norfolk CAO Jason Burgess said he is pleased to learn where council stands before devoting staff to a complicated sales process.

“I look at these unsolicited proposals as someone who is looking to make an investment in the community,” Burgess told council. “In my experience, the worst ‘no’ is the ‘long no.’ I don’t like stringing investors along.”

Burgess said that, if supported by council, a review of the county’s marina properties could be on the table in time for council’s 2022 budget deliberations.

The prospect of selling the marinas was raised in a budget report in the Feb. 16 council agenda.

“Staff would like council to provide direction on the potential sale of one or both of its marinas,” says the report from treasury staff. “These assets were part of staff’s review (of potential surplus properties). However, recent circumstances are elevating this issue.

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“Staff have been approached by members of the public looking to formally undertake an unsolicited proposal to buy one or both marinas. As such, this would be a decision that council would have to undertake in the very near future. (A) member of the public would like to purchase one marina prior to the start of the 2021 boating season.”

The report caught the attention of the Port Dover Waterfront Preservation Association, which came together in 2008 after an unsolicited proposal to purchase the Port Dover Harbour Marina. The interested party then was Alliance Homes.

On behalf of the waterfront association, secretary Marg Creighton asked Norfolk Mayor Kristal Chopp and council to proceed with “caution and care.”

“Our waterfront is more than an asset,” Creighton said in a letter. “It is truly the heart beat of our community.”

The Port Dover marina generates a profit for Norfolk, providing between $200,000 and $300,000 a year for the municipal treasury.

The marina was developed by the former City of Nanticoke in the mid-1980s. It has grown to include 458 seasonal slips and 11 transient slips.

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