The Hanlon Business Park is a $40 million economic failure

Posted January 31,2014

After seven years and $40 million later, the city-owned Hanlon Business Park is almost vacant. The city has dumped millions in the project with only a smidgen of return for its investment.

Peter Cartwright, general manager of economic development, who is responsible for attracting businesses to set up shop in the city, admitted before council: ”I don’t think we’re setting the world on fire.”

You have to give him credit for honest understatement.

Coun. Bob Bell revealed the $40 million number during a proposal to lower the development charges (DC) on industrial projects from $12.27 per square foot to a new blended rate of $9.09. This rate would apply to both industrial and commercial/institutional development.

An amendment proposed by Coun. Cam Guthrie would set the industrial development charges rate at $6.54 a square foot and $12.61 for commercial/institutional development. It was supported by Coun. Bob Bell, Jim Furfaro and Leanne Piper but was defeated by the Farbridge majority.

Cartwright, said that the old rate of 12.27 was hard to manage because the category of development seemed to confuse the staff when processing. What did they do? Flip a coin?

The real problem exists within the management of the economic development department.  In seven years, of  “not setting the world on fire,” the industrial commercial assessment ratio has not budged above 16 per cent of all city assessment. That is not a ringing endorsement of a department and its manager.

Further, by dropping the DC rate that is still higher than the surrounding municipalities, does nothing to encourage new development in the park. Remember the Maple Leaf foods proposal? Well, that project went south and is now settled in Puslinch adjacent to Guelph and the Hanlon Park.

In seven years if this administration is unable to attract businesses to a developed park designed to create assessment and jobs, do you really believe the same players will accomplish it in the next four years?

This is yet another example of wasteful spending by a council trusting a staff to do its job. All they can do is make excuses while the citizens see the indebtedness on this project continue to escalate.

 

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8 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

8 responses to “The Hanlon Business Park is a $40 million economic failure

  1. Boomer

    Peter Cartwright –another fat salary going to waste.

  2. Glen N. Tolhurst

    Finally, a councilor, who is not part of the mayor’s gang, stands up and points out a gross financial blunder. How will the “gang” react? Will Cartwright be “thrown under the bus”? Will they circle the wagons and take shots at Councilor Bob Bell? Will they blandly ignore it hoping that the stench blows over before the election?
    How long before the electorate kicks out the “gang that couldn’t shoot straight”? $53 m on waste mismanagement and now $40m here. What other skeletons are in the closet? Who on council has the guts to open the closet door? October civic elections can’t come too soon.

  3. DAVID BIRTWISTLE

    I find it most interesting that this virtually vacant City-owned land has been outfitted with sidewalks yet the pedestrians using WOODLAWN RD.W.,with few short exceptions,must walk along this busy thoroughfare through mounds of snow yet the City indicates that this is because there were different criteria used in the development of this mainly industrial/commercial roadway-how many years have past yet naught is being done to give pedestrians a safe off-road means of walking? david.birtwistle@sympatico.ca industrial/commercial

  4. Pat

    Does anyone know if this business park had the infrastructure put in place for a centralized heating/cooling system like the one being installed downtown?

  5. DAVID BIRTWISTLE

    I’d lay odds that the same individuals who were anti-WALMARTists are also the ones that have been against residential development except,of course,for condos in the “Downtown”,an area so dear to them and expensive to the rest of us especially when you trace the many millions of dollars in subsidization provided by the rest of the City taxpayers!!!
    david.birtwistle@sympatico.ca

  6. Whitney

    I think one of the major factors in the lack of development can be credited to the restricted zoning by-laws in the area. The city of Guelph is famous for extremely strict zoning regulations. Seeing how this park was designed for businesses, it seems fitting to allow those citizens of Guelph to capitalize and revitalize their companies within such an exciting new development. I am speaking for those specifically in the industrial service sector, who have been cast aside and rounded up in the city’s North end. Some leniency with zoning could do great things for many small business owners in our city!

    • Whitney: During the election campaign I spoke with a number of established industrial business owners. Almost universally, they complained about the city’s bureaucracy that was inconsistent, uncooperative and difficult to deal with.

      The Hanlon Business Park is still a huge failure. Last year there was discussion to build town homes on the site. That gives some indication that the former administration was getting desperate as it could not attract new businesses to the site. The reason was the price they put on the land. Asking some $325,000 an acre when your competition in Milton and Kitchener-Waterloo offer city-owned industrial lands for under $100,000, is a recipe for stupidity. If that price was set to liquidate the $40 million cost of building the park, then there is evidence of poor planning and design and cost controls on the part of the former administration.

      One thing is certain, that infamous occupation of the park under construction by anarchists, determined to stop the project using the cause of saving a rare species of salamander. Testing by provincial authorities found no evidence of the salamander. The result was a year’s delay developing the Park and damage to the contractors equipment by the occupiers. Cost to the city, more than $1 million. The irony is that newly elected Ward Four Coun. Mike Salisbury, who served on council at the time, warmly greeted the occupiers and praised their civic action. Now he’s back on council after being defeated in 2010.

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