St. Paul Undecided on Empty Lot

There is an empty lot located just west of the People’s Museum Society. Currently, the lot is being rented by Zarowny Motors, and is used as a staff parking lot and occasionally as a parking area for service vehicles. Late last year, the Museum expressed interest in obtaining the lot for their own purposes. But Zarowny Motors expressed concerns about potentially losing the rented lot, and offered to buy it outright.

On Monday night, representatives from both the Museum and Zarowny Motors presented delegations to Council regarding the lot, and how they would use it.

A total of nine representatives from the Museum were present. Speaking on their behalf were Clem Fontaine and Thomasina Hatch.

Fontaine explained that if they had possession of the empty lot, they would use it for storage of equipment, and alluded to placing an unnamed and unspecified historical building or structure on the land.

“But we wouldn’t be doing this right away, and we aren’t here to try to get into a fight or an argument,” Fontaine said. “Zarowny Motors have been nothing but excellent the whole time they’ve rented the lot, and have always been great supporters of the Museum. We would be more than willing to work with them and negotiate an extended timetable that suits all parties.”

Hatch stressed that Museum staff, volunteers, and guests are “stewards and caretakers of our local heritage,” and that preserving the history of St. Paul is a vital undertaking.

Bill Buryn and Amanda Zarowny Pawlyk spoke for Zarowny Motors, whose interest in the lot is extremely practical.

“We have over 50 staff coming to our facility every single day, and that’s before we even mention customers,” Buryn said. “We use that lot for parking staff vehicles, service vehicles, and extra inventory. The loss of that lot would cause a lot of havoc.”

Pawlyk explained that without that area for staff to park, they would have to begin to park in residential areas; a situation that they would not want to impose on surrounding neighbourhoods. “We really are landlocked right where we are, and that lot is critical in our day-to-day operation.”

After hearing both delegations, Council deliberated and discussed the situation. Councillor Norm Noel, who is also a sales consultant at Zarowny Motors, recused himself of the discussion, citing conflict of interest. Mayor Maureen Miller stated that both sides presented logical and persuasive arguments and that it was very difficult to make a decision.

Finally, Councillor Ron Boisvert suggested that rather than rushing to a decision, that Council take time to think on the matter. “Why don’t we conduct a site visit at the location, with both parties? Then we can actually see it for ourselves and talk about the intended uses.” There was also some confusion about exactly what parts of that land are currently being rented by Zarowny Motors, what parts belong to the Musuem, and what parts belong to the Ag Society. Councillor Boisvert pointed out that a visit to the property would allieviate that confusion.

Council agreed, and the matter was tabled until an on-site visit can be completed. Discussions will resume at the Council Meeting on March 11, 2019.

JD Schmidt

JD is a reporter who works with Lakeland Connect to bring you the most reliable and honest news that he possibly can. He understands the effective combination of accurate reporting and fine journalistic writing.