DCN ARCHIVES

October 10, 2006

Development

Cornwall's Domtar land sold

Speculation points to no industrial use for property

OTTAWA

In a close-knit community like Cornwall, it’s difficult to keep a secret, especially about something as important as the sale of the former Domtar paper mill property.

Paul Fitzpatrick, CAO for the City of Cornwall, confirmed the sale.

However, he said the details leave many questions unanswered.

“There is still a great deal of uncertainty about what is going to happen at that site,” says Fitzpatrick, “One of the realities of the sale is that the demolition will take place, and as I understand it, that could take up to two years.

Domtar is transferring ownership of the 120-acre property to 2113467 Ontario Inc. for $4 million. This presents two questions: who are the people behind the numbered company, and why is the purchase price so low for what is potentially prime real estate in the city’s west end?

The two parties behind the numbered company are reported to be local business men Trenholm Healy and Gerald Rose. Healy operates Healy Motors, a Ford/Lincoln-Mercury dealer that has been a part of the Cornwall business community for generations. Rose is the president of Rose Mechanical Inc., a local general contractor with expertise in, among other things, soil remediation, plant decommissioning, excavation, and civil and environmental engineering. Both parties have neither confirmed nor denied their involvement. Healy, when reached, could offer no information, but suggested contacting Raymond Lalonde, secretary-treasurer for Rose Mechanical. Attempts to reach Lalonde and Rose Mechanical were unsuccessful.

The $4 million sale price appears suspiciously low, particularly when taken into consideration the expected demolition of the bridge connecting Cornwall with the Native Territory of Akwesasne and the construction of a new low-rise bridge. This change is expected to increase property values substantially in the area.

The city’s 2005 assessment roll lists the value of the property at nearly $18 million.

The potential value of the property is tempered, however, by the cost of remediation, which is still an unknown value, but which is ultimately dependant on land use. Building condominiums on the property will require a much more stringent cleanup effort than would retail or other commercial use.

A condition of the sale is that Domtar must be consulted if the ultimate use of the property is to be residential.

“At our last council meeting, city council asked the planning department to prepare a rezoning strategy for that site, which is the first step in redefining what should happen there,” says Fitzpatrick. “Presently, it is zoned as industrial/manufacturing, and given the new low level bridge that is to be constructed, and being on the waterfront, we think there is pretty good consensus that industrial isn’t the future use of that site.”

Domtar operated a pulp and paper mill on the site for 123 years before shutting down earlier this year.

The loss of Domtar and the $50 million in wages it represented was a staggering blow to the city, but Fitzpatrick says it is good to be taking steps to move forward.

“We are a community in transition, we’re resilient, we’ve seen peaks and valleys and the key is to look at this as a positive step to a better Cornwall down the road.”

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