TORONTO—One of Manitoulin’s most storied pieces of property has been in legal limbo for years, as the Michael’s Bay property containing the old Michael’s Bay townsite still has a caution on title, although reports that the property had been seized on behalf of the Belgian government have been proven to be inaccurate.
An email from Public Works and Government Services Canada case officer Danielle Pilon to local historical activist Doug Tracy of Little Current recently confirmed the properties’ status. “Please be informed that the property is still under a restraint and management order. No offer to purchase has been approved by the SPMD (Seized Property Management Directorate) pursuant to the terms of the restraint and management order dated 27 September 2005 by the Superior Court of Justice in London, Ontario,” she wrote. “The owners of the property are still the Vandroemme family and Eso Agri Canada Inc. I hope this clarifies the issue.”
JM Pellerin, the developer who represents a group who have made an offer to purchase the property, said that he hoped to hear back from the SPMD some time in the next week. “The property title has always shown the Vandroemmes as being the owners,” he said. “What is on title is a caution by the Government of Canada.”
What that means in practical terms is that any transfer of the property would need to be signed off on by both the Vandroemme family, the company and the Canadian government in order to move forward.
Mr. Pellerin said that he had difficulty understanding the position of the government on the property. “The funds from any sale of the property goes into a trust fund,” he said. “You would think that the government would prefer that they hold the money instead of having to manage a property.”
The impact of the convoluted control of management of the property has led to severe deterioration of the site, particularly the Royal Michael’s Bay Restaurant, which was forced to close due to leaking and water damage over last winter. “The manager had told SPMD that if something wasn’t done there would be grave consequences,” said Mr. Pellerin. In the wake of that missive, the owners of the property apparently received an email from SPMD indicating that the government would soon be entertaining competitive bids on the property despite the offer to purchase made by Mr. Pellerin’s group.
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At peak operation, the restaurant employs as many as a dozen workers, noted Mr. Pellerin. Those workers have been unable to report to work due to the state of the restaurant facility.
“There are all kinds of people who will be employed in the development of the property as well,” said Mr. Pellerin. “I don’t understand why the government would want to stand in the way of that happening.” To create that needed local employment, he contends, the government does not have to do anything. “They just have to get out of the way,” he said. “We want to expand on what is there to make it economically viable and sustainable.”
In the meantime, Mr. Tracy has vowed to continue his battle to ensure the historical Michael’s Bay townsite and its graveyards are preserved from development.
Mr. Pellerin is on record as promising to respect any proven graveyard on the property and as to the townsite’s future, he has also been clear. “Make us an offer,” he said.