BEAVER BANK: Two local councillors have no will to see a CFL stadium built in Shannon Park if it means HRM writing a cheque and taxpayers being what they see as unduly impacted.
Lisa Blackburn, the municipal representative for Middle-Upper Sackville-Lucasville-Beaver Bank, and Waverley-Fall River-Musquodoboit Valley representative Steve Streatch were asked for their reaction to the proposal from Schooners Sport & Entertainment (SSE) that is now before HRM staff.
The proposal details a site-specific development that includes a stadium and a commercial district. It was initially received by the municipality on Aug. 30, with the latest version of its proposal being received Sept. 17. It followed some initial questions and requests for clarification by municipal staff, said CAO Jacques Dube in a statement.
Blackburn said it will be a lot to balance for HRM staff in parsing it all done. She said she will wait and see what staff recommends with regards to the numbers game, but does like parts of it.
“I do like the fact they have given us five options to consider,” she said on Oct. 1. “From the very start, I’ve said I’m not in favour of handing over cash, so I will be looking at options that don’t involve HRM writing a cheque or operating a stadium.
“The thought of loan guarantees scares me, so I need more clarification from staff on what level of risk would be involved.”
Streatch said the email that Dube sent out last week did not provide enough in-depth information or context for him to offer an opinion at this point.
“I support the concept of a stadium, but have no interest in exposing the taxpayers to undue risk, or potential long term liability,” he said.
The SSE proposal assumes that some or all the funds for the municipality’s financial support would be generated from a tax incremental financing (TIF) model. As part of the Oct. 30, 2018 motion by Regional Council, the TIF model was identified as a potential means for the municipality to secure funding for the debt financing of a stadium.
Five funding options are outlined in the SSE proposal regarding the manner (timing, mechanism, etc.) in which the municipality may consider using the funds generated from the TIF to contribute to the stadium.
Option #1: Maximum Financial Contribution of $2M Per Year Over the Term of the Loan with TIF Revenue Going Directly to SSE
Option #2: Upfront Cash Payment
Option #3: Smaller Upfront Cash Payment with Committed Cash Payments over the Term of the Loan
Option #4: Loan Guarantee
Option #5: Sliding Scale of Committed Cash Payments
In an interview on The Rick Howe Show on Sept. 30, Bedford councillor Tim Outhit said he had a lot of concerns with the current proposal as it is.
“If I had to vote tomorrow, I would not be accepting any of these options… There is too much risk being shifted on the public.”
Blackburn said if a vote was held today, she wouldn’t have enough information to make a decision.
The five options on the table all come with pros and cons, said Blackburn. “Maybe the solution is a combination of all of them.”
Streatch said it would be hypothetical for him to say how he would vote today because that is not the case.
“I never answer hypothetical questions,” he said. There will be much discussion over the next while, and Council will set the stage moving forward.”
But for Blackburn, her concerns don’t end there.
“I also worry about the services needed to support a stadium district,” she said. “Would it mean delaying projects in District 14 that have been on the books for years? I don’t know if I can justify that”
She said she is definitely not anti-stadium, even if that is the appearance people may get from her responses.
“The romantic side of me loves the thought of driving over the MacKay Bridge and seeing the Shannon Park area transformed, but the realistic side has real concerns about the location and the risk to HRM taxpayers,” said Blackburn.