No township loan for Williamstown Fair

Wearing yellow shirts, members of the Williamstown Fair board sit in the gallery prior to the South Glengarry council meeting Monday, Aug. 22, 2017. Board President Hamish MacDonell (back row, right) asked council to consider a $100,000 loan to allow the fair to expand. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

LANCASTER – It looks like the Williamstown Fair will have to look elsewhere for money or give up on a plan to buy land for expanding its site.

South Glengarry council voted last week to deny a $100,000 loan to the Williamstown Fair board of directors to grow the footprint of Canada’s oldest non-interrupted fair.

The board wanted to buy 4.8 acres from a private landowner to grow the current site of 13 acres.

The loan would have been for 10 years, repayable with interest.

While the fair board is financially sound, getting a loan from a bank would have restricted its ability to use money in its accounts to cover any operational shortages. A financial institution would have secured the board’s assets as collateral, according to the board.

Councillors voted unanimously, feeling that loaning the money would set a bad precedent and would leave the township in a difficult position when it came to rezoning land it had covered financially.

“It’s one of the last residential lots in Williamstown so it would be nice to have a young family move there. We’re not a bank, as much as I love the Williamstown Fair, I wasn’t satisfied with the answer (on future land use),” Coun. Trevor Bougie said.

During a presentation to council, the board didn’t spell out exactly what the future use would be for the land, but hinted at parking.

“I have a lot of respect for the board (but) the municipality is not in the loan business. My concern is with setting a precedent…more people would be lining up at the door,” Coun. Lyle Warden added.

“I believe it would open a can of worms to other groups that are in the community,” Deputy Mayor Frank Prevost said.

Staff estimate the private property, which will likely be sold for development, could generate $5,000 a year in taxes in the future.

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