Randy Noye was armed with a binder filled with documents on his proposal for the old Maplewood Manor property when he attended a public discussion on the property Wednesday night. He said he was prepared to spend money on fixing up the building so that he could attract tenants.
Eric McCarthy/Journal Pioneer
ALBERTON -- A chorus of “Develop it!” brought a 65-minute public discussion on the old Maplewood Manor to a close Wednesday night in Alberton.
More than 40 Alberton and area residents attended the meeting which was organized by Alberton Town Councilor Natasha Dunn. The meeting was in response to an Alberton Town Council decision on September 17 to ask government to have the vacant building demolished. A provincial government official advised a developer the next day that his offer would not be accepted.
That developer, Randy Noye, who resides just outside of Alberton, told the Wednesday night crowd that he had intended to rent out the basement area of the old manor’s C-wing for heated storage units and that he would have carried out improvements to the exterior of the building immediately. He said he was buying the building largely on spec.
“What’s that word? ‘You build it and they will come?’ Well, that’s what my intent was. The intent was to fix up the outside of the building with the hopes that, on spec, I could get people interested enough to move into the building, but that was going to take some money to get there and I was prepared to do that,” Noye said.
“I really don’t want to see this manor be taken down. It’s a good building, and it’s a building this town could certainly use,” he commented.
He told of putting an offer in on the building in May when government was close to moving ahead with demolition, how he went through the lengthy process of negotiating with government officials and revising his offer and of being confident the deal was close to moving forward until he learned of letters from Mayor Michael Murphy asking for the building to be demolished.
Councilors Dunn and David Campbell both said they had been unaware the mayor was requesting demolition.
Dunn reviewed how a motion during the September monthly meeting of council passed unanimously in support of sending a letter to government in support of developing the property and how a special meeting was held the following week during which a motion rescinding the previous week’s motion and one supporting demolition passed on a 4-3 score.
Only the three councilors who voted against the special meeting motions were in attendance for Wednesday’s discussion.
Former councilor Shane Gillis defended the mayor and suggested the outcome of the votes might have been different if council was given some knowledge of who was making the proposal.
“If they would have known that you were developing it, I’m almost positive they would have helped you out as much as they could,” Gillis suggested.
Noye said a confidentiality agreement was in place at that time and only expired when he was informed his offer was not being accepted.
Noye said the town would probably have been in position to earn up to $10,000 a year through property taxes if he had been allowed to develop the property.
“There’s not a developer in P.E.I. that’s going to come into Alberton to build a 40,000 square foot building. Not on spec. He’s not going to do it. You’ve got it here now. Why don’t you hold onto it?” Noye wondered.
“It doesn’t make economic sense to tear it down and throw it away.”
Asked about all the various issues with the building that the property manager for the Province mentioned during the special council meeting, Noye said those don’t matter. What mattered, he argued, was that he was aware of the work that was needed to be done and was prepared to invest.
“The structure of that building is really sound,” he added.
“Why are they saying, ‘tear it down’?” one resident asked.
“That’s the question,” was Noye’s response.
David Gordon pointed to the former John Deere building in town that was repurposed for different tenants. “Here’s another chance we have to do the same thing with the manor.”
“The potentials are endless. You can go on and on with what to do with that manor. Just don’t let them tear it down. That’s my take on it,” Noye said.
While Noye was non-committal on whether he’d put in a new offer, he conceded maybe there is some other developer who, in light of all the publicity the building has generated, might be interested in taking a look at the building before a demolition crew is called in.