Gravenhurst council has carried a motion to allow the Highway 11 Muskoka Visitor Centre to terminate their lease agreement early, and without penalty. The Centre plans to close its doors on November 1.
Muskoka Tourism Marketing Agency (MTMA) has operated the Visitor Centre on Highway 11 since 1996, through a lease agreement with the District of Muskoka for the use of the building.
A similar lease agreement between the Town of Gravenhurst and the District exists for the use of the land, which is owned by the Town. The land has a cemetery, public trail system and environmental features. Both leases are for a 99-year term.
In August, the MTMA requested the Town allow the early lease termination without financial penalty.
Mayor Paul Kelly explained that the closure is “simply because they do not get the traffic they used to, with social media. It has changed the use of this facility, so they came forward to discuss the need for a bricks-and-mortar building and are coming at this from a new perspective.”
The tentative plan is to use office space at the airport, said Kelly.
At the Sept. 20 Committee of the Whole Meeting, CAO Scott Lucas presented a report on the Centre with options for Council on how to proceed with the lease termination.
He recommended option 1, which was to agree to no financial penalty for early termination and with a timeline of April 1, 2023 in order to allow for a building condition assessment to be completed. The report says “the lease agreement does envision eventual building ownership by the Town, and that it be transferred in a state of “’good repair’.”
Lucas said that staff “did a preliminary walkaround and decided a further assessment was warranted, to look at a few areas, including the sewage system. Quite a bit of due diligence is needed before staff will terminate or make a plan for any necessary remediation.”
This option also gives time for “consultation with the Ministry of Transportation to gauge their interest in the site, if any, and to gain an understanding of what limitations there may be on the property/building given the planned (but unbudgeted) highway realignment.”
Council voted to carry the motion to proceed with option 1.
The next meeting will be held December 20, following municipal elections and the forming of a new council.
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