An issue that has plagued town councils for decades finally has a resolution. Construction will begin soon on public washrooms and vestibule at 1130 Canyon St., between 11th and 12th Avenue.
“This just kind of fell into our laps,” said Mayor Ron Toyota. “It was part of our plan when we acquired this property, but this plan provides a win-win for everyone.”
The property, which still carries a sign for the former Snippers hair salon, was acquired two years ago in a tax sale. The owner, a Calgary speculator who acquired a large number of local commercial properties a decade ago, had failed to keep property taxes — and the building itself — current.
After discussions fell through with another prospective buyer, local residents Ralph Casemore and Tanya Wall put together a proposal of their own. Wary of becoming embroiled in anything suggesting a conflict of interest (Wall is the Regional District of Central Kootenay Area B director and a former town councillor), town staff consulted with lawyers, then turned the public process over to Creston notary public Lorne Mann.
An advertisement in the Creston Valley Advance outlined details of the proposal and invited proposals from any interested party. The ad explained that the land is now assessed at $54,200 and the building at $9,000, with the low building value reflecting “a cost to cure”, which involves extensive work to the roof and removal of asbestos and mould. By meeting the town’s requirements, a developer would get title to a portion of the property.
“When we undertook this process we had to be really careful not to be helping a business,” said town manager Lou Varela. “After legal consultations, turning the process over to Lorne Mann and advertising our requirements, there was only one proposal. Lorne Mann opened the proposal in the presence of our staff to ensure transparency.”
The proposal came from Caseline Holdings and its principal, Casemore. He and Wall are working to create a new partnership company that will undertake the project, Wall said. Last year, Casemore and Wall unveiled plans to redevelop the former Kootenay Hotel, which will become known as Casey’s Community House.
In the end, the new company will have strata title on the portion of the land and building not dedicated to the washrooms and vestibule. The Town of Creston will contribute $50,000 for the public use construction, and have strata title on that part of the property and building. The privately owned portion will be subject to commercial property tax.
“Our interest really started with an off-the-cuff discussion,” Wall said.
The former Snippers building is close to the hotel and Caseline Holdings has people trained in hazardous material abatement (a requirement for the gutting of the hotel interior).
“We love the idea of public washrooms, and someone has to do it or it won’t happen,” she said. “And it will result in the cleanup of another storefront on Canyon Street.”
Wall said the public washrooms will be at the front of the building, which will be set back about a meter from the sidewalk. A vestibule will allow for amenities like a flat screen television to show videos of Creston Valley attractions, Varela added.
While she and Casemore have no definite plans for the rest of the building, Wall said they have an advantage that other owners wouldn’t have — they own the parking lot across the alley.
“It could become office space or maybe something we don’t even foresee at this time, but it will be renovated and made ready for occupancy in the future,” she said. “We are pretty excited about this. Our gut is telling us to just go ahead and jump in with the project.”
Toyota said the public washrooms are expected to be completed in the early fall.