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Russ's Rant: The Property Known Formerly as "Talisman"

By: Russell Severnuk


Another chapter begins…..
Yes it’s been a while since I last mentioned Talisman in this newsletter but as apart of the Municipality of Grey Highlands task force to revitalize the property, we were asked to keep a lid on things.  Now that we’ve completed our project and made our recommendations to council, I thought it would be nice to bring you up to speed.  Since early December, myself and 6 other people who own property in Grey Highlands have met on a weekly basis to discuss how the municipality should deal with the property now that they own it.  The meeting began with a flurry of ideas for the property including all the obvious choices around skiing, golf and the hotel services.  However as we moved forward we learned the municipality was not in any position to rebuild and or operate it.  The financials were just not there and it would be impossible to put this burden on the tax payers across Grey Highlands.  I think most of us realized this going in, but we had to start somewhere and the list was quite extensive with some great ideas.  However with the knowledge that the municipality could not fix or run it, we began a process that I feel was quite worthy of our time and energy.  Everyone on the task force brought a different perspective whereby we kept challenging each other to bring even greater ideas to the table.  We came up with three guiding principles and four categories to incorporate into these guiding principles.  As a group, we met with different authorities to determine our options including the NEC, conservation Authority and the county planners.  We also went out to the general public for their input with two open forums, one in Flesherton and the other in Kimberley.  From these forums were able to confirm we were going in the right direction. 
The three guiding principals were based on the premise that area residence should be able to take advantage of this property in one form or another. 

  1. Quality of life.  The property should be developed to provide activities that will improve the quality of life for the tax payers and guests of Grey Highlands.
  2. The property should be developed with an economic benefit to the tax payers and the municipality itself.  These would include the addition of jobs and tax revenues.
  3. Public use, the operation of the property should provide an element that allows the tax payer to enjoy the services provided on and around the property to improve our quality of life.  This could include but not be limited to recreational activities, dinning privileges, use of accommodations and spa services should they be on the property.     

With these guiding principles in place we went on to determine the best use of the property over the long haul.  We came up with four uses, Conservation area, this was discussed but in the end it was determined this concept would not create the economic environment the property requires to keep up with its tax burden nor would it supply enough employment opportunities.  An educational application was discussed and it could work but may eliminate the Quality of life principal.  With our demographics being two fold, one being retires and the other primarily second residence, an education facility may not have any benefit to the local tax payers.  The third is that of a “Recreation Hub” which if developed in such ways to provide a four season recreation facility could cover all the basis.  This concept could take many forms including a non-profit or maybe a foundation direction.  It could include accommodations, further development and food services.  Finally the task force thought a full service resort could provide all the guiding principles along with further development and spin off business. 

Ultimately the task force and almost everyone interviewed and those who submitted their points of view all wanted the property returned to some form of operating business that will benefit the entire area.  While the municipality can’t afford to move a project forward, it’s our recommendation that they at least do their best to provide “Stewardship” of the lands and activities that eventually operate on the property.  So the bottom line is the Municipality simply cannot keep, manage nor operate the facilities on the property in its current state.  They could form a partnership or lease the property but I feel anyone looking at this level of investment would want total control and not be held ransom after putting in 20 Million dollars plus.  In my humble opinion, I believe the municipality will have to find a buyer for the property and hopefully will have some say as to what the property becomes. 

This is where we all come in.  While you’re sitting in front of some type of device reading this, think of how you can contribute to the end product.  Maybe you have a business contact, friend or neighbour who has the wherewithal to pull this off.  Maybe it’s going to be a group of individuals or companies that want to turn this into something special.  There is a great deal of long term value for all of us in this project and it would be great if we came up with the solution.  Please send me an email or call with your thoughts…... I would love to hear from you!



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