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By: Russ Severnuk

The start of a new chapter

Over the summer of 2013 the Municipality of Grey Highlands had one of its biggest challenges ever to overcome. Possibly even larger than the fire at Chapman's Ice Cream back in September of 2009 that could have put more than 400 people out of work permanently. After falling prey to the previous owners shenanigans whereby they promised to redeem their back taxes that stopped the tax auction last December. And then there were no bids from a tax sale last March on the Talisman resort property, the Municipality was still holding the bag on a $2.4M+ outstanding tax bill and had no buyers to show for their work. Beyond that fiasco, moving forward this amount of unpaid taxes was only going to grow. In addition, the water system that was built with the resort in mind was now being paid for by the local residences of the Amik subdivision and the town of Kimberley and they are steaming mad about the high costs of water. It was clear the Owners of the resort were not willing or able to redeem their back tax debt and it seemed hopeless to expect them to start trying to become current.

What to do? What to do? There didn't seem to be many options and as the town went to sleep knowing there were no bidders on the resort from the last tax sale attempt, someone decided to try and burn the resort down. Give credit to the fire department as they rushed to the scene and were able to extinguish the flames before they could get out of control. So now they had a dormant resort that could not pay taxes, and it was full of smoke and fire damage. Ahh, but there is a Silver lining here, albeit small, it finally gave the municipality the right to access the property as they were now into an arson investigation and they had reason to cordon off the property for safety reasons. All good news in the long run for the Municipality and the tax payers as they are now able to formulate a plan.

However, before we get to the plan, it's important to know the status and condition of the property. Back in March during the second attempt to sell the resort lands, the south and north parcels were successful in being moved. The north part which

was a later acquisition for the resort didn't really have a large impact on the resort while the south 50 acres was host to all the large storage and workshop buildings. Housing the groomers, golf carts, mowers and utility vehicles, this is an integral part that will be missed moving forward. The main resort area encompassing over 250 acres has been left to Mother Nature resulting in the demise of the golf course and tennis courts. Any rehabilitation will require starting from scratch if there is ever to be another place in the valley to hit a ball. New tee boxes, fairways and greens will be required along with the irrigation systems. As for the ski hills, Mother Nature has much less impact from a visual standpoint however the equipment required to run winter slope sports is all but toast. The chairlifts which should have been upgraded 10 years ago will likely not pass any further safety checks as well the snow making equipment has either been removed, sold off or possibly damaged by freezing over the past two winters. And of course there are the three main buildings that have stood proud for decades and now sit in ruin. We've been advised that the original hotel, front office building was flooded and possibly sat for over a year with water in the basement. This has led to a mold problem of mass proportions. Once able to enter the building, it was determined no one could re-enter without hazmat suits and breathing apparatus. We're told the black mold is from floor to ceiling throughout the first and possibly the second floors. The newest building in the middle is apparently salvageable but it also has been used by every low life in the area as a party/drug house. Vandalized with most windows and doors either broken or left open to the elements since the resort was abandoned by its past owners two years ago, it's in pretty rough shape. That's not to say it can't be saved. Then there's the south building, known as the club house for golf and skiing, it will also take some work to bring it back to life but it's possible with the right investment to re-open and start driving some form of business. So that's what the Municipality is faced with. Now back to the plan.

The Municipality had a few choices to ponder, do nothing and just let the property deteriorate even further into the depths of ruin. Follow up on a proposal from the old owners to keep control and try and get it back on its feet, or vest the property and take control. After much consideration the Municipality decided to vest the property knowing they will be giving up on collecting any back taxes. I guess we'll just call that the purchase price. Now that the Municipality has vested the property, they are forming an Advisory Task Force to determine options moving

forward. Come back and visit this page and I will keep you updated with a weekly/monthly journal. Until then, please feel free to email me you're your comments and or questions to Til next time, enjoy the fall.

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