What’s for Sale In Ben Eoin?

As you no doubt recall, when ECBC ceased to exist and its employees were absorbed by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) in 2014, its properties went to Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) to be sold, following Treasury Board guidelines that say the federal government should own only property necessary for program delivery.Ben Eoin Marina

Here’s a quick update on what’s for sale:

First, 15 of the 16 lots that make up the Aerie Estates, a hilltop development above the Ben Eoin golf course and ski hill. They range in size from roughly one to roughly three acres, were originally expected to sell for between $70,000 and $100,000 and are now on the block for between $50,000 and $70,000. (Or you can buy them all 15 for $525,000).


Protecting Our Investment

Next, the land on which the Ben Eoin Marina stands. Not the marina itself — and here, I have to confess to a misunderstanding. When I read the 30 November 2012 Cape Breton Post story headlined, “Ben Eoin Marina will belong to ECBC,” I thought they meant that, you know, the marina would belong to ECBC. I think it was an easy mistake to make. Here’s an excerpt from the story:

Taxpayer money spent on a Ben Eoin marina is protected through the ownership arrangement with the project proponent, says an Enterprise Cape Breton Corp. Official.

Gerard Shaw, ECBC director general of property development, said the Crown corporation will own the facility and lease it to a community group.

Under the funding arrangement, ECBC takes ownership of the marina and leases it back to Ben Eoin Marina Ltd. on a long-term basis. If the group is unable to operate the facility, ECBC would take control of it…

ECBC determined that taking ownership of the marina and leasing it to the group would provide the best security for its investment, [Sydney lawyer and Ben Eoin Marina Ltd director Robert Sampson said.

‘They were quite conscious of the size of the investment they were making, there’s been tonnes and tonnes of investments made in things with similar ratios and lots of them are here and gone now, but from ECBC’s point of view, a lot of those investments they’re making in some kind of private business,’ he said.

‘It’s a community initiative so to make sure that it doesn’t get sold or that it doesn’t get mortgaged up to the point where a bank can come in and foreclose, that was the best way for them to make the investment and at the same time from their point of view provide a level of protection.’

Not unreasonable to believe that taking “ownership of the marina” meant “taking ownership of the marina,” right? Only it didn’t. I wrote to PSPC to ask about the marina sale and here’s what senior communications advisor Shalon McLachlan told me:

In response to your enquiry, the surplus portfolio transferred to Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) in June 2014 from Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation (ECBC) includes the land on which the Ben Eoin marina was constructed.

The marina building and associated infrastructure are owned and operated by Ben Eoin Marina Ltd., the not-for profit group that operate the marina. [emphasis mine]

Prior to its dissolution, on December 22, 2011, ECBC entered into a 50 year land lease (with an option to renew for 50 years) for $1 per year with Ben Eoin Marina Ltd. The lease was transferred to PSPC in June 2014, which must honour its terms and conditions.

The department is currently considering its options for this property, including selling the land. If sold, any future land owner would be required to honour the terms and conditions of the lease to allow the marina to continue its operations.

I guess, in retrospect, it was silly to think that ECBC would take ownership of the actual marina, but doesn’t it sound like that’s what they were hoping people would believe?

Shaw told the Post in 2016 that he fully expects to have talks with Ben Eoin Marina Ltd or Ben Eoin Recreation Ltd about taking over the land lease as well.


Monitoring the Investment

Finally, there’s the question of ECBC’s equity stake in The Lakes Golf Club. Here’s the story on that, according to ACOA spokesman Alex  Smith:

In 2006, the Cape Breton Growth Fund took a $3 million equity investment in The Lakes Golf Course.

In 2008, the equity increased to $3.5 million.

On April 1, 2008, the Cape Breton Growth Fund was disbanded and Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation (ECBC) took over the equity investment in The Lakes Golf Course. In June 2014, with the dissolution of ECBC, ACOA became responsible for economic development files in Cape Breton. This includes the equity investment in The Lakes Golf Course.

ACOA continues to monitor the investment.