Some in Vittoria won’t like it, but Norfolk County has agreed to license the old town hall building in Vittoria to a wedding and event planner based in Lynedoch.
Norfolk council approved the arrangement Tuesday as a followup to a decision in January, 2019, to strike public-private agreements for the management of some county facilities.
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“I’ve got a lot of calls about this,” Vittoria Coun. Chris VanPaassen told council June 15.
“It’s the heart and soul of that little hamlet. Once in a while you have to try to do something different because you can’t carry on doing it the way we’ve been doing it.
“My biggest fear is that – at some point – there are going to be members sitting around the council table and they will just walk away from that building and it will be gone forever. Whether this is the best option or not, it is an option. We can keep the building there, we can keep that heritage there, we can get some upgrades to it, we can get use out of it.
“We can write enough clauses (into the licensing agreement) that – if it doesn’t work out – we can get it back.”
The new tenant is Michelle Kloepfer, owner of the Cranberry Creek Gardens (Ames Distillery) wedding and events centre. Kloepfer responded last year to a county request for expressions of interest regarding the joint management of community halls and recreational facilities.
Some in Vittoria are displeased that the old town hall will be put to new uses. During the public consultation phase, concerns were expressed about loss of community access, the serving of alcohol, traffic and parking issues, noise and alterations to the building’s heritage features.
On May 10, Kloepfer was host to a community teleconference during which she explained her intentions. Nearly 60 people registered.
Kloepfer said she is interested in working with the community to ensure that traditional access to the property remains.
As for alterations, she said the hall’s kitchen and washrooms require work to bring them up to institutional standards.
Many in Vittoria shared reservations about the strategy Norfolk has adopted.
“I am concerned about the parking, the shuttle drop-off and pickup, the noise to adjacent owners, (and) rude and disorderly partygoers who may be drinking,” Shondra Faulkner said in an email to the county.
“It is my understanding that one of the only problems that have occurred so far at the town hall was when people were drinking and not supposed to be. I have not seen an event yet where alcohol was served at town hall.”
Norfolk Mayor Kristal Chopp has responded to some of these concerns.
“We are trying to find ways to put our many halls back on a solid footing in order to ensure their future viability,” the mayor said in an email to one resident. “All of these facilities are aging and require significant capital repairs in addition to their operating costs.
“This is one possible solution. If it doesn’t work, then we can always pivot and look to another.”
Delhi Coun. Mike Columbus said council has an obligation to follow through on legitimate, viable proposals given that the county asked for them in the first place.
“I think this is a very good proposal,” Columbus said. “We asked for partnerships with some of our community facilities. We got one. This is going to create synergies in Vittoria.”