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Beach parking lot future debated

Michel Forest

Co-owners of the parking lot, Lawrence Russin (left) and Kevin Bochurka.

Co-owners of the parking lot, Lawrence Russin (left) and Kevin Bochurka.

The future of a major parking lot in Winnipeg Beach is in question.

Winnipeg Beach area residents Lawrence Russin and Kevin Bochurka appeared before Town of Winnipeg Beach council at its last regular meeting on May 8 to discuss the situation surrounding the parking lot located at 40 Hamilton Avenue adjacent to the Rec Centre.

For the past dozen years or so, the Town of Winnipeg Beach and owners Russin-Bochurka have maintained a verbal agreement concerning the property wherein the Town of Winnipeg Beach has assumed responsibility for paying all taxes (municipal and school) on said property in return for being able to use it year-round as free parking for anyone who visits Winnipeg Beach or attends events at the Rec Centre, Legion hall or curling club, etc.

“It is unreasonable for us to let the town use the lot without us incurring any profit whatsoever on our investment, “ Russin said, adding that “We originally acquired the property as an investment that we eventually wanted to develop for the betterment of the town.”

Russin continued by saying that “The present situation is un-businesslike and unrealistic, and if the town is not prepared to negotiate a proper agreement, you leave us no choice,” hinting at the possibility that the two owners were prepared to fence off their property, thereby effectively ending the tacit agreement in place with the Town of Winnipeg Beach.

The taxes that the town is currently paying on that property amount to a total of approximately $2,200 each year, a burden that is currently being shouldered by Winnipeg Beach taxpayers.

“We looked at the overall cost of the taxes and decided it was too high, and so we sent a proposal to the owners that we will be willing to pay the municipal portion of the taxes on the property going forward, and that from now on they would be responsible for the school tax portion of it,” Mayor Tony Pimentel told the Spectator during a post-meeting interview.

“Our lot cannot be compared to the one beside the post office,” said Kevin Bochurka, as that lot is also used by the Town of Winnipeg Beach to provide free parking in town during the busy summer months. “Ours has a packed surface, and can be used all year round. We are wasting our time talking here if we can’t have a written agreement. Otherwise, we will fence off the lot.”

What Russin and Bochurka proposed in their counter-proposal to Beach council was that the town would continue to pay all taxes as well as an additional 20 per cent of that total (including on any year-over-year increases) to them as owners of the lot. That would in effect bring the total cost for the town’s access to that parking lot at nearly $2,700 per year, again paid for by Beach ratepayers.

To which Coun. Carry responded: “That kind of increase in the cost is very high, you just don’t see that in any other cost increases to other businesses. Maybe five per cent, or something like that, but certainly not 20 per cent.”

Mayor Tony Pimentel then said that the whole situation was being approached in the wrong way, that perhaps the two parties should instead leave the taxes out of the equation and come to an agreement on a straightforward lease, which means that responsibility for the taxes would revert back to the co-owners of the property.

Russin said that the two owners were open to a five-year lease, with the possibility of opting out of the agreement if an opportunity to develop the property should come along.

Pimentel concluded the delegation’s presentation by saying that the town would respond in more detail to the counter-proposal made by the owners.

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