Cornwallis losing grocery store after rent soars 550%
A family run grocery store in Cornwallis is making plans to close after the Annapolis County council said it was raising the rent by 550 per cent with just over two weeks notice.
"It's not an increase that you can deal with in any kind of short period," said John Cameron, a lawyer representing Cornwallis ValuFoods and its owner, Cathy Graves.
"It's an increase that is substantially above the profit level obtained from the business."
The grocery store set up shop three years ago, at the request of the county. At the time, the military base had closed and Cornwallis was struggling.
Now, the community has rebuilt as a business park and residential community — one that may soon lose its local source for groceries, said Cameron.
"If this position has been going on for two and a half, three years, why does it have to be corrected in two weeks?" asked Cameron.
But officials from Annapolis County maintain that they haven't jacked the price.
"It's a five-year contract that itemizes escalations in the rent," said Brenda Orchard, CAO for the county.
Orchard said the owners told the county they couldn't pay more than $5,000 and the county agreed to give them a temporary break so they could pay off their power bill. Which they did.
The county also ordered a market assessment of the property, which came out to a minimum of $8 per square foot. Their current contract calls for $6, and $500 a month equals to $1.09 per square foot.
"Council has made the decision to follow the lease agreement and that's it," said County Warden Reg Ritchie.
Provincial law doesn't allow municipalities to charge less than market value and the county now says the store owners must pay up according to the contract.
Cameron said the county needs to be more realistic, or the store will close on Dec. 1. He said the owners are willing to sit down and negotiate a new agreement.
At least 12 people work at the store.