Fate of Cornwallis grocery store to be debated
The future of a locally owned grocery store in Cornwallis will be the focus of a public meeting at the Clementsport Legion Wednesday night.
Annapolis County owns the building where Cornwallis ValuFoods set up shop. Last week, it sent the store notice that rent would be increasing by 550 per cent in two weeks.
The store owners said they were shocked, and their lawyer said they would have no choice but to close.
But Brenda Orchard, the CAO for the county, said it should come as no surprise. The grocery store signed a contract when it first moved into the building.
The contract spells out that rent would be $500 a month in the first year, rising incrementally to reach $2,750 in year four.
The grocers have never paid more than $500 a month.
"Council chose from March until September only to waive the full rental amount, and to reduce it to $500 a month," said Orchard.
John Cameron, the lawyer for the grocery store, said the county asked them to set up shop, and always accepted the rent.
He quoted council minutes where the council voted unanimously to begin negotiations with the grocery store.
Cameron wants the county to share its process that came up with the market evaluation.
"There have been no negotiations," he said.
"We did a fair market evaluation and we hired a third party independent company that's qualified to do commercial appraisals to appraise the property and tell us what the rent amount should be," said Brenda Orchard. "That amount came back at between eight to ten dollars a square foot."
Orchard said under the contract, the county is charging the grocery store $6.02 cents per square foot, but provincial law forbids renting municipal property at reduced rates.
"It's difficult, it's a challenge," she said. "The vast majority of the e-mails are citizens wanting to maintain a grocery store in the community."
People in the area will meet Wednesday to address the issue.
If both sides can't come to an agreement, the grocery store will close Dec. 1.