Nova Scotia

Valley grocery may not close after rent troubles

The two sides in a dispute over the rent at a family run grocery store in the Annapolis Valley have agreed to try to find a compromise to keep the store from closing.

Two sides agree to talk to find a compromise

The two sides in a dispute over the rent at a family run grocery store in the Annapolis Valley have agreed to try to find a compromise to keep the store from closing.

More than 200 people attended a public meeting at the Clementsport legion on Wednesday night to have their opinions heard by the owners of the Cornwallis grocery store as well as representatives of the Municipality of the County of Annapolis.

Alex Morrison, who organized the public meeting, said people don't want the store to close because they believe it's a key piece of the economic infrastructure.

"The public came together and moved on this item just like a big wave," he told CBC News on Thursday.

Cathy Graves, the owner of Cornwallis ValuFoods, announced earlier this week that she was planning to shut down her store after the local council said it was raising the rent on the property by 550 per cent.

Brenda Orchard, CAO for the Municipality of the County of Annapolis, said the escalation in rent had been written into a five-year contract that both sides agreed to in 2009.

In that contract, the rent for the first year was set at $500, the second and third years at $1,750 and the fourth and fifth years at $2,750.

Then the county discovered the business was more than $20,000 in arrears on its electricity bill, so the council members decided to reduce the rent to $500 a month — between March and September — to give Cornwallis ValuFoods the ability and time to pay off the utility debt.

Orchard said the county also ordered a market assessment of the 5,000-square-foot property and were advised to charge a minimum of $8 per square foot in rent.

The $2,750 monthly rent breaks down to $6.02 per square foot, and the $500 monthly rent desired by ValuFoods breaks down to $1.09 per square foot.

"If you have a convenience store that sells the same products as a grocery store saying, 'You're taking my tax dollars and using it to subsidize my competitor who sells the same products as I sell,'" Orchard said earlier this week.

"That is a challenge."

Morrison, who has just been elected as a first-time county councillor, said the item will be on the agenda at a meeting of the Municipality of the County of Annapolis next week.

"The warden and the county civil servants — and I think Cathy Graves and the people at ValuFoods — they realized they had to sit down and talk and come to some sort of an agreement," he said.

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