Interest Shown in Closed College

By Nick Gardiner
The Whig Standard

August 14, 2008

Sale of Grenville would cover financial liabilities

An undisclosed expression of interest in the Grenville Christian College property at Maitland is only in the "very preliminary" stages but is nevertheless encouraging news for Augusta Township, says Councillor Bill Pakeman.

Pakeman, who revealed the matter at Monday's regular council meeting, provided no details about the potential buyer of the property and said it's unclear if an offer will be made.

"My understanding is the interest is ongoing and they're proceeding to look into it," he said during an interview, "but it is something that is very preliminary.

"It's like you're looking at a house and you say, 'This one is interesting.' Whether that interest goes anywhere is something we have to determine."

Former college headmaster Don Farnsworth confirmed there has been "strong interest" expressed in the property over the past five months.

Farnsworth said any sale would have to go through the board of directors, which is responsible for managing the property that falls under the federal Charities Act.

He said proceeds from a sale would be used to cover financial liabilities with any surplus directed toward charitable purposes.

Farnsworth wouldn't comment further.

Similarly, Pakeman wouldn't say if the interest would be for institutional, residential or commercial purposes, or if it involves the entire property or a portion of the sprawling building complex and grounds.

He said the expression of interest is encouraging on a property that closed its doors suddenly in July of last year and subsequently became embroiled in lawsuits by former students alleging cult-like activities and physical and sexual abuse.

None of the allegations have been proven in court and they have been denied by Rev. Charles Farnsworth, headmaster at the time the alleged abuse took place.

Pakeman said the township doesn't have a role to play in the sale but would benefit from the tax revenue generated from "a gorgeous piece of property" at risk of becoming an eyesore with the grounds no longer maintained.

"We would certainly like to see it put to good use."

Pakeman brought the news to council as chairman of the economic development committee, but he said the information was initially conveyed to CAO Richard Bennett and Reeve Mel Campbell.

Campbell told the meeting he is also encouraged about the interest shown in the property.

"I hope for a positive result," he said.

He said the township is concerned about the decline in the cosmetic appearance of the property.

He said there is no concern about the buildings, which include the original school at the centre of the complex flanked by a more recently built chapel and athletic facility on one side and multiple residential units on the opposite side.


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