Sandspit Inn opens, amid controversy

  • Mon Jun 16th, 2014 5:00am
  • News

By Laura Bishop–Some Sandspit business owners oppose a non-profit society offering accommodations and meals, saying its prices undercut theirs and that the community wasn’t adequately consulted.”I’m all for competition. If a private business owner came in and leased the hotel, I wouldn’t care. But this non- profit is able to charge 1982 prices,” said Donna Brady, owner of Brady’s Bistro in the Sandspit Airport, “they need to keep on level ground. Charge equal rates, or thereabouts. Undercutting is not fair game and if it’s not a fair competition, you just can’t compete.”Six businesses signed a petition opposing the Sandspit Community Society opening the Sandspit Inn Hotel starting last Sunday (June 15).The hotel, across the street from the airport, offers accommodation and is open for breakfast and lunch five days a week until its liquor license is approved, when it will be open for dinner, said society director Evan Putterill.The society was able to lease the Inn from Transport Canada using debt financing and funds generated by its operation of the Sandspit Visitor Centre, he said, which is a contract it bid upon and was awarded.Mr. Putterill said a notice went out in mid-May, ensuring the Sandspit community knew of its intentions to re-open the establishment. It also requested the community’s help and listed employment opportunities.”We seek your support in this venture and hope to hear from you soon,” it reads.Ms Brady said the small-print posters were not adequate notification, and she questions how the project will benefit Sandspit residents, as the notice claims.”They should have went around to ask the community if that was their intention,” she said, “How come the community doesn’t know anything about it? It’s only their little group.”Northern Shores Lodging and Catering proprietor Judy Hadcock said, “they put out a notice, but we weren’t contacted or asked. It would be a common courtesy before undertaking anything when it’s for the benefit of the community.” There isn’t enough tourism revenue to go around as it is, said Ms Hadcock, whose accommodations aren’t fully booked on any date this summer.Mr. Putterill said the society’s primary goal is to provide a facility in Sandspit that offers a full service hotel with a restaurant and bar, adding there was pressure from within the community to have a social scene.”Our focus is on bringing in more people, not by stealing business but by promoting tourism,” he said.Petition signer Dan Coulter, owner of Moresby Island Guest House, said he thinks the society’s intentions are good, but misguided.Ms Brady said she finds it difficult to trust a society that claims to have the community’s best interests in mind, when she’s never heard of it before and knows nothing about it.”I’m not even sure who all the directors are,” Ms Hadcock said, “and I want to know how I can become a member.”Both women said they think the society’s lack of communication is going to tear the community apart.”I think it’s going to drive a wedge in the community. We don’t need the added conflict,” said Ms Hadcock, “I don’t think it benefits the community whatsoever.”Mr. Putterill said the petition was received less than a week before the scheduled opening, and that while he understands the concerns, it’s too late to turn back now.”It’s unfortunate that the petition just came forward. If it had come out closely after we put out the notice, then we may have been in a position to not move forward,” he said, “we’ve invested money in the project, bought equipment, beds, everything in the hotel. We signed a lease for the building. At this point if we were to not go ahead the society would not be able to operate and the directors would have to pay the bill.”The Sandspit Inn Hotel is up and running, but Ms Brady said she would still like to meet with the Sandspit Community Society as a way for community members to have their concerns addressed.