The Vermilion Fork Metis Association hopes to eventually purchase the property from the town and regional district. Photo Andrea DeMeer

Princeton and RDOS partner to buy chamber building on Highway 3

Metis association hopes to turn property into cultural centre

The municipality and the regional district are joining forces to purchase the Princeton and District Chamber of Commerce building on Highway 3.

Last month, the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS) approved a motion put forward by Area H director Bob Coyne to contribute $150,000 towards the $300,000 purchase price.

Then, during a special meeting of Princeton council, a bylaw permitting the town to transfer $150,000 from its future amenities reserve to its land sales reserve, to complete the sale, was given three readings.

According to Mayor Spencer Coyne, the plan is to continue to lease the property to the Vermilion Forks Metis Association (VFMA), with the expectation the group can eventually purchase the building from the two levels of government.

“The benefit is the building stays in the community, instead of being sold for another gas station,” he said.

Ed Vermette, one of the founders of the VFMA and its current vice-president, said members have ambitious plans for the property.

“VFMA has a vision of being self sufficient and providing employment and business opportunities, and contributing to the community,” Vermette said.

Presently the VMFA rents most of the building from the chamber. It is a meeting and gathering place and a distribution centre for hampers.

Eventually, said Vermette, the group would like to build a cultural centre “that would be a model for other communities in B.C.”

The VFMA, established in 2018, has more than 100 members.

“We are always trying to expand and include the whole community, and believe me that is what we all want to do…I’m excited about this. This is going to be a good thing.”

The bylaw allowing the transfer of funds for the building purchase is pending final approval. It states the funds will be replaced by the end of the year.

Area H director Bob Coyne, speaking on behalf of the district, said he hopes the Metis association is able to find the money in the coming years to take ownership of the property.

“They don’t want it as a gift, they want to pay for it…They are a very active group in the community and we would like to help them out if we can,” he said.

“Worst case scenario if they don’t get (the funding) the community will have a good building on highway frontage.”

The director noted that many of the association’s members live in Area H.

Joyce Edwards, chair of the chamber of commerce, said the sale will allow that organization to get more done. “The board is very happy with the agreement,” Edwards said. “The agreement is going to allow us to concentrate on our members rather than a building that we can’t completely utilize.

“We’d like to be able to have some more events for members, get the members involved in other things in town and get things moving a bit.”

The chamber has 68 members and no paid staff.

While the chamber has an office in the building, it plans to find new space. “Probably not right away. The (Metis) association is going to help us by letting us stay for a bit.”

The chamber has owned the building since it was erected in 2001.

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