Developer John Di Poce – A series of unfortunate events.

If any of you have driven passed Georgian College Collingwood campus on Raglan St. and wondered why it is called the “John Di Poce” campus, the reason is he donated the land that the college sits on to the town.

There was a lot of chatter a month or so ago from certain parties including an editorial in the EB and a cloying interview with Mr. Assaff by the infernal Penny Skelton on Rogers TV. About how fortunate we are as a town to have Steve Assaff gracing us with his ugly box like developments. Collingwood had another developer who was prepared to put his money where his mouth was, his name was John Di Poce. He owned (still owns)a good chunk of land out in the south east end of town, surrounding the Georgian College. At present he is in negotiations with the hospital with the view of donating some of that land for a badly needed new hospital. The comparisons between Mr. Di Poce and Mr. Assaff are quite startling, Mr. Assaff wanted to buy Block 9 from the town. A scrubby sliver of land between his BMO/Rexall property and his recently acquired Block 11 on the corner of Huron and Heritage Way in front of the the waterfront. This is to facilitate the extra parking that he needs to build his 3 story monstrosity on the corner of Heritage and Huron St (block 11) and rather than offer something worthwhile as a swap, he offered the town some swampland behind the courthouse that he apparently owns. Council quite rightly said “thanks but no thanks”.

Everything I write below is now on public record so I think it’s time for this story to be brought to light. It might give you a fairly reasonable insight into the way things have worked for many years in our town. It should also give you an idea on why few people other than Steve Assaff and to a lesser extent Larry Dunn, want to touch development around our town with a ten foot pole.

As I said above John Di Poce owns a fair amount of land on the south east end of town. He had draft site plan approval for a 320 unit sub division (Eden Oaks) on that land. The approval of which was one of the last decisions the Chris Carrier council made and passed prior to the 2010 municipal election. The then Deputy Mayor Sandra Cooper whom most of you know is Paul Bonwick’s sister and Ian Chadwick, an employee of Paul Bonwick’s Compenso company, were both opposed to that development.

Another interesting dynamic was that John Di Poce owned some land up in the Duntroon area (not sure if he still owns it). Around 2007 -2008 Paul Bonwick entered into a lease agreement, to lease that land from John Di Poce and started (or continued) with a quarry operation on that land. Rick Lloyd was the onsite manager running the operation. By 2010 this business arrangement had soured because Paul Bonwick had missed a substantial amount of the agreed upon lease payments to John Di Poce. This situation ended up in litigation, and apparently there was much unpleasant legal wrangling, most of which I cannot write about here. When the writing started to show very clearly on the wall that Paul Bonwick might personally have to cough up a fairly large chunk of cake, he very ineptly transferred the ownership of his house into his wife’s name. A transaction Mr. Di Poce had the courts reverse in short order. The actual amount owing to Mr. Di Poce was somewhere in the region of $1.3M and he eventually settled for around a third of that amount.

It has been suggested to me by numerous parties that because of the messy legal situation described above, a May 2011 decision by the previous town council, in which Rick Lloyd was deputy mayor, to revoke the Eden Oaks subdivision draft site plan approval, which had been passed and approved by the Carrier council. Was payback for the messy quarry legal fight. I have no opinion on this and will let you make up your own minds. Think about this though, to this date it is the only subdivision of this scale, to have its draft plan approval rescinded because of “density targets not being reached”. If you notice the land in question is still undeveloped and sits fallow to this day. The long term effect of all this was to drive a community minded developer with deep pockets away from Collingwood and deny our town the development fees and property taxes that this land could have generated. Apparently, John Di Poce is again starting to dip his toes back into the local development scene. Probably because a few of the people on that previous council were sent packing in the last municipal election.

Steve Assaff could take a couple of pages out of John Di Poce’s playbook, its not always about how much money you can make. Sometimes it’s about making our community a better place to live.

Elvis Presley Enterprises bullies local film company into submission…………..

One of the things that really pisses me off, about the Collingwood Elvis Festival, is the money in licencing fees that we send down to Elvis Presley Enterprises every year. No matter whether the festival makes money or not.
I received a copy of a press release from Tracey Johnston this evening. Tracy is a film producer with Mountain Goat Film Company Inc. Apparently this is a local film production company based in Town of Blue Mountain and owned by a guy named Tom Strnad. The company has done various documentary type films for CBC, The Movie Network and Super Channel, so they are obviously no slouches. I had no idea that a company like this existed in our area. They had applied for and were granted full access to behind the scenes of the Collingwood Elvis Festival, to shoot scenes for a film that they are making called King for a Day. A documentary film about the Collingwood Elvis Festival. They had spent months already in production doing interviews with local and provincial politicians. But they received notice just hours before the festival started, from the Town of Collingwood’s communications officer Jennett Mays telling them that Elvis Presley Enterprises had put the Kybosh on any behind the scenes filming. There was no reason given in the press release, as to why EPE would behave in such a strong armed manner, but you can bet that the reason is probably because they are not getting any “ving” from MGFC Inc. So are not interested in allowing such a venture. Never mind the fact that a local company had a chance to promote and highlight CEF. Make no mistake this is all about the money.

I didn’t have any idea a film company of this type existed so close to home. You would think that if Elvis Presley Enterprises were interested in getting a local view point on this event, that they would seize on the opportunity this film brings to the table to promote this tacky festival to the world. I would hazard a guess that the Town of Collingwood, in its efforts to continually kowtow to this overbearing, bullying, multi-national company, Elvis Presley Enterprises, never raised a word in protest about this situation, even though our tax payer money gets shoveled endlessly at this event every year. I can guarantee the licencing fees owing are continually paid on time every time, because we would very quickly be hearing from a $1,000 per hour American legal firm. But EPE doesn’t care about that as long as the goose keeps laying the golden egg.

I have been yelling from the rooftops for 3 years now, that it is now long past time that our town cut its ties with this festival and Elvis Presley Enterprises. Make this thing pay for itself and start charging the organizers of this event the real costs for town resources, which continue to enable this event to proceed and in turn continue to ship thousands of dollars down to the head offices of EPE.

The press release can be found in the attachment below:


Adult Commentary about the Collingwood Elvis Festival from VFAN

I first posted a version of the following in September of 2013. This is my final shot across the bow at this tacky festival and its organisers, who continually seem to think that the general populace of our town want to keep throwing tax payer money at this thing. A majority of us don’t. The rest of you that do, let’s take a final look at the CEF and see it for what it really is below:

I always judge the importance of something or someone, in popular culture, by whether it has its own entry and Wikipedia page. The Collingwood Elvis Festival does not. It has a one line entry in the actual Collingwood, Ontario page but that is the only place you will find it. So this festival, that is apparently so important to this towns identity, it’s such a draw, it brings so much worldwide attention to our towns tourist industry, doesn’t even warrant its own Wikipedia page. In fact take a look at this:

That is the Wikipedia entry on Elvis Impersonators. Did you see it? Did you see a few lines about the “The really important Elvis festival held in Collingwood every July”? No neither did I. Because in the world scheme of all things Elvis, Collingwood isn’t even on the radar.
How much money did we send off to Elvis Presley Enterprise’s after last years festival? Seriously I’m asking, if someone knows let me know. I do know that again the festival lost a staggering $75,000 which our lemming like town council approved unanimously to cover again back in February. Can you imagine the outcry if our town held a festival sponsored by Molson Coors, who ended making a hansom profit from the event but our town decided to cover a financial loss on the thing because it was unsustainable? This is only allowed to proliferate because of murky accounting practices and a complete absence any kind of financial accountability.

Elvis Presley Enterprises is the money making corporation that now handles everything Elvis, it has an eye popping net worth of over $300M. It makes more money now than when Elvis was alive. Nothing Elvis in the world gets done without handing a piece of the action to this company. Here’s a thought, being as our town has been shamelessly promoting this United States icon of popular culture every July for the past 20 or so years, how about EPE kicking some money back into the kitty to keep this CEF viable? Never going to happen because that revenue stream is a one way street.

The thing I’ve always wondered is WHY? Why do we celebrate Elvis Presley in Collingwood once a year? Was this a favorite vacation destination of the King back in the sixties relaxing with his entourage down at the Georgian Manor Resort? Did he have a friend or family member from this area? Did he write a song about this towns ship building heritage? Or maybe Elvis released a movie from the area called “Viva Georgian Bay”, that I never heard about? The answer to all these questions is a resounding “NO”. In fact when the king was alive I bet he couldn’t have picked Collingwood, Ontario, or even Canada, from a map of the world. So again WHY? There are so many other things that are relevant to our local history, culture, geography that we could celebrate in a festival; and yet we celebrate someone who in the end was grossly overweight through hedonistic self-indulgence and was so addicted to prescription and other drugs, he didn’t know what day it was. Not much of a roll model. Thinking about it, I will answer the WHY for you myself. This started as a talent contest in 1994, during the early nineties recession. Collingwood was still reeling from the shipyards closure 8 years previously and the development of Blue Mountain into a four season mega resort, was still 10 years away. The town needed something to boost the local economy and this seemed to fit the bill. It was promoted and grew in leaps and bounds, year after year, until it morphed into what we see today. But that was then, this is now. We have plenty of things to draw people to our town, it has become a summer and winter playground for the large population bases south of us, we don’t need it anymore.
Have your festival by all means. I will put up with the road closures and the whole of downtown becoming a parking no go zone. I will delay doing my banking, lawyering, accounting, Loblaws-ing. I will accept becoming a second class citizen in my local eating and drinking establishments, because for this one weekend they are suddenly packed with side burn toting grey hairs and hoop skirted blue rinses. I will even put up with the droning (mostly) amateurish Elvis music ear worming its way into my sub consciousness for 3 days. But stop picking my pockets to pay for it all, make it pay for itself, or better still make Elvis Presley Enterprises pick up the tab.

For god sake someone take our Mayor’s computer away from her.

Our feckless Mayor continues to show that she is not really up to the task at hand. Which is to run our town and try not to make us a laughing stock, in public and on social media.
I have had a few people point me in the direction of her Twitter account and links that she keeps putting on there. She obviously doesn’t have a clue what she is linking to or actually what she is doing on there. I berated our Mayor around a year or so ago because she was continually blocking people from accessing her Twitter feed, I now wish I had left well alone.

This first Tweet is a doozy:

Sandra Cooper ‏@mayorSCooper Jun 26
Congrats to #graduates .@CCI #hardwork paid off @Collingwood

When you click on @CCI you link to the following Twitter account:

Tweet 1

Which seems to be a soft porn website with links to online dating websites.

The next Tweet hits pretty close to home for Sandra, being as her son is a member of the Catholic School Board:

Sandra Cooper ‏@mayorSCooper Jun 25
Shoutout to #graduates. .@JeanVanier Catholic Secondary @Collingwood

When you click on @JeanVanier… I’m not sure what Jean Vanier school this links to but its not the one in Collingwood. Shawn are you not monitoring this stuff?

Take a look at this Tweet:

Sandra Cooper ‏@mayorSCooper Jul 16
#HabitatforHumanity 2 families will soon have a new home .@Collingwood

Tweet 2

She continues to make this boo-boo click on @Collingwood. It’s not the towns Twitter feed, it’s Shop Collingwood. C’mon Sandra your Mayor of our town the least you can do is know how to link to the towns Twitter account.

In this Tweet:

Sandra Cooper ‏@mayorSCooper Jun 23
#groundbreaking @l’ecole. @Collingwood #Simcoe

Click on @l’ecole and it links to this:

Tweet 3

It keeps going on and on:

Sandra Cooper ‏@mayorSCooper Jun 20
#construction ahead of #schedule @HumeStreet #Collingwood

Click on @HumeStreet and it links to someone named Rachel Lawson. A very attractive young lady she is, but she has nothing to do with the Hume St remediation project.

And again:

Sandra Cooper ‏@mayorSCooper Jun 17
#GreatLakes #FisheryCommissioner Bob Lambe @GLSLCI @Sarnia-Lambton

Click on @Sarnia and it seems she is someone from Pennsylvania whose Tweets are protected.

Last but not least folks:

Sandra Cooper ‏@mayorSCooper Jun 8
Backup traffic @400 southbound past InnisfilBeach Rd

Click on @400 and it links to the Indianapolis Star.

Now some of you might think that I am being a little nit picky here. But Sandra Cooper is and continues to be that Mayor of our town, the least she can do is learn how to use her social media accounts without making a complete ass of herself.

Let’s face it, in 2015 Elvis Presley is just not very COOL………

I published a version of this post last July, still relevant in 2015.

It’s that time of year again. No I don’t mean the summer trip to the cottage, or time to get the AC system serviced again. No it’s Elvis Festival time and subsequently VFAN’s yearly blog roasting of that same festival. Fortunately, this year they have returned to the original format. We get one less day than last year, of endless toneless droning encompassing the downtown core of Collingwood. This happens year after year like a nightmarish real life version of the movie “Ground Hog Day”.

When is this annual dose of self-flagellation going to end? In the run up to this event I have not talked to one local resident that embraces or even likes this festival. The mucky-mucks that are in charge of us, keep telling us it’s great for tourism. If making us the laughing stock of Ontario is good for tourism I can think of a lot cheaper, less inconvenient ways of doing so. Yeah those CBC and CTV news fillers covering this event are not laughing with us folks, they are laughing at us. When I try and explain it to my friends and family from out of town, they give me a look of bemused bewilderment and usually ask “and the towns connection to Elvis is???” Let’s face it ladies and gentleman in 2015 Elvis Presley is no longer cool. Elvis impersonators even less cool and I venture to add tacky. So what do you think the impression of a small town in Central Ontario is that embraces these two things? That’s right NOT COOL and TACKY. Take a look at some festivals that ARE cool: Wakefest – which has now left town. Ride for Sight – nothing is cooler than motorcycles, also left town. Corvette Days – very cool and long gone. It is way past time for this town to grab itself by its collective boot straps and start re-imagining itself. Maybe by having an annual Rock festival similar to the ones they have in England – Glastonbury, Knebworth, Hyde Park. There are loads of farmer’s fields (Bygone Days for instance:) ) that could be used for this purpose and as far as I know no one else is doing it in Ontario. What could be cooler for a towns image than “Imagine Dragons live in Collingwood” on the iTunes top 100 chart.

A very good friend of mine had a girlfriend a few years ago. That relationship reminds me of the Collingwood Elvis Festival and our town. It ended up being that the only thing he was getting out of the relationship was the Visa bill at the end of the month. Collingwood’s “girlfriend” costs us tax payers on average $40-50k per year to cover this festivals shortfalls. Last year even with the addition of the Elvis fraternities version of the “Queen of Sheba” Priscilla, it lost a whopping $75k. Including the stack of books that our feckless Mayor was conned into buying, that are now gathering dust in a storage closet down at town hall somewhere.

Keeping with the girlfriend analogy, sometimes you stick in a relationship because you are used to it and you are scared of the unknown. Then when it’s all finished up, you find that there is a whole world out there that you have been missing out on. What we are missing is a slew of mid-summer festivals and events, that are a lot more relevant to this town, area, province, country’s history and culture and maybe even a little more chilling and cool, than what we have already embraced with such abandon. Very little new and exciting is happening here because of our town hall’s collective attention seems to be on foisting this 1950’s and 60’s American popular culture icon on an unimpressed populace. Come on, last years papal like visit of Priscilla Presley?? She didn’t even spend one night in Collingwood flew into and out of town on her private jet. The local accommodations were not up to her impeccable standards. But our starry eyed Mayor spent as much time as possible in Priscilla’s god like presence, fawning and photo-oping all over her, it was actually quite sickening to behold.
Don’t get me wrong I am not saying ban the festival or drive it out of town. But make it pay for itself. Meaning no subsidizing the event. Any town resources that go into making this event possible get reimbursed by Elvis Presley Enterprises in the form of a licencing fee. It should also pay for its own extra policing and EMS overtime costs. You would soon see this festival go the way of the way of flared pants and bushy sideburns.
I had hoped with a few new faces on town council, that we could finally start to see some open and honest conversation about this event and its future. But no they immediately fell lock stock into line in giving this event an open cheque book for three more years. Maybe we should have a few town hall type meetings to get the actual residents of this towns opinion on the whole thing. It is not a fate-accompli that we have to fund and host this event every year.

Like my buddy once said “The best thing I remember about Robyn was watching her arse walk out the front door for the last time”. Our town will collectively say the same thing after Elvis finally leaves the building for good.

Elvis should pay for his own peanut butter and banana sandwiches!!!

I first posted the following September 2013.

It’s time to start having a grown up conversation about the Collingwood Elvis Festival. This year it lost another $40,000.00 which the citizens of Collingwood have to pony up for.

I have no problem with the festival continuing to be hosted by our town. Where I do have a problem is the town picking up the slack when it loses money. It should be self-supporting and run like a business. If it is so important to the local economy then let the people who benefit from it pay the tab; i.e. local hotels, restaurants, coffee shops, rentals etc. Because most of us people that actually live here find it a major pain in the arse. By Sunday evening of this awful weekend, I am just about ready to stick a red hot poker in my ear, after another toneless rendition of “Return to Sender” wafts across my back yard.
Let’s look at this another way. I did a post back on 13th August here:

I showed in that post how much money Collingwood United Soccer Club brings into Collingwood on the first two weekends of June with their rep boys and girls soccer tournaments. I would hazard a guess that it brings in as many if not more people and revenue into the local economy than the Elvis festival does and causes the local populace a lot less aggravation. On top of that CUSC pays the town $37,000.00 in user fees over the summer for field rentals so the club is a net contributor to the towns coffers. Can you imagine the outcry if the EB then ran a story saying the town would be coughing up $40,000.00 to cover losses generated by this soccer tournament and quite rightly so.
Chadwick originally had the right idea about this gag inducing festival back in 2004 read this:

elvis and numbers

I am not sure when it happened but he has now found religion on Elvis and has developed into one of its biggest backers. Maybe his pals on council told him that that is now the accepted way of thinking.
One last thing, because of the gradual declining demographic of the people that visit these Elvis events the decision to eventually end this festival will be made for us. Every year the hair gets greyer, the walkers more abundant and the attendees more wrinkled. Make it pay for itself and see how long it lasts.

Stereotypical behaviour begets stereotypical commentary by VFAN

You folks never cease to amaze me. I haven’t felt much like writing this blog of late. I put out the cycling/redneck blog on the weekend as a trial balloon to see if I still have an audience. Much to my surprise that post was getting close to 80 views per hour at one point Sunday evening.

A comment about that post by someone with the handle “A” as follows, got me thinking:

“Can you imagine the outrage if a couple of black guys gave you trouble on your bike and you wrote this piece with similar stereotypes?”

An interesting concept so let’s deal with it in typical VFAN fashion – head-on:

I suppose that would actually depend on whether it was a just couple of black guys driving a Toyota Corolla having a bad day. Or whether they were a couple of black guys driving a pimped up Cadillac Escalade with all the windows rolled down and a little “Three 6 Mafia” blaring from the sound system. In that scenario there might also have been a 9mm Glock getting waved around out the passenger side window. Anyone who knows me knows that I would be just a likely, if not more so, to write that blog, as I am the redneck one. It would probably be entitled “How come Jane and Finch gang-bangers are such road hogs”. My point is if the perpetrators of the unacceptable behavior are being stereotypical then I don’t see any reason why that should not be pointed out, whatever the persons race colour or creed happens to be. The rednecks on Sunday were being stereotypical, so no need for anyone to get their politically correct knickers in a twist.

Before you all start sending me comments that I am stereotyping black people I’m not I’m stereotyping black gang members. Same as in my redneck post I am not stereotyping all white people just rednecks. Big difference.

Also anyone that knows me knows that I am not a racist, so getting back to the two guys in the Toyota Corolla, in that scenario they are neutral and void of any kind of stereotypical behavior and are just a couple of grumpy guys being obnoxious, whether they are black, white, Asian or Martians.

I know that this type of thing is a touchy subject, as many of my posts on this blog are, but well worth thinking about.