MCADAM – As a mayor, what do you do to try and bring new people with fresh ideas, and new energy into your village? If you are Mayor Ken Stannix of McAdam, you decide to sell off building lots for $1 each. Of course, there are caveats that go along with such a sale, but the plan worked, and all 16 lots were sold, much to the chagrin of hundreds of others who have also contacted the Village of McAdam about buying these lots.

Stannix said he was to have a Zoom meeting with all of the purchasers last week, to discuss various topics, including builders and things happening in and around the community. He said he is hoping to see construction begin on these lots by next summer. It was hoped that construction would begin much sooner, but a pandemic stood in the way.

“The lots were all sold. Of course, COVID slowed things down on when people could come to build,” said Stannix.

The idea for the $1 building lots spawned when the McAdam Community Action Group was formed. Stannix said the group was looking at various ways to grow the community. One of the ideas was to sell the $1 building lots, which were owned by the Province of New Brunswick.

“We actually went to the province, and purchased some lots that they owned here in our community,” said Stannix. “We explained to them what we were trying to accomplish, and they agreed with the idea. So, we were able to procure those 16 lots and go from there.”

Stannix admits he didn’t anticipate the response the village received. Articles written about the initiative appeared in publications around the world, and Stannix said requests have come from as far off as North Africa.

“Somebody must have written an article over that way. Next thing you know, we’re getting all these folks calling us. It’s quite interesting to see how it keeps coming around.”

Many of the purchasers are from Canada, particularly around Montreal, Toronto, and British Columbia. One family from Hong Kong purchased one of the lots. Stannix said there wasn’t a lot of response from New Brunswick and other parts of the Maritimes, and most was from “folks from other parts of the country”.

Obviously, when selling $1 building lots, there are caveats to go along with the sales. Stannix said one of these conditions was purchasers had to put down a $2,500 deposit. This was to ensure that if they chose not to move to McAdam after all, that the legal fees would be covered for the transfer of the land back to the Village of McAdam.

“When you buy it for $1, the conditions were, you had to put $2,500 down,” explained Stannix.

“What that $2,500 was for was to pay for our legal fees, should you not decide to build the house and transfer the property back to the Village. Once they start building, that $2,500 goes right back to them. There was one other condition, and that was to ensure that people wouldn’t buy these cheap lots and then flip them for a profit without building on them.

“They included a promissory note for $20,000. Should a purchaser choose to re-sell the land before building on it, they would have to pay $20,000 to the village. Stannix called this a “disincentive for them to flip the property”.

“One of the concerns was, people were saying, ‘well, if I go to get a mortgage, that $20,000 is in there’. We said, ‘no, because as soon as you start to build, that $20,000 goes away. You can sell the property as soon as you start building on it’. That kind of took the pressure off from that perspective.”

Stannix said the amount of calls and emails received was “exciting”, and quickly became so overwhelming he had to bring in two people, along with some village councilors, to man the phone lines and answer emails. Finally, the team couldn’t keep-up with the huge response, and they had to “cut it off after a few weeks”. Stannix added that Village Clerk Ann Donahue asked him, ‘what have you done’ after one day of taking calls.

“We had so many people calling. Of course, she was the primary one who was answering phones and talking to people. It was pretty exciting for her,” said Stannix.

Things were well on track until the COVID-19 pandemic. Stannix said many of the purchasers began running into problems because they were unable to travel to New Brunswick to start building. So, he gave everyone a one-year extension.

Since many of the purchasers will be working digitally, one of the biggest concerns was about bandwidth. Stannix said that will not be an issue, because McAdam has a one gig bandwidth, which he said is more than enough to allow people to run businesses.

While this venture is likely to breathe new economic life into the community, Stannix is more excited about the prospects of “new ideas and new energy”. He said these are the things that really build a community. Only so much can be done with money, but new ideas and energy are more important.

“If you don’t have new ideas and you don’t have people with the energy to move those ideas forward, you’re behind the power curve right off the bat. It’s the fact that they’re here and they come with ideas and energy. That’s more important than money.”

sarigreen@stcroixcourier.ca