Lemonade from Town’s Lands

LemonadeCollageOne of the questions at the 2010 Mayoral debate asked about our greatest achievement and our biggest disappointment or failure.

Four years ago, I answered then that my greatest disappointment was “…that we couldn’t move ahead faster on issues with the Town property” that a previous Council had purchased in 2005 at the corner of Rice Road and Regional Road 20.

I said then that the 2006-2010 Council’s “…hands were tied because the developers were in control of the process.” You see, that previous Council also gave control of the East Fonthill Secondary Plan to a group of developers.

The Current Council:
So, what did this Council and I do to address this disappointment?

At the start of this term (January 2011), I called a meeting with the Town’s Staff / consulting team and representatives of the group of developers. We clarified what log jams existed and why the process failed to move forward. What became clear was that Staff thought that the developers were doing some things (and they were not), and the development group thought that Staff were doing other things (and they were not).

To move the issues forward, all parties agreed to recommend to Council that the Town take-back control of the planning process and complete the Secondary Plan; Council agreed.

Planning Approval:
Staff and our consulting team worked together with the Region to finalize the Secondary Plan and Town Council approved the Plan in April 2012. Then, I worked with Regional Staff to accelerate the process and Regional Council approved the Plan in October 2012.

While we did face delays because of some appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), we worked with all parties to settle the issues. The OMB finally approved the East Fonthill Secondary Plan on 30 January 2014.

Master Site Plan & Property Sale:
Following that OMB approval, we released a Draft Master Site Plan for the Town-owned lands and adjacent lands in February 2014. That Master Plan includes the Medical Centre, Retirement Home, retail development, Wellspring Niagara, and the potential of a multi-faceted community centre. It also shows extensive parks and natural areas and roads and trails linking the development with existing portions of the Town – especially with Downtown Fonthill via an extension of Pelham Town Square Blvd.

In April 2014, Council approved a binding agreement to sell 7.7 acres of Town-owned lands for the construction of the Medical Centre and the Retirement Home. Because we sold the lands with the planning approvals in place, we increased the property value more than threefold – from a $112,000 per acre purchase price to a $375,000 per acre sale price.

Last month, Council approved the draft plan of subdivision for these lands; except for one condition (which was appealed to OMB), we can proceed with development.

With hard work, vision, and determination we turned what once were “lemons” into “lemonade.”