Councillors lean toward extending agreement
COLLINGWOOD — The town’s deputy-mayor says he would rather “fill in the hole with a building,” and grant a downtown developer an extension on a site remediation agreement.
On Monday night, councillors will be debating whether to give the developers of Admiral Collingwood Place a two-year grace to a site remediation agreement signed in 2011 that required construction to either start by the end of this April, or for the site to be levelled and cleaned up.
That includes filling in a hole excavated in 2007 at the corner of Hume and Hurontario in anticipation of a multi-storey commercial and residential project.
“I don’t think we should be bullying developers,” said Rick Lloyd. “I don’t want to create hardship for a developer.”
Lloyd said he understands that negotiations are underway for that corner that could mean a change of fortune for the project that’s been stalled for nearly seven years.
The original proposal for the Admiral Collingwood Place project was a six-storey residential and commercial development; that was reduced to five stories under a plan negotiated between the municipality and the developers in 2008, after the council under former mayor Chris Carrier revoked the Heritage Impact Assessment for the site, an action that had the effect of negating the project’s site development plan.
However, efforts to reboot the project — both during Carrier’s term, and this term under Mayor Sandra Cooper — have been hindered by a soft economy. The current council rewrote the site development agreement, and had the town act as ‘applicant’ for official plan and zoning changes, in 2011 to allow a six-storey project — with a rooftop ‘amenity area — to go ahead.
At the same time, efforts to get a seniors’ residential project to get underway on the Ste. Marie and Hume corner have been hampered by the fact the site development agreement created in 2007 covered the entire property — even though it was two separate development groups.
The site development agreement approved in 2011 separated out the two properties, though the site remediation agreement signed by three parties — the two developer group and the municipality — applied to the entire property.
The owners of the eastern half of the property have asked for a one-year extension to the site remediation agreement.
“We don’t want to hamper any opportunities that might be there to develop the site,” said Lloyd.
Councillor Kevin Lloyd (no relation to Rick) tabled the motion last week outlining the proposed extensions to the agreement for both property owners, as well as conditions with regard to securities, insurance, and the hoarding.
“I supported the motion and believe it is a reasonable compromise, but (the developers) have to agree to the terms for it to be implemented,” Kevin Lloyd wrote in an emailed response to a request for comment from the Enterprise-Bulletin. “It’s important for council, as one of three, to help achieve an amicable solution everyone can feel comfortable with.
“I support the request of both developers for an extension if, as I hope, it aids them in moving their projects to completion. We all want to see the site developed for a multitude of reasons. Continuing to work cooperatively will help move it to a successful conclusion, signaling a positive message to all those looking to invest in our community.”
Councillor Ian Chadwick said council — and the public, as evidenced by two petitions and a community ‘rally’ held earlier this term — would like to see development on the corner and believes enforcing the agreement won’t result in a project getting started.
“We have done our best to find a solution and to make it easier for the developers to move ahead,” Chadwick wrote in an email. “However, we cannot fix the economy, or restore any loss of confidence in the project that stems from actions taken in the past. We cannot turn back the hands of time and fix the mistakes made last term.
“Even if we did enforce (the agreement), what would we get? An empty lot, probably still surrounded by tall hoarding. Not a development, not a park, not a playground. It would serve the political goals of a few people, but not the greater good of the town.”
Chadwick stated that enforcing the agreement would set a “bad precedent and reflect poorly on the reputation of Collingwood.
“In order for the town to proceed alone, we would have to take one or more likely both developers to court,” stated Chadwick. “I don’t see any good reason why taxpayers should pay for a legal challenge that could be both lengthy and very expensive, when we can come to a reasonable agreement with all parties.”
Meanwhile though, at least two councillors are opposed to the extension; Joe Gardhouse and Keith Hull will be tabling their own motion asking that the agreement be enforced, not extended.
However, the motion already on the table would have to be defeated in order for the Gardhouse/Hull to be considered.
In their motion, notice of which was served to the clerk earlier this week, the pair note that negotiations with the landowners have failed to produce an agreement, and that Lloyd’s motion is “meaningless” because it requires all three parties to the site remediation agreement to agree.