A point of contention deferred, Woolwich moved closer to finalizing a subdivision agreement that will see up to 1,700 new homes build in Elmira.
The township is getting down to the final items in the deal with the Guelph-based Lunor Group, with council approving a modified draft plan June 25. Councillors turned down the developer’s request for a refund of fees totaling $57,000, but put off to a later date provisions governing the parkland to be turned over to the municipality, allowing the project to move ahead.
Servicing on the site could begin in the fall.
The parkland issue proved the most problematic, with Lunor arguing the township now wants so-called structural fill used to grade the land as opposed to the three or four metres of topsoil that had been the plan throughout years of negotiations about the project.
Matt Ninomiya, an engineer with Stantec Consulting acting on behalf of Lunor, estimated at $700,000 the cost of structural fill on the site.
For its part, the township said it only became aware in January of Lunor’s plans for the parkland. At that point, Woolwich consulted with other municipalities about what would be needed to ensure the land was suitable for soccer fields, which is what the recreation department has in mind for part of the site. It was told the land should contain no more than 12 inches of topsoil over a base of much sturdier fill.
“We want to ensure that what we’re given suits our needs,” said director of recreation and facilities Karen Makela of the land to be donated to the township as part of the development agreement.
Recognizing the money at stake in the impasse, council quickly agreed with staff’s call to defer a decision on the parkland until work begins on that part of the sprawling subdivision, phase four of the multi-year build-out.
In the meantime, suggested Coun. Mark Bauman, both sides should try to find a compromise, with the township looking to avoid being “accused of changing the rules midstream.”
“This is a huge cost, potentially, to Lunor,” he said, noting both parties share responsibility for the oversight.
In the same vein, Lunor also accused the township of midcourse changes in applying charges for peer reviews of its studies.
Tom Hardacre, a planner with the IBI Group, said the township was essentially double dipping” by charging Lunor engineering administration fees to study the company’s plans, then requiring it to pay for outside consultants to look at plans township staff lacks the expertise to review, in this case traffic, marketing and hydrological studies.
The township’s peer review bylaw demanding such studies passed in December 2007, eight months after Lunor’s application in April of that year, he said, arguing the company should have been exempted from the process.
Lunor’s arguments resonated with Coun. Allan Poffenroth, who expressed concerns about changing the rules on the fly.
“We’re changing the rules partway through, and it’s not giving me a good feeling,” said the Ward 1 councillor.
But manager of planning John Scarfone said there was no double-dipping going on, as the engineering administration fees apply to work done after the planning issues were resolved, while the peer-reviewed studies were needed to get the planning approved in the first place. And while Lunor’s original application predated the peer review bylaw, the actual public process didn’t get rolling until November 2008, almost a year after the bylaw was adopted.
Councillors ultimately opted against refunding any of some $57,000 in fees Lunor claimed as double-dipping.
If the developer lets that debate slide, work on the plan of subdivision will proceed.
The overall design of the subdivision currently calls for the redevelopment of two existing farm properties on the north side of Church Street, adjacent to the Elmira Farm Service site. A four-acre portion at the rear of that property would in fact be included in the plan.
The bulk of the 180-acre development will take place on two farms purchased in 2005. The deal involves five property owners.
A 93-acre farm at 90 Church St. W., known as Riverbend, is the proposed site of 478 to 754 units of mixed housing types and a commercial block fronting on Church Street. To the west, the 82-acre site known as Northview is slated for 581-929 residential units (including homes near the Elmira Golf Club) and two commercial blocks. The four acres at the rear of the Elmira Farm Service, labeled Green Acres, would see 44 to 63 residential units of differing housing types.
There is a land-swap agreement with Elmira District Community Living.
Plans also allow for a large block that could someday house a new school. A large park and a trail system connection to the Kissing Bridge Trail to the north are also in the works.