HEATHER BOA Bullet News GODERICH – An agreement that has sat dormant for the past two years and put in limbo a developer’s plan to build 300 homes on land south of Goderich was given approval in principle by Goderich Town Council on Monday afternoon.
The Memorandum of Understanding would extend the town’s boundary to the southern edge of Dechert Road in return for town water and sanitary sewer services four years down the road to specified land between Dechert Road and Bluewater Beach Road, all bound by Hwy. 21 and Lake Huron, that lies in the Municipality of Central Huron. Future servicing would be provided only to land currently designated residential, commercial or recreational in the official plan.
“It’s been a little bit of a long process but I think in the end it’s been, I’d say, analyzed considerably, looking at an important issue,” Larry Kotseff, who is vice-president of planning and development for Fusion Homes, told Goderich council. The Guelph-based company is ranked 13th in Canada’s 50 Best Small and Medium Employers for 2012, in an annual survey by Queen’s School of Business.
Fusion Homes’ long-term vision is to transform land it currently has under option to purchase into a mix of single-family dwellings, townhouses and condominiums up to five storeys high, with green space along the lake and linking areas of the development. At its start, it intends to develop 100 acres north of Dechert Road.
“Timing is everything and the process has gone on for a little bit of time,” Kotseff said. The company plans to work through the municipal and planning process while the municipalities wait from an order from the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing that would implement the boundary adjustment. An order may take six months to a year to receive.
Central Huron’s council reviewed the three-page document on July 9, and discussed signing it in time for Goderich’s council meeting Monday. However, when a number of questions of clarification arose from councillors who had not seen the document before, council decided to table the agreement and ask administration to get clarification from a solicitor on a number of points and make minor corrections in the text.
The clarifications were incorporated into the MOU signed by Goderich Town Council on Monday. It’s expected Central Huron will ratify it at a special meeting that will be scheduled this week.
Jim Ginn, who is Central Huron’s mayor, said one of the major questions centred around a clause in the agreement that would honour the watermain agreement for the supply of water from the town to the Bluewater Youth Centre in the future. Since the clause predated the closure of Bluewater Youth Centre, the municipality wanted assurances that the agreement could be transferred to any new tenant or owner of the property.
“We don’t want our hands tied there. We don’t want to go out and get a development or an industry or something and then find out we can’t supply enough water,” said Jim Ginn, who is the mayor of Central Huron.
The MOU was revised so that it was clear the water agreement was for the former Bluewater Centre.
The MOU also includes: provisions for a 20-year tax sharing agreement between the two municipalities for lands north of Dechert Road; a premium for water and sanitary sewer capacity charged by Goderich to Central Huron for the first 25 years, sliding from 1.5 times the Goderich rates for the first 15 years and 1.25 for the follow 10 years; and acknowledgement that Central Huron will pay capital costs to extend water and sanitary sewer services south of Dechert Road.
The MOU stalled two years ago when a question arose about who had the right to collect taxes on water lots – land that lies under the water – that border the current Town of Goderich. At its July 9 meeting, at the request of the town, Central Huron passed a motion confirming the westerly boundary of the water lots in the Town of Goderich. Jack McLachlan, who is Central Huron’s acting chief administrative officer, said it’s clear from a survey attached to a Town of Goderich bylaw passed in 1942 that the water lots that run along the town’s current day beachfront and past Sifto salt mine to the Maitland River, and extending 60 metres into the lake, belong to the town.
Under the MOU, the water lots will follow the land in the change of ownership from the municipality to the town. As a result, the town would collect taxes if someone were to build a facility like a marina at the lake.
Once Central Huron approves the MOU, the Municipal Act requires a public meeting on the proposed boundary adjustment and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to issue an order to implement the change.
As well plan of subdivision approval, and possibly Official Plan amendments or zoning changes will be required.
“This has been going on since the ‘60s and ‘70s, so it’s good the two councils have come together,” said Deb Shewfelt, who is the mayor of Goderich, after his council approved the MOU.
Earlier in the council meeting, Kevin Talbot of Talbot Realty Incorporated, told council the town has seen a steady decline in the values and volumes of sales since 2008, when Volvo Motor Graders closed its doors.