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Councillor concerned Picton Heights sub-division proposal displaces some residents

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
Some aspects of a proposed 560-unit sub-division in the Picton Heights area isn’t sitting well with one of the ward’s councillors.

Details unveiled at a recent public open house at the proposed development site revealed plans for a condominium townhouse development at 2-74 Nery Avenue and 27-83 Inkerman Avenue.

Display boards provided a glimpse of the vision by Toronto-based developer, FLC Group. Among them were a zoning overview, landscape concept, site plan and building elevation. The open house did not include a presentation for about 30 people in attendance.

Along with the developer, several consultants were on hand to answer questions. Also present was Prince Edward County mayor Steve Ferguson, and Picton councillors Kate MacNaughton and Phil St-Jean.

MacNaughton has concerns about the proposed development, especially surrounding existing families residing in the immediate area, that could be displaced. Most of the homes in the immediate area are rental and are owned by the developer, she noted.

“In a time where our council is very concerned with preserving affordable housing, this is going to threaten a few dozen households in this community that can actually afford to live here and raise families here,” stated MacNaughton. “I don’t want a single one of them to be forced into a forced economic migration. Even if we lose one family or one household from this community, I will see this development as a failure.”

“I have tremendous concerns that my standards for conscionable development, when you are looking at the displacement of households, and my concern is my standards will not be met,” she continued.

A mix of three-storey buildings of stacked bungalow and back-to-back townhouses, as well as three-storey street townhouses, form the proposed development known as Vineridge Community.

Specifically, it would consist of 32 blocks of stacked, back-to-back townhouses, and 16 blocks of street townhouses, which would include a network of private laneways.

All the townhouse blocks are to be three-storeys in height and would have street access, with 787 surface parking spaces distributed around the site.

The street townhouses feature their own integral parking garages and private driveways. The back-to-back townhouses would have parking spaces allocated in a nearby parking area.

Developer, Fred Heller, president of FLC Group, said the large development would be phased-in over a period of years.

He confirmed price points would start at $275,000 for two-bedroom units and would go up to the mid-$400,000s.

“That’s the range we want to stay with and that is based on our detailed budgets for this first phase,” he said.

Heller noted phase one of the development would include 66 units, with 50-70 units thereafter in each phase, with all units to be either two- or three-bedroom.

“The design is based on English Regency style with street townhouses and stacked townhouses. In each building there is main floor bungalow units, single-level units, and then above it there are two, two-storied units, one facing one way, one facing the other way,” stated Heller.

A zoning bylaw amendment and draft plan of sub-division application were submitted to the County earlier this month for the Inkerman/Nery site. Mandatory reports and studies submitted include a transportation study, a heritage impact study, an environmental assessment study and a geotechnical study.

The sub-division is to include a landscaped village green as a focal point, a network of pedestrian walkways and semi-private open spaces. A perimeter multi-use path, as well as connections to Macaulay Mountain Conservation Area trail network, are noted.

One of the church buildings on the site is to be converted into a community centre.

Heller noted the provincial government Investment in Affordable Housing (IAH) program, exists to assist buyers with housing affordability, which he refers to as ‘down payment assistance’.

“If you took say a $300,000 unit, and raised a first mortgage of say $200,000, 70 per cent would be $210,000, a cash down payment of only 5 per cent, which would be $15,000, and then the difference would be a payment-free second mortgage,” explained Heller.

He said the amount is only repaid when the house is sold and the mortgage is repaid, or after 25 years.

“When it is repaid, the capital is repaid plus a share of the increase in value, so there is no monthly payments on it, no interest payments, no capital payments on it, so it’s repaid on sale or after 25 years. For example, if the mortgage is 15 per cent of the purchase price, that amount gets repaid plus 15 per cent of the increase in value.”

The IAH program is being offered to five per cent of the purchasers of the Vineridge Community development in each phase as they are constructed.

“The province takes all the counties and regions in the province and they put an income cap household number and they put a real estate value number, and we’ve got to fit in below that.”

While Heller couldn’t immediately recall the house price number, except to say they were below it, the current income cap household number is $88,000 or less.

“From our point of view, our preference would be to help people in the County.”

Councillor MacNaughton said while it will create profit for the developer, “it will set back some families, potentially forever, and I can’t stomach that.”

MacNaughton noted the Heights is a “really beautiful place” and a “really beautiful community lives here. It has a diversity of age that we are losing in the County and we need to be able to foster it, and we can’t afford to lose any one of these families.”

She said there are some good intentions with the proposal, referring to the IAH program, which may ensure 25 homes come with more affordable opportunities to own for those who qualify.

She was also concerned that larger families would be left out because the largest proposed units have just three-bedrooms.

“There is no protection for larger families and we are looking at families being penalized for having larger households and people will be penalized for being poor, or not being rich enough. Fundamentally, it’s gentrification, it’s gentrification 100 per cent and it’s an insult,” added MacNaughton.

She said while there are positives, she sees far more negatives.

“Even if a few of these households are forced to migrate out of the region, that is a big fail for me and I am never going to comfortable voting for it.”

Heller said the rezoning and sub-division applications were submitted to the County Sept. 8. The hope is construction of the first phase will begin in summer 2021, where Heller noted there would be nine phases to the development.

“Depending on market demand, I would say that the longest timeframe would be nine years, for a phase a year. I hoping we will have great demand and we will be able to move along quicker.“

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  1. Janice says:

    We read that the head of Prince Edward Hastings Health unit is directing locals to stay home and not travel outside our vicinity while the County keeps promoting tourists and visitors to flock to the County. This County Council needs to give their head a shake and be responsible to the needs of their constituents.

  2. Paul Drake says:

    Thank you Kate for voicing your concerns and being there after I had contacted you about this development. I truly hope that council will be on the side of all of us living up here in The Heights. These are Our homes and although we do not get much help from current landlords we all strive to make Our homes HOME!
    I attended the meeting and one of the developers we spoke to ( can not remember name but was a women) basically told us that she had no concern for the residents here or as to where we would have to go showing no empathy stating that if new owners of development chose to rent to us would be up to them but not a promise that anything would be available for those of us living here.
    When this comes to a council meeting I would urge all residence of The Heights and surrounding areas to attend voice your opinions and concerns.

  3. Marie Powell says:

    Once all the “regular folks” are gone, who will be left to serve the ever-growing tourist population when they come to town? I’ve been convinced for years that our (the locals’) interests are not a matter of concern, and I feel this way more and more. I appreciate Councillor MacNaughton for speaking up for us. Thank you.

    I also appreciate Paul Cole referring to the Environmental Impact Study. Too often, our wildlife is displaced by development due to lack of care or concern. Thank you.

  4. My island! says:

    I totally agree that we need affordable housing. And why is counsel not trying to bring in some sort of business or factory that people can work at and make a decent wage. Then maybe the need for affordable housing wouldn’t be so great. This day and age it’s very hard to get ahead on minimum wage. For alot of families it’s like a dog chasing its tail. You can fix this and help your own people make there lives easier and not such a struggle. People aren’t staying and alot has to do with your job market. Your losing your born and bred county residents and that’s a shame.

  5. Dennis Fox says:

    I would be interested in knowing if anyone can give a specific example of when increased development ever lowered taxes and water rates?

  6. angela says:

    Time for a reality check. Many of the people who are “complaining” have not nor not will they benefit from the active arts community. When it can be a challenge to put food on the table most people are not thinking about art to put on their walls. They can’t afford to eat in those fine restaurants or shop in those trendy boutiques and they certainly cannot buy homes in the price range suggested for the proposed new development at the Heights. Many county people still work for minimum wage or little more. They love their home community and want to protect its environment. This does not make them short-sighted whiners. They never asked to live in the tourist capital of Ontario and benefit very little from it. A lot of families living at the Heights are there because it is what they can afford. The proposed new development is a lot more upscale than the sort of housing already there and it does not seem like a good fit. How long before the present residents are forced out? Thank goodness for the so-called whiners. They are usually the people who truly care about their community and everyone in it.

  7. Allane says:

    I am so tired of hearing the complaints from various residents of PEC. They complain about everything from traffic to housing to tourists. I have been here for 26 years and note the great changes that have occurred in the form of an active arts community, beautiful restaurants and boutiques that have unique offerings. I remember when the province wanted to help fund a ring road around Picton. There was an out cry against it – the businesses would dry up etc. So it wasn’t done. Short sighted complainers won and now we have traffic issues that they can complain about that are of their own making. I was at the meetings for Picton Terminals where long term residents stood up and berated the “new people from Toronto” who urged against it. Well again, you got your way and I can’t wait to see how you like 49 when the terminals start bringing in all the containers they are proposing and the trucks start moving them to Toronto (the place a lot of residents hate). You can not live in a time bubble. The reality is like most of the world things are changing. The proposal appears to be for a very nice looking development with a community centre. What people and politicians should be consumed with is making sure that it is built to the exact specs that are currently being presented. The same green space, the same community centre and no cut backs. The town should be making an arrangement for a holdback to ensure that those things are built and deny building permits for any lowering of standards. And guess what at the end of the day this should generate a larger tax base and should result in lower water rates (another constant complaint).

  8. Michelle says:

    Begs the question, what is considered affordable? And how can a developer provide affordable housing and net a profit? Solutions are not easy.

  9. Alana Rayman says:

    I’d like to post this on FB. Most people 40 and over use FB. Good article though!

  10. Glen Holm says:

    The issue is larger than ‘just’ the development in question. The neighbouring Prince Edward Heights was government housing not long ago. Now the rents have already started getting over 900-1k a month easily and THIS is what we are calling affordable. Meanwhile the community is maintained like a ghetto. What is going to happen right next door when all this development happens on the other half of the heights? This has the potential to displace almost 200 hundred low income families who cannot afford other accommodations. This has the potential to be a real social catastrophe for this community. We are already affordable housing crisis and one of the largest food insecure areas of the province of Ontario and now we are considering adding fuel to the fire.

  11. Dennis Fox says:

    Thanks to Councillor MacNaughton, the public are finding out about the downside of this development. I have suggested on a number of occasions that our Council needs to start holding meetings with this community to find out what kind of development we want to see. Between the Picton Terminal, fuel spills, being overrun by tourists and receiving zero in return – and now development that will displace people – does anyone feel that their opinions don’t matter?

    Now did anyone read this week’s Gazette Editorial? Just another sign of how our tax dollars are being misused to promote the vert thing we don’t want – Toronto coming to the COunty!

  12. angela says:

    These homes are not being built for county residents. They are not going to offer affordable housing. But they will bring more traffic to a town that is already a permanent traffic jam, more demands for services, and more resentment among the locals as they see themselves being forced out. Thank you Kate MacNaughton for speaking up for local residents. It seems the rest of council is more interested in wooing outside developers than representing the people who voted them into office.

  13. Sara Smith says:

    Ya you are going to see a lot of families moving from here come 3 months time. Most jobs here are minimum wage. No one can afford 200 to 400,000 for a house on the jobs that here. How about more geared to income if you would like to keep people here? Is this a retirement village Picton because that’s what it seems. You cater to the rich and leave others out. How about fixing the units falling apart on the hill or building more homes that rent is cheaper? You will, and are, making people leave. This town is not set up, or has the amenities for this new community being built. I own my own home here and am I single mother. I am selling and leaving.

  14. Lloyd Paul says:

    Thank you Councillor MacNaughton for raising some key issues.
    Some people can only afford renting. Can it be a requirement that all developments include affordable rental units?

  15. Amie says:

    Thank you Kate. I live on the Heights on London Ave and we own our house but I went to the information session and was less than impressed at the site of the townhouses. They dont look like something that I could afford. We need affordable housing and not just that 560 units is a lot to put up here, with traffic already being bad and lots of people treating London Ave as a racetrack.

  16. Fred says:

    We need to be careful turning negative on a developer bringing in so many needed units. If we are dreaming for a $100,000 home or $700 a month rent, it just isn’t going to happen. That would be subsidized housing and the County which is the taxpayer can’t afford it. And the Feds and Province are up to their chins in debt with Covid.

  17. Phil says:

    Way to speak up for the underdog Kate. The developer could easily have only developed the center of the site and left the existing houses.

  18. Paul Cole says:

    In their Environmental Impact Study available on their site they identify a Eastern Meadowlark Breeding Habitat in the middle of this proposed development. The Eastern Meadowlark is a protected species especially breeding habitat in Canada and Ontario…

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