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Pinecrest Housing severances to help with CMHC funding

By Sharon Harrison
Progress for the re-development of the former Pinecrest Elementary school in Bloomfield is moving forward slowly – this week with an application to sever and re-zone lands presented at the County’s planning and development meeting Wednesday. The move inches the project another small step closer to its goal of providing affordable housing.

Owned by Pinecrest Housing and Springdale Development Inc., (formerly known as the LoveSong Seniors Housing and Community Hub), the lands in question form part of the former Pinecrest School located at 27 Corey St., where conversion to accommodate an affordable seniors housing complex has been in the works since its initial vision in 2018.

The application before planning Wednesday night included a request to sever two new lots, and retain the portion of the land that is developed with the school.

Pinecrest Housing also asked the municipality to waive its fees for the severance application, where John Uings, board member and treasurer of Pinecrest Housing, cited a bylaw that council passed with a commitment that the municipality waive property re-zoning fees, building regulation fees, development charges and connection fees.

“It would have been entirely within the spirit of that agreement for severance fees to be included, but it simply didn’t occur to anybody,” he said.

Uings also noted the report mentions a condition for payment in lieu of parkland, something he said they don’t anticipate paying down the road, noting their plans will include free public access to green spaces.

“It has been part of our vision for that 20-acre lot as a provision of a community hub which will involve quite a chunk of green space, a walking track, a community garden, and so on.”

In a short presentation to council, Uings spoke to negotiating the process of the provision of the required funding with CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation), something he described as “painfully slow”, having taken two years, so far.

“They have made some changes in the last week, and we are hope that will very quickly enable us to put together a proposal which is acceptable to them,” said Uings.

He explained the only reason for the severance application is because CMHC have advised Pinecrest Housing that if they secure funding for the transformation of the school building, secured against the entire 20-acre lot (almost the entire property), “this will be problematic when we come to them looking for funding for phase two (which will be some 100 units on the land to the south of the school), and down the road, funding for phase three.

“They have asked that we have the lot severed so that when they give us funding for the school, it will only be associated with the land on which the school building sits,” he explained.

He said they will then be able to come in with an application for phase two on the severed lot to the south.

Speaking to Pinecrest Housing’s ask to waive the severance fees for the application, councillor Phil St-Jean said he didn’t have a problem with eliminating the fees, but he did ask for clarification on what could happen if the severances were sold.

“What guarantee does the municipality have that all of what you have just stated, including the fact that those two severances will not be sold?” asked councillor St-Jean. “How do we guarantee that won’t happen?”

Uings said he didn’t know how they would guarantee it, but noted they are applying to waive the property taxes.

“Once severance is complete, we can then move on with that property tax exemption application,” said Uings. “Assuming you agree to that, the bylaw will include the fact that you will have a lien or control over the project, so that if in the future our interest is sold, liabilities and commitments which we have made would pass on to the person.”

Uings further iterated they have no intention of selling any part of the land, this despite the idea of selling part of the land being suggested to them by council previously to help raise funds.

“We are absolutely resistant to that,” he said. “The vision is 20 acres, affordable housing and community hub; we know what we want to do with the school.”

Councillor Roy Pennell also raised the issue of whether the lots could be sold or not, he then asked if it would possible for the severances to be made with a one-foot reserve along the road line that protects the municipality, if the fees are waived.

“By doing it that way, I’m thinking we might be able to go ahead with that, forget about the fees; they can’t do anything unless it comes back, is that possible?” asked Pennell.

Michael Michaud, manager of planning, said it would be possible to put one-foot reserves on retained lots A and B.

“It will not stop the lands being sold, because they are now going to be individual parcels of property,” said Michaud. “It will prevent any access to that, so council will have the ability, through the one-foot reserve, and lifting of the one-foot reserve, to deny access to those lands. So somebody could buy it, which would deny access, at (council’s) will.”

Uings reminded if the fees aren’t waived, the fees (around $4,000) will again come out of the pockets of local individual donors, as there is no other source funding for the carrying costs.

“Bearing in mind, we have paid to date some $100,000, a staggering number,” added Uings.

Councillor Phil Prinzen said he was a little hesitant to waive the fees given the agreement that was originally made, and with no guarantee; further asking about timing of the project.

“If and when the funding shows up, how quickly will we be seeing it?” asked Prinzen.

Uings said very broadly the timescale, based on their experience with CMHC, once the money becomes available, it would take about a year of construction to complete the project.

“If we could, with the new rules, put an application in this side of Christmas, then we would anticipate an agreement with them by the middle of next year.”

Uings reminded the CMHC ask is for $12-14 million.

Several amending motions were brought forward and all carried, including a motion to remove the condition for payment in lieu of parkland dedication, and the waiving of all fees associated with this planning file.

Council also approved the motion to direct staff to review the existing agreement to add a condition that the municipality has the first right of refusal on any sale of land.

Uings further provided an update on phase one of the project, which involves the conversion of the school into affordable housing. He noted that there is expected to be some 55 studio units in phase one, up from the original proposed 50 units, where all 55 units will be affordable.

The original parcel has 416.3 metres (1365.8 feet) of frontage along Corey Street, with a total area of 8.6 hectares (21.3 acres), and are designated ‘village’ under the official plan and constitute a settlement area.

Proposed severed Lot A has an area of two hectares (4.9 acres), with 62 metres (203.4 feet) of frontage on Corey Street.

Proposed severed Lot B has an area of 3.8 hectares (9.4 acres), with 152 metres (498.7 feet) of frontage on Corey Street.

The retained lot has an area of 2.8 hectares (6.9 acres), with 202.3 metres (663.7 feet) of frontage along Corey Street.

The lands are currently zoned as special institutional (I-33) with permitted uses that include a various housing types, such as a nursing home, a seniors’ complex, among others.

In her report, County planner Emily Overholt, noted “the proposed severance is sought to facilitate financing for a future seniors’ housing complex in the subject lands, and development of the three lots will be subject to site plan control.”

“The proposed severance will result in the creation of two new lots in Bloomfield, which are zoned to accommodate a range of housing types, as well as some institutional uses.”

In 2018, the municipality purchased the surplus school and sold it to Lovesong Seniors Housing and Community Hub and Springdale Inc., operating as Pinecrest Housing – a name the group decided was more readily recognized by the community.

“Through this sale, the owners entered into a partnership agreement with the municipality stating that the municipality shall waive any fees associated with the property’s re-zoning,” said Overholt’s report.

“The proposed severance is not within the scope of the agreement and, as such, would not benefit from any fee exemptions outlined within the agreement.”

Planning application documents for the Pinecrest Housing and Springdale Development Inc,. development can be found on the County’s website.

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