development

Mayor looks back on 2017, looks ahead to 2018

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The new year is upon us and there were positives and negatives from the year that has just ended, says the town’s mayor.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said that 2017 was a good one but it had its ups and downs as well.

“I think, overall, it was a good balance of successes and challenges,” said DiCarlo. “I think we’ve done well with the waterfront development acquisitions, we had the fibre (internet) announcement and I think the budget confirmed our financial restraint and investment.”

DiCarlo believes the town did a good job of walking the “fine line of paying down debt and increasing amenities that should keep people in town.”

Regarding the Belle Vue and Duffy’s property projects, DiCarlo said he has heard positive and negative responses from residents but acknowledged, “it’s impossible to keep everyone happy” and that council is trying to work for residents and address the needs of the community. He said many people want the Duffy’s property available for public use as soon as possible and “hopefully we can make progress on that” in 2018.

The town did make progress in 2017, the mayor stated.

“We’ve definitely moved forward again,” he said. “That’s my belief. At the end of the day, it always comes down to what the residents think. As long as we can maintain the balance of moving forward, which I think we did (in 2017), we’re in good shape.”

DiCarlo said 2018 could be “another year of challenges,” and the first one on the radar is the policing issue. The town will be hosting four public meetings later this month to discuss the proposal from Windsor police, one that forecasts a $567,000 annual savings to the town.

“That is obviously going to be a big decision we have to deal with,” said DiCarlo. “I’ve definitely heard from a broad demographic of residents on this particular issue. There are people on both sides and plenty of people in the middle waiting to hear what is said at the public meetings.”

The location of the new public high school by the Greater Essex County District School Board is expected at some point, and DiCarlo said that is good news. While noting that not everyone will be happy with the new location, he believes that the new public high school will be positive for the town.

“Everyone is asking where it is going and when it will be built,” said DiCarlo, adding that timelines suggest that the announcement could come soon.

Other development is tied to the school announcement, he suggested, and that more news could be revealed shortly after the location is revealed. While much of that development hasn’t been publicly revealed as of yet, the seniors hub development proposed for the former St. Bernard School appears to be one of them. The town and Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board are headed for arbitration over the building’s value as the town wants to acquire it.

DiCarlo said the town is committed to serving the senior population and that he is hopeful the dispute over the building can be resolved.

“We’re going to go through legal channels there to mediate some sort of solution,” he said.

Much of the plans for future development is hinged on one another, he said, and that “there are a lot of synergies to projects now.” He said fewer projects are done in isolation.

“I think that’s going to translate into success in the long run,” said DiCarlo.

The town remains focused on a hotel, he added, and that the rollout of the fibre internet should occur in 2018. The town will also continue to pay down debt and continue to invest in the community, with DiCarlo stating the goal of the latter being to do so with cash the town already has.

The mayor said there is some “misconception” as it pertains to the town’s debt, which has been brought down from $44 million to approximately $38 million over the last few years. While it has come down “millions,” DiCarlo said much of the debt is locked in and can’t be paid down faster than what it already is.

This year is an election year and DiCarlo said the town could be impacted if and when the current council achieves “lame duck” status.

“While we tackle everything we have to deal with, things have to be in the perspective of what happens with the election,” he said. “If we become a lame duck council, we’ll have to put the issues on hold and we would not be able to deal with them.”

The municipal election is Oct. 22 and the nomination period opens May 1 and ends July 27 at 2 p.m.

Plans starting to emerge for the Duffy’s site

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Now that town council has voted to go ahead with the purchase of the Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn site, plans are emerging as to what could end up there.

The town has conceptual drawings which indicate a marina, boat trailer parking, amphitheater, plazas, wharf complete with docking facilities for tall ships and cruise ships and a food truck parking area are among the potential plans for the property. There would also be three areas on the site suitable for large tents should the town allow an event there.

The site would be fully accessible.

CAO John Miceli said the plans have been on his mind for quite some time.

“I brought it to council in-camera May 24,” said Miceli. “That was the first time I brought it to council for discussion.”

The town regularly hears comments about amenities they currently don’t have, with Miceli using the example of the lack of fishing space currently along the Navy Yard Park shoreline, and believes it will address those concerns also.

Miceli said administration wanted to give council an idea of what the land could be used for and the “order of magnitude” it faced if the town was successful in purchasing the Duffy’s property. The town is going through an Official Plan review, he added, and he believes this property could be a catalyst for downtown development.

“Duffy’s, in my opinion, is a strategic acquisition for the town,” the chief administrative officer stated.

Calling it an “economic driver for the downtown core,” Miceli envisions surrounding properties being developed and other development encouraged.

“It will spur development for sure,” he said.

Miceli said it is the town’s job to make the town enticing to develop in.

“Our job is to create the right conditions,” he said. “I think this is another tool in the toolbox to develop the downtown.”

PowerPoint Presentation

Miceli also envisions people strolling through Navy Yard Park, visiting downtown businesses all the while maintaining the existing state of the current passive park, unless council determines otherwise.

“King’s Navy Yard Park is passive yet a number of residents want more things happening in the downtown core,” said Miceli. “This is a tremendous way of adding something and respecting the passive nature of King’s Navy Yard Park.”

While town council voted 6-1 to proceed with the purchase of the Dalhousie St. restaurant, motel and marina property, the $1.675 million sale isn’t complete yet. Miceli estimates it will be December or early January when the deal will go through as there are still conditions that have to be cleared up, including an environmental assessment due to the fact there are fuel tanks on the property as well as an appraisal.

The estimate for the plans, as they stand now, sit at approximately $7 million. Miceli said that cost could be paid for in a number of ways, including government grants, sponsorships, fundraising, public/private partnerships or other methods. He said council will be given a full report on how to finance the proposal once more information is gathered.

That information will include public input, as Miceli said they will be going to the constituents to gauge their reaction to what is being proposed. The plans could be altered by town council depending on what council and the public would like to see, he acknowledged.

“This is the plan we have come up with conceptually,” Miceli said. “Do you like it? Do you not like it? Is there any changes you would like to see?”

Town council voted to proceed with the purchase at the Sept. 12 meeting at the same meeting where they decided not to move forward with the Belle Vue purchase. Mayor Aldo DiCarlo called the Duffy’s purchase “an investment in the municipality” and said they had to act while the property was still on the market.

“It’s an issue where you don’t get to pick the timing,” he said after the meeting.

DiCarlo told the River Town Times Thursday morning he believed the concept that was presented to council was a good one.

“I think the concept is a great idea,” said DiCarlo. “From the people who have seen it, the feedback has been positive.”

The mayor emphasizes that “it is a concept” and that the residents will have an opportunity to share their views on it, something that will likely not occur until the new year after the deal closes.

“We’ll have an opportunity for public input,” said DiCarlo. “It is a great starting point.”

The concept drawings helped “seal the deal” for council to agree to the purchase, DiCarlo believes, and that the price and business plan also factored into the decision.

“I love it,” he said of the concept plan. “I think it’s a great plan.”

DiCarlo said he has heard from few people who disapproved of the deal and that he has received e-mails, Facebook messages and phone calls from people who like the town’s direction with regards to the property.

“I’ve gotten almost zero negative feedback,” the mayor stated.

According to the town, the current debt is just over $39.5 million and is expected to rise to $42.4 million by the end of 2017 with the forcemain for the Edgewater Sewage Diversion project, Texas Road and Meloche Road factored in. The town projects the debt to drop from there, with the projected debt by 2023 being nearly $27.6 million. Miceli said that doesn’t factor in any plans for the Duffy’s property as it is not finalized what the redevelopment will be and thus, the payments for the redevelopment have not been determined.

Miceli added the purchase of the property will come from reserves.

“It’s a tremendous asset to say we have acquired this tremendous property and paid for it in cash,” said Miceli. “I think we are headed into very exciting times for the town of Amherstburg and I’m excited to be part of it.”

 

Plans moving forward for new condominium/retail development on site of Echo building

 

Rear view of development proposed for 238 Dalhousie St.

Rear view of development proposed for 238 Dalhousie St.

Front view of the proposed development for 238 Dalhousie St.

Front view of the proposed development for 238 Dalhousie St.

View of the south elevation of the condominium/commercial development proposed for 238 Dalhousie St.

View of the south elevation of the condominium/commercial development proposed for 238 Dalhousie St.

Rear view of development proposed for 238 Dalhousie St.

Rear view of development proposed for 238 Dalhousie St.

By Ron Giofu

 

Plans were unveiled for the condominium and retail development where the Echo building currently sits and council has moved those plans forward.

Town council agreed to consider the zoning bylaw for the property, located at 238 Dalhousie St., at the Aug. 11 regular meeting and to have administration advise the County of Essex that council approves the draft plan approval for the land subject to conditions that may be imposed the municipality.

Rebecca Belanger, the town’s manager of planning services, noted the zoning on the land would change from special provision commercial general CG-4 zone to special provision commercial general CG-10 zone to allow for the development of 17 residential units and commercial space that would face onto the parkette at Navy Yard Park. Belanger reported the zoning would reduce the rear yard requirement from 25 feet to 5.9 feet at the northwest corner and 10.5 feet at the southwest corner.

Belanger called it a “neo-classic design” which will include a “ropewalk” to provide access to the retail areas.

“There are several historical features and items of cultural value being incorporated into the site,” she said.

The “ropewalk” is one of the heritage tributes being built into the site, she said, adding the building will be the Echo Riverside Condominiums and feature a 1,200 square foot community room named the Marsh Room.

Architect Alex Toth said he was “pleased to provide, what we feel, is an exciting new development for the town of Amherstburg.” Calling it a “two part development,” Toth said the four-storey tower would feature residential units from 1,550 square feet to 1,780 square feet with 23 underground parking spaces and four above ground visitor parking spaces. The 2,400 square foot commercial area would have the flexibility of subdividing it into spaces from 550 square feet to 750 square feet or even larger dependent on the tenants that are interested.

The new building would fully be accessible, he added.

“To try and make the (current) building economically feasible is just not a possibility,” he said.

The commercial component of the structure would be built on the footprint of the current building.

Mayor Wayne Hurst spoke in favour of the project.

“It’s going to serve the community for many years to come,” said Hurst.

Toth indicated he was willing to work with local resident Phil Kasurak on another concern with regards to the design, as Kasurak believed the Dalhousie St. side was too “boxy.”

“It’s going to serve the community for many years to come,” said Hurst.

Toth indicated he was willing to work with Kasurak on another concern with regards to the design, as Kasurak believed the Dalhousie St. side was too “boxy.”

Councillor Diane Pouget congratulated Toth on the design of the building, adding she was pleased Toth was willing to work with residents such as Kasurak. She also questioned whether the neighbouring parkette would be damaged during construction.

“We have no intention of disturbing the parkette whatsoever,” Toth told Pouget. “We have no need to be on it.”

“This is great. It looks good,” Councillor Bob Pillon said of the proposed development. “If it meets all the concerns of the residents, that’s great. “It’s a good project and I’m looking forward to it.”

Two units proposed as “rental units” to accommodate condominium owners’ family members was a good idea as well, added Pillon.

Councillor Carolyn Davies said she liked the design of the building as well, and noted a preference to have a local flair to it.

“I do believe it has to be Amherstburg-specific architectural value and not just some ‘days gone-by’ architectural value of other communities,” said Davies.

Hurst told council members that many of their concerns have already been addressed by the proponent, emphasizing his belief that it is “an exciting time” in town.

“They’ve paid attention to detail,” he said. “This wasn’t something done in a knee-jerk fashion.”

Councillor John Sutton said he liked the fact the building would add to the town’s tax base and called the proposed development “a real anchor to the downtown core.” He also believed it would a “pedestrian friendly” development as well.

Sutton also touted previous infrastructure upgrades, stating those past developments are allowing proponents to come forward with such developments as the Echo Riverside Condominiums. While the town has experienced a lot of “gloom and doom,” Sutton added “it’s important to celebrate successes as well.”
Deputy Mayor Ron Sutherland was also enthused with the proposed development, and made the motion that it advance to the next stage.

“I’m in total agreement with this project,” said Sutherland. “I’m excited as well.”

Should final approval eventually be given, demolition of the current Echo building and construction of the new condominium and retail building would not start until next year at the earliest. Building owner Eowana Needham has previously stated that demolition is not imminent as current tenants still have leases and nothing would happen until sometime in 2015 at the earliest if businesses with leases were able to relocate by then.