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Bridgewater gets 12-month extension; raises questions on long-term projects

"I think that by having so many properties in the pipeline we're encouraging speculation," said Councillor Yvonne Hamlin.
2019-01-28 Bridgewater JO-001
A Google image of the land for the proposed Bridgewater on Georgian Bay development project on Highway 26. Contributed image

A major development project got its 12-month extension on Monday night (Jan. 28), but not without a few lingering questions from some council members.

The Bridgewater on Georgian Bay development (previously named The Preserve at Georgian Bay) was requesting a 12-month extension to their current draft approval for a proposed subdivision.

Although committee defeated the motion by a tie vote during the Development and Operations Standing committee on Jan. 21, council voted the extension through during their regular meeting on Jan. 28.

“While I recognize this is a request for an extension, there have been previous extensions on this application,” said Coun. Deb Doherty. “I believe, based on the age of this draft agreement and based on the fact that there have been no fewer than six other significant developments that have gone forward since this draft plan was first approved, all of which would have direct or indirect impact on the Silver Creek wetlands, and given that this development abuts the... wetlands, I find it difficult to support this application.”

Doherty also brought up that the application was 12 years old and the Ministry of Environment doesn’t consider environmental assessments to be valid after 10 years.

Saunderson said that the extension was being requested because the developer is planning to ask for change in the draft plan.

Bridgewater’s current draft approval is for 320 dwelling units and the developer is seeking to change that to a mix of 655 apartment, single detached dwellings, semi-detached dwellings, and back-to-back townhouse dwelling units. The property is in Collingwood’s west end, on the north side of Highway 26 across from Georgian Bay Hotel and near Princeton Shore Boulevard.

“Would this be the oldest draft plan that the town has with an expiry date?” asked Coun. Yvonne Hamlin.

Director of Planning Nancy Farrer said it was her understanding that it was.

“Are you able to tell at this time how many units can be justified on this property?” asked Hamlin.

Mayor Brian Saunderson clarified that the motion before council was whether to allow the 12-month extension, before deferring to Farrer to answer.

“There have been environmental reports that have been submitted and we are waiting for those reports to be commented on by the NVCA (Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority),” said Farrer.

“From what I can determine, we have some 5,000 units in the planning process in the pipeline, you might say, in our community,” said Hamlin. “From our various planning reports, we have an average household population of 2.2 people per unit, which would mean that right now we have an additional 11,000 residents without even one more application.”

“If we add that to the approximate 22,000 population, that gives us 33,000 people. The growth plan... indicates that by 2031, our population isn’t to exceed 33,400,” said Hamlin. “I see so many of these growth plans that have been hanging around for a long time, and this is the oldest one. It’s a bit long in the tooth.”

“I think we’re going to have to start dealing with these. To me, this is an obvious one,” she said. “If the applicant is serious about doubling the density on this property, he’s going to have to do the work. Let’s just see how serious he is.”

Hamlin also brought forward another concern around the influx of subdivision development proposals.

“My understanding is that once a project receives draft plan approval, the value of the property would then go up, which is good,” said Hamlin, with a laugh. “But it then allows the property to be traded at a higher value and allows financing to be obtained on the property.”

“I think that by having so many properties in the pipeline we’re encouraging speculation in our housing market, and I have a concern that we’re driving up the prices of our housing because we have given all this approval for all these lots so far in advance of when they’re ever going to come to market,” she said.

Coun. Bob Madigan threw his support behind granting the extension.

“It’s 12 months. It will allow us the 12 months to get our heads wrapped around this,” he said. “I believe that this developer is adapting to the needs of Collingwood and the needs of the people who are moving here. They’ve changed since 2007.”

Deputy Mayor Keith Hull also indicated he would be supporting granting the extension.

“It’s a placeholder for one year,” said Hull. “If they choose to come forward with a different application, that’s a separate issue to this motion tonight. We’ll deal with it at that time.”

The motion to grant the extension was passed with Coun. Hamlin and Coun. Doherty opposed.

For our full story on residential developments proposed in Collingwood, click here.