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Grey County defers affordable housing idea in Meaford

The deferral may not last long as staff promised a report back at council soon based on direction provided in closed session
Meaford would like Grey County to purchase the track and field/soccer field property owned by the Bluewater School Board for a future affordable housing project.

Grey County council has put a hold on a potential affordable housing project in the Municipality of Meaford.

At its meeting on Sept. 28, county council voted to defer a resolution brought forward by Meaford Deputy Mayor Shirely Keaveney that would have seen the county partner with Meaford to purchase a property in that municipality for an eventual affordable housing project.

The full text of the resolution can be found here.

The property in question is the soccer/football/basketball/track and field property owned by the Bluewater School Board. It is located at 87 Aiken Street directly across the road from the former Georgian Bay Secondary School.

The school board has declared the property surplus and is planning to sell it on the open market. The land became surplus after the board built a new junior kindergarten to grade 12 school in Meaford a few years ago.

Meaford considered purchasing the property itself, but decided it was too expensive.

The property is currently green space with a soccer/football field, basketball court and running track. It is located immediately adjacent to the Georgian Trail.

Keaveney brought forward a motion that would see her municipality commit $500,000 to the purchase of the land and another $370,100 the county has in reserve for a housing project specifically in Meaford would be added. The resolution did not state where the rest of the funds needed for purchase would come from.

“We are all aware of the need for additional affordable housing units in Grey County,” said Keaveney. “We are better working together. Let’s take this opportunity to work together.”

The resolution caused consternation around the council table and a lengthy closed session was required before council decided how to proceed. After the closed session, council voted to defer the resolution until a later date.

Owen Sound Deputy Mayor Scott Greig questioned the validity of the resolution and said a staff report was needed for a resolution asking for that large of a financial commitment.

“There is a lot in the motion that goes beyond our procedural bylaw,” said Greig.

In response, CAO Kim Wingove said county staff had prepared a report on the matter in anticipation of Keaveny’s resolution. Wingrove noted a time sensitivity with the issue, as the school board has delayed listing the property for sale to accommodate Meaford.

“Time is of the essence,” said Wingrove.

The staff report was not available as public information and was presented to council during the closed session. Based on the report, council provided direction to staff during the closed portion of the meeting. Subsequently, the motion to defer passed easily in a recorded vote with just Greig and Grey Highlands Deputy Mayor Dane Nielsen in opposition.

Clerk Tara Warder said a staff report would come back to council for consideration based on the direction provided during the in-camera portion of the meeting.

"I am satisfied overall with how the discussion went today," Keaveney said after the meeting. "This is a unique opportunity to collaborate on a project that could be a great benefit to the residents of the Municipality of Meaford."

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About the Author: Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Chris Fell covers The Blue Mountains and Grey Highlands under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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