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Residents speak out on TBM Gateway housing plan

Proposal would see the town transfer the ownership of the lands to BMAHC for $2, with the property then being used for an attainable housing development

A plan by the Town of The Blue Mountains to transfer ownership of 171 King Street to the Blue Mountains Attainable Housing Corporation (BMAHC) has been criticized by members of the public.

The town held a public meeting about the proposed land transfer on May 30 and a number of community members spoke against the plan.

The proposal would see the town transfer the ownership of the lands to BMAHC for $2, with the property then being used for an attainable housing development.

A number of local residents expressed concerns about the proposal via written submissions and in person at the meeting.

“Before the property at 171 King Street East could –and I want to emphasize could – be transferred to the BMAHC, the taxpayers who have funded this venture are entitled to more details on a number of points,” said local resident John Milne, who cited a number of issues he wanted addressed.

“Given the lack of progress since the acquisition of 171 King Street East, and the possibility of the BMAHC’s sole shareholder representatives no longer sitting on its board following our upcoming municipal election, activities should be suspended until a new council has the opportunity to determine whether the BMAHC should be dissolved and town staff assume its function.”

Former town councillor Joe Halos also spoke to council about the plan and suggested the town retain ownership of the property and lease the land back to BMAHC for the attainable housing project.

“We need community buy-in. It’s easy to complain. It’s harder to get buy-in,” said Halos, who challenged members of council to start a fundraising campaign for the project. Halos said he would contribute $3,000 to the campaign if members of council agreed to contribute $1,000 each.

Town clerk Corrina Giles also read written comments received from the public during the proceedings. Letters from Don Green and Hazel Milne opposed the land transfer, while a letter from Kim Harris was supportive on the condition that the town receives the property back from BMAHC in the event it’s not developed for attainable housing.

Mayor Alar Soever assured the public that the sale agreement with BMAHC would protect the town’s interests.

“If (the land) is no longer required by BMAHC then the town would have the first right to re-acquire that land,” he said. “We want to minimize the impact on our taxpayers. That has been our goal from the beginning.

Councillor Paula Hope said she is interested in learning more about the option of the town continuing to own the land, while leasing it back to BMAHC.

“It makes a whole lot of sense,” said Hope.

CAO Shawn Everitt said staff would prepare a full report about the options available for the property after the public meeting. He said the possibility of leasing had been discussed in the past, but could be re-visited.

Council did not make a decision about the land transfer at the meeting. A full report will be coming to council at a future meeting.

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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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