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Town seeking grant funding to aid with development of southeast quadrant

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Town council has authorized administration to pursue the Housing Enabling Water Services Fund (HEWSF) to help fund infrastructure for the South East Quadrant project.

The South East Quadrant would see four housing subdivisions in and near the area of Lowes Side Road and Fryer St. with the HEWSF designed to “help municipalities repair, rehabilitate and expand critical drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure.”

Deadline to apply for the grant is April 19. Town council is not only applying for the grant, but has directed Mayor Michael Prue to write a letter to Essex MPP Anthony Leardi seeking support of Amherstburg’s grant application.

“The town currently has a very limited number of buildable lots within the settlement areas approved by the province as outlined in the Town’s Official Plan. The Southeast Quadrant (SEQ) lands offer one of the larger areas that can be developed for residential use. As this area has a number of different landowners, the Town has initiated and facilitated previous negotiations to provide a servicing strategy that outlines the necessary main infrastructure for the development of these lands to move forward,” deputy CAO/director of development services Melissa Osborne stated in a report to council. “Without this initiative the probability of the lands being developed in the near term would have been low as each developer would have been responsible for obtaining their own servicing plan for their respective lands, which would be far more difficult and costlier to achieve and possibly an impediment to timely development of the lands.”

Osborne’s report pointed out the total estimated cost for the project is over $16.8 million based on 2024 costs based on a third-party engineering firm.

“Of the total cost of the project $16,326,677 is eligible for grant funding and $511,540 is ineligible. Should the Town be successful and receive 73 per cent funding we would be awarded $11,918,474. The remaining 27 per cent of eligible costs, $4,408,203 as well as the ineligible cost of $511,540, for a total of $4,919,743 will need to be funded,” she said.

Projects awarded funding will be notified in August and work must commence by Sept. 30.

“Without the addition of the HEWSF dollars it is expected that it will likely take 10 years before there will be sufficient development charges in the reserves to fund this project. This is the next area of projected growth and without it the Town will soon run out of available building lots,” she stated “If the Town is required to add the full cost of this project to the development charges (DC) it will significantly increase the sanitary portion of the DC and could be a detriment to other developers and homebuilders. The project costs have increased significantly in the last three years due to inflation and other factors. If the project continues to be delayed these costs will continue to increase, requiring additional dollars to complete later.”

Manager of engineering Todd Hewitt said the grant would be for sanitary and water infrastructure, with no other infrastructure included. Councillor Diane Pouget wondered where money for infrastructure such as roads would come from.

“There is money in the five-year capital budget for engineering and construction of Fryer and Lowes in this area,” said Hewitt.

Osborne agreed there is capital money budgeted for Lowes Side Road and Fryer St.

“It is already identified as a development charge project so some of those funds will be through the development charge reserve in order to fund the road portion of that work,” said Osborne.

Pouget also questioned the timing of the grant, asking when administration knew of the HEWSF opportunity. She pointed out the report came before council ten days before the April 19 deadline.

“It seems like we’re always having a knee-jerk situation and we have to make a decision right away,” said Pouget.

Osborne said the grant opened in February and administration attended workshops to clarify what has to go into the application. CAO Valerie Critchley said “it’s a pretty complicated grant” and administration was gathering information on it. There were at least two workshops on it with interested municipalities and provincial officials, the CAO stated.

“We then have to get together all of our information. It’s not something that gets written out. That’s why it’s before you tonight,” said Critchley, at the April 9 meeting.

Osborne said the town had pricing around infrastructure works that was over a year old, so they had to get a third-party reassessment so costs put forth in the grant application are more current.

“Our intention is any funding not covered by the grant would be covered off in large part by the developers doing a pre-payment of their development charges,” said Osborne. “We then needed to schedule a meeting with the four developers who are associated with this project to confirm we had at least enough support from the developers that they would fund the project.”

Councillor Linden Crain had it confirmed it would take ten years to undertake the project if there was no grant, with Osborne stating that is the timeframe if the $16 million were to remain static and the town were to have to wait to collect enough development charges.

One of the developments – the Hunt Club subdivision – are “the furthest ones along” and there are over 700 homes planned for that subdivision alone. Two other proposed subdivisions would bring forth applications “to start their processes in earnest” if the grant moves forward, she stated.

Pouget pointed out the portion in the report stating the $511,540 in ineligible costs includes sanitary infrastructure on Lowes Side Road and Fryer St. and will be recovered from 28 existing homeowners through local improvement.

“Does that mean the 28 existing properties have to share in the cost of $511,540?” she asked.

Hewitt said that is correct, comparing it to what happened on Simcoe St. in 2010 when sewer lines were extended to the Libro Centre.

“The homes on Lowes Side Road and there are a few homes on Fryer St. that are still on septic systems would be responsible for the sewer and its connection,” he said.

Hewitt added through the environmental assessment process in 2018 were included as stakeholders, adding he has spoken to some who are “anxious” for this work to occur due to a variety of reasons such as failing septic systems or opportunities for severances.

Deputy Mayor Chris Gibb added the part of the motion to direct Prue for the “written request of support for our application” from Leardi.

“This has to happen,” said Gibb. “We have a housing crisis in this area. We’ve got an affordability crisis in this town. To be able to open up 750 homes right away with the possibility of another 700 units down the road, and have the province cover 73 per cent of the bill and the developers covering most of the rest, I can’t see how we can turn this down.”

Gibb added he’s been chomping at the bit to support this, with Crain adding the town should always seize the opportunity to apply for grants.

“It’s really going to help us reactivate that South East Quadrant that I know that’s been on pause or is just pending being able to build due to a lack of funding,” said Crain. “I’m hoping with the support of our MPP, that we can get this done.”

“This is our opportunity because this is one of those places where we are ready. Lots of other municipalities will not have 700 unnits ready to go where all you need is an infusion of money,” said Prue. “If we want to build more homes faster, which most municipalities have promised to do, this is the only way we’re going to get it done. I don’t want to see this opportunity lost.”

Town seeking grant funding to aid with development of southeast quadrant

By Ron Giofu

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