Council this week wrestled with a subdivision developer's request to scale back community amenities, a step proponents feel is necessary to keep the project afloat.
Approved in 2008, The Maples — a 175-unit, small-lot development slated for 56.41 acres of land north of Finch Drive and east of Loggers Lane — is in trouble, district capital projects engineer Greig Garland said. Originally outlined in four phases, the first phase of the subdivision is mostly complete.
But the sluggish economy is threatening further development on the site, Garland said.
The Loggers Creek development has experienced “limited or no sales activity since 2010,” stated a report to Tuesday's (Feb. 19) council Committee of the Whole meeting. As a result, the developer asked district officials to axe some of the offsite requirements and dedicated affordable housing that the developer agreed to when the project was approved.
“Part of my challenge is if we don't do something, there wouldn't be services provided,” Garland said, regarding the project's possible failure to continue.
In 2008, the project's municipal amenity package was estimated to be worth approximately $5 to $7 million. A large chunk of the cash was for the installation of water and sewer mains.
While Coun. Patricia Heintzman agreed that some of the infrastructure contributions are no longer relevant, she said the extension of water and sewer mains to private lots on Robin and Finch drives played a major role in the controversial high-density subdivision's approval.
“It was not a clear-cut development to begin with and that was a big piece of it: servicing the neighbourhood,” she said.
Residents living adjacent to The Maples continue to have that expectation, Coun. Ron Sander said. As such, council can't change the plan without going back to the public, he said.
Heintzman put forward a motion to drop two of the four community amenities, leaving the water and sewer main serving the area in the project's housing agreement.
The motion passed, with Coun. Bryan Raiser voting against it. Going back on developers' amenity requirements sets a bad precedent, even in a tough economy, he said.
“We can't do business like that,” Raiser said.
At council's regular meeting, district staff recommended the developer give an $80,000 cash-in-lieu contribution instead of the building 20 affordable housing lots — a payment of $4,000 per lot. Economic changes have rendered the affordable housing agreement somewhat redundant and potentially impossible to implement, the staff report stated.
Council wasn't so eager to back the request. Coun. Doug Race questioned whether the payment was too low.
“Unless this was going to be affordable housing, these lots would not exist at all. The developer basically has 20 lots more,” Race said.
Council sent staff back to the drawing board to reconfigure a price point. As for the water and sewer mains, if the proponent wants to further explore dropping the neighbourhood expansion, he or she will have to present the proposal to the public, Mayor Rob Kirkham said.