WINCHESTER – Demands on infrastructure and determining the proper development fees have tripped up phase one of the 67-unit Wellings of Winchester development and their proposed July start date.

The Nautical Lands Group (NLG) unveiled their plans for the proposed full-scale 55-plus community this past April, complete with a clubhouse and commercial space for future business opportunities. They and council had hoped for a streamlined process to get shovels in the ground by last month.

The 31.4-acre site located between a neighbouring residential home and R/T Auto on Main Street west across from Foodland, will be developed in phases and consist of townhouses constructed at grade that offer one or two-bedroom accommodations.

Therein lies the problem facing the township. The unique build muddies the waters on what would be an appropriate charge for water and sewer services, and development fees.

Dan Belleau, director of public works, outlined the potential applicable charges Tues., July 30 to council, and what was left owing on water and wastewater infrastructure from the previous main extension on County Road 3 from the village limits to County Road 31.

Though nothing more than acres of opportunity right now, the Nautical Lands Group remains committed to its Wellings of Winchester plan. Uhrig Photo

The cost of that extension was $869,092.97 with a total outstanding balance of $357,113.93, and $84,204.91 for laterals, left to be recovered.

The first phase allocated water and sewer capacity for 67 suites, 42 one-bedroom suites and 25 two-bedroom suites, plus a clubhouse.

Belleau presented several options that had comparable water usage based on the type of building being constructed and suggested that 550 to 750 litres of water usage per day on units of that size. Based on those figures, the total water and sewer charge would be $371,769.24.

However, Belleau also presented evidence, provided by NLG, that disputed the water usage rates and provided figures from a similar build in Waterford that is already occupied. Their daily usage average is markedly lower at 228.33 litres per day resulting in a total capital charge of $112,236.21 for phase one.

The township compared the figures with rates at the Garden Villa in Chesterville, Winchester’s Beachcroft Apartments and Cornwall-area housing and found them to be accurate.

Deputy-Mayor Al Armstrong voiced his support for the figures and the work done by NLG.

“I would see no reason to not accept the data [Wellings of Winchester] has provided us. We don’t need to sit on their money for the start of this construction,” he said. “If we came to the end of a year and somehow consumption was way up and if it was further down we can also give rebates back. To embark on this partnership we should accept our partners numbers and that’s the number we work with.”

Councillor Gary Annable agreed.

“The numbers are true to form and staff has double checked,” he said.

The lower fee is a positive for phase one, but if the project is to go further, Belleau noted that “upgrades or even new infrastructure are expected be required.” In the past, developers have been asked to pay for all, or a representative portion of the off-site upgrades to service their development.

In respect to development fees, Calvin Pol, director of planning, building and by-law enforcement, presented another case where council could determine the path forward.

The attached townhouse type dwelling, with individual entrances and apartment sized accommodations leave room for interpretation.

“What is the typical occupancy loading of that kind of unit? Therefore, that should be the fair charge applicable,” said Pol. “Using the strict interpretation of what their building is, it would be a row dwelling or a townhouse.”

That evaluation would equate to a cost of $3,719 per unit; however, Pol did suggest an argument could be made that the units could be interpreted as apartments.

The 2016 Development Charge Background Study included a projected assumption for the average number of persons per unit. The Wellings of Winchester development is more likely to have an occupancy rate similar to a one-bedroom apartment, which is 1.6 per unit at a cost of $2,479.

Conversely, Kevin Pidgeon, president of NLG, presented council with an offer of $1,000 per one-bedroom unit and $2,000 per two-bedroom unit.

Part of the reason for the proposed fee is that NLG plans to construct, and pay for, a municipal road across the property to line up with a planned new access road to the hospital and will cover the costs of servicing requirements for the development with the property.

Provincial government changes will also now force municipalities to freeze the development fees and allow for payments to be made over five years rather than have them collected upon issuance of a building permit.

With much to be decided, Pol left the decision in the hands of council.

“I think there’s an opportunity here for council to set direction and say what the development charge should be if they want to consider anything else other than a townhouse for the charge,” he said.

Armstrong was clear in his opinion.

“They’re clearly, to me, not townhomes. They’re apartments. They’re lateral apartments, but they’re apartments,” he said.

Pol rebutted: “An apartment is a common entrance. This doesn’t have a common entrance so we can’t go down that road. Only council can.”

Mayor Tony Fraser was also leaning toward an apartment and suggested they meet with Pidgeon and his group to determine an appropriate fee as quickly as possible.

“It’s the right fit. It may not fit the definition in the building code, but I think in my mind it fits what an apartment would be – a smaller unit with one or two people,” said Fraser. “[Let’s] hear some of their comments and thoughts as to the numbers they have in front of them. Some historical data would, I think, help steer us as a group to make a better decision. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to have that meeting.”

Pidgeon, who was in attendance, thanked council for “creating the opportunity to have a pretty open forum and frank discussion about all the intricacies in the new development laws.”

He went on to outline the reasons for the push to resolve the issues.

“Our ambition was to get some seniors housing built in this community because we know there is a need based on the response we’ve had to date. We really did have aspirations of getting in the ground by July. I understand that it’s far more complicated,” he said. “There’s no hidden agenda. It’s very expensive to build in the winter. If we can get the civil works done and the forming done and pour our slabs before the winter comes, then we can really start to produce in a very efficient manner.”

With that, council directed Pol and key members of staff to organize a private meeting with Pidgeon and NLG to address fees, timelines and other possible issues on both sides.