MORRISBURG – In a report presented by economic development officer Rob Hunter, South Dundas councillors discussed the viability of selling off nine municipal development properties, two of which are located on prime waterfront property in Iroquois and Morrisburg.
Hunter presented his findings at a special committee of the whole meeting Tues., July 2 and the cream of the crop was a threesome of lots, suggested as a package deal, located on Iroquois Island.
The land is blessed with stunning views of the Galop Canal and St. Lawrence River and is located off Carman Road and old Highway 2 between Hadley Street and the cemetery.
In total, the three pieces total more than six acres, are zoned residential or open space and assessed at more than $330,000.
Hunter suggested the properties be rezoned commercial or mixed use residential for the purpose of attracting a developer that would build a hotel, condos or housing. He also went on to describe this particular group of properties as a unique opportunity.
“From a lot perspective the only other lots in Ontario on the system, the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario system, is at the Welland Canal and you’re not getting anywhere near it because of the setbacks. It’s pretty built up there too, so there’s really not an opportunity to actually have property overlooking a lock on the system,” he said.
Hunter did admit that water and wastewater services would be difficult to implement on the island, but suggested self-contained potable water and sewage treatment systems are possible.
Mayor Steven Byvelds was firm that the municipality has a hand in how the land is developed and know every detail of the proposed use.
“If we’re going to package them or sell any of this property here, there is an expectation that the owner will come [to] us as to what they want to do on it and we will bind them to it,” he said.
Councillor Lloyd Wells agreed.
“We need to know every plan and if you do decide to take that route, you sign on the dotted line and it’s not going to be amended for nothing,” he said.
Deputy-Mayor Kirsten Gardner agreed it was a golden opportunity, not only for a developer, but also for the community.
“If it’s presented properly, it could potentially provide some growth in that area. Land is the number one commodity and it’s an awesome opportunity.”
The other piece of waterfront property offered, located in the village of Morrisburg off Allison Avenue, is substantially larger, but comes with a bit of baggage.
The more than 23 acres is the site of the former village lagoon and is also next door to the current wastewater treatment facility and the public works garage. In fact, in order to access the more than 1,400-feet of waterfront, part of the municipality’s wastewater and garage property will have to be severed to create an access road.
The entire length of the waterfront, while substantial and blessed with brilliant views, also has restricted access with the inlet reserved for institutional use by the Operating Engineers Training Institute of Ontario.
Byvelds recalled that almost a decade ago the lagoon was filled in with the intention to develop the property.
“The vision at that time was condos or something there. We had the money to do it so we felt it was the time to do it,” he said, adding “it would need some geo-tech work.”
Wells was less than enthusiastic about the potential for development.
“The property is beautiful. It’s waterfront. Is it feasible for anyone to actually build there? I’m not sure,” he said.
Councillor Archie Mellan disagreed.
“We need to explore this a little bit more,” he said.
Gardner thought it had enough potential and the municipality’s need to fund some large projects merited a for sale sign on the property.
“With all the projects we have to try to complete and the limited funds that we have, we need to get creative. I wouldn’t hold it back,” she said. “We owe it to the residents if there’s an opportunity to get rid of something we have no use for and none of our residents have an attachment to. What’s the harm? It’s just a ‘for sale’ sign.”
“To do nothing with it, I don’t think that’s a good option. I think we have at least have to try,” he said.
Another 15-acre property located near Iroquois on County Road 2 was also brought forward for rezoning from rural to commercial for potential sale.
While Mellan believed it was better suited for residential use, Wells didn’t think the demand would be there with the Dutch Meadows development still on the horizon.
Gardner wasn’t opposed to selling the land, but wondered what the larger vision was for the area.
“I don’t see the purpose of holding on to it if there’s somebody that wants to develop it,” she said. “We need to think of how the big picture looks,” she said.
The 1.4-acre lot on Elizabeth Drive in Iroquois where the cenotaph is located was tabled, but never seriously considered. Neither was 28-acres of open space north of Grove Street, which was a former waste disposal site.
“There are better places to go,” said Byvelds.
The vacant lot at the corner of Second and Trillium Street in Morrisburg was also deemed too vital for overflow parking and the municipal operations of the arena, and will not be sold.
The waterfront lots will be brought to the economic development committee for input and staff was directed to provide a report to council on adjoining property agreements and water access with Ontario Power Generation.