North Huron Council pulls support from Maitland Estates project
BY DENNY SCOTT
The Maitland Estates, also known as the A2A development on the east side of Wingham, no longer has North Huron Township Council’s support.
On Monday night, council voted to recommend Huron County Council not approve another extension of draft plan approval for the site.
The 36.94-hectare site was to hold 464 residential units and originally applied for an extension to the draft plan of subdivision in 2017 after the project was first proposed in 2014, according to Huron County Planner Monica Walker-Bolton. In her report to council on Monday evening, she said there had been numerous extensions granted, with the most recent one set to run out in July.
“The extension that was granted in 2017 and each subsequent extension included a condition that Phase 1 of the Draft Plan be registered within the extension period,” she said in her report. “This has not been completed. At the time of the most recent extension, a further condition was added that securities outlined in a subdivision agreement with the Township of North Huron be paid to the satisfaction of the Township of North Huron. This has also not been completed.
“It is recommended that the Township of North Huron recommend that the extension of the draft plan approval not be approved,” she said.
Jose Maria Fernando Suaza Medina (also known as Jeff Medina), the representative for the co-owners of the property, wasn’t in attendance at the meeting.
In her report, Walker-Bolton said the vacant residential land has become a significant issue since 2014 when the original subdivision plan for draft approval was considered.
“There are insufficient development opportunities for the remaining land supply for residential development in Wingham to meet [current] demand,” she said. “Land that has been designated and remains undeveloped creates a strain on other land resources and restricts servicing capacity.”
While the requirements in the most recent extension haven’t been met, Walker-Bolton did say some movement has happened on the property over the past six months, including a local engineering firm being secured for the project.
Council wasn’t convinced, with several members saying they couldn’t, in good faith, keep allowing extensions on the project. Others questioned whether or not there had been enough movement to allow for the extension.
Councillor Kevin Falconer asked if any “weight” had been put on the organization to come forward with a plan before the end of the current extension with Walker-Bolton saying the group was aware of the time constraints.
Councillor Chris Palmer asked if hitting the goal by the July deadline was even possible, which Walker-Bolton said would not be easy.
“I don’t want to assume anything, but it would be difficult,” she said, explaining it would require a development agreement with the township. “That’s detailed work. In my experience, there is a lot of back and forth with the township [and it hasn’t started yet].”
She countered by saying the group retaining an engineering firm is a good sign, but with the short time frame and multiple requirements to hit, it would be difficult.
Falconer asked what the minimum effort the group could put forward to sway Huron County Council was and Walker-Bolton responded saying the requirements would need to be met.
“Until they register a plan of subdivision, they will need to keep applying for extensions,” she said. “The minimum effort has been articulated in previous extensions. They have to register Phase 1.”
Deputy-Reeve Trevor Seip said he has been against the project since being elected due to its lack of movement and said the “Hail Mary” of getting an engineering firm wasn’t enough to convince him.
“[The Reeve and I] are still getting e-mails with people not happy about the owners that put in the application,” he said, adding he had his own concerns. “At some point, you’ve got to put the rubber to the road and there has been zero rubber put to anything in the last six years. It’s been all talk, no action.
“I’ve seen nothing to give me confidence that this will move forward in the next six to eight weeks or six to eight months,” he added.
Reeve Bernie Bailey said it was unfortunate the process had led to this result as there had been substantial North Huron and Huron County staff time put into the project, including overtime and weekends, but it was time for council to make a tough decision for the good of the community.
Council then voted unanimously to recommend denial of the extension to Huron County Council.
As a result of the vote, Huron County Council will have “forceful guidance” against the extension from North Huron Council, Walker-Bolton said, which could result in the project going back to square one. In her report, Walker-Bolton said that, if Huron County Council doesn’t grant an extension, “a new plan of subdivision on the subject property would have to go through the entire planning process again, including studies that would need to be redone.”
She said that, as a result of restarting the process, there may be new input from adjacent property owners in the North Huron and Morris-Turnberry communities which could alter the process.