Gore Bay raises concerns with initial proposal for housing

GORE BAY—Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services (OAHS) will be holding community engagement and is willing to build to suit the needs of the community of Gore Bay, the proposed housing development being planned in the town. This response from OAHS comes after Gore Bay council indicated it is not in favour of the initial plans being proposed at this time.

“Forty-five one-bedroom housing units are not what we are looking for,” stated Gore Bay Councillor Jack Clarke at a recent meeting council had with representatives of the Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board (DSB). “This is not where we want to be going.”

“Someone on council had asked for an update on the OAHS housing project for the town,” said Donna Stewart, associate chief administrative officer of DSB. She noted that in discussion with OAHS, “their intention is to develop a three storey building with 45 one-bedroom, affordable units. Construction is planned to take place in 2023.”

The waiting list for units is 29 for one bedroom, 14 for two bedroom and about five for more bedrooms,  council was told.

However, Ms. Stewart stressed, “this proposal may change, based on the needs of the community. They (OAHS) will be meeting with council and the community as to what the community needs are and the waiting lists prior to construction.”

Fern Dominelli, DSB CAO said, “OAHS is aware that town council wants more than one- and two-bedroom units. They will be building based on the demand from the waiting lists.” He noted, however, “the worst scenario would be if you have two bedroom or family units that are not occupied. We have this type of situation in Chapleau.”

“Everything OAHS does will be based on need when they are ready to build,” said Mr. Dominelli.

“I can’t see the dynamics of 45 one-bedroom units working,” said Councillor Ken Blodgett.

Sarah McBain, communications specialist with OAHS told The Expositor in an email April 25, “the proposal OAHS submitted to the DSB was based on the expression of interest (EOI) document released by DSB in 2019-2021. The EOI indicated that proponents would have to build a minimum of 40 one-bedroom units on the site as per their needs requirement.” Ms. McBain explained as well, “the barrier-free common areas and 25 percent of units will meet accessibility standards, or full universal design and 10 percent of units meeting accessibility standards.”

“The development is proposed to be a three-storey building,” said Ms. McBain. She explained, “the zoning was approved February 18, 2020 and no appeal was identified to OAHS. The (soil sampling) was conducted on October 12, 2021, and there are no indications of contamination to the (property) soil.” She noted as well a traffic impact study was completed in November 2021, and these reports were forwarded to the municipality. OAHS still needs to conduct a water and sewer line capacity report.

“OAHS will hold a community engagement meeting once all reports are completed,” said Ms. McBain. She added “OAHS is willing to build to suit the needs of the community. If the DSB needs assessment has changed and they wish to incorporate two-bedroom units, OAHS is willing to revise our plans, provided the site will be able to accommodate.”

Councillor Clark told The Expositor after the meeting, “45 single bedroom units is not what we are looking for. We are hoping to have the majority of the units filled by families.”

“We’re still waiting for a couple of studies to be completed by OAHS, which I don’t think will affect the development of the project, but we are concerned with the water supply in the area (of the proposed development) which has a small line and there are concerns relating to it possibly not being able to provide adequate water for fire protection.”

Gore Bay Mayor Dan Osborne told The Expositor, “we had sent a letter (to OAHS) indicating that we wanted two and even three-bedroom units for families in at least some of the units, so there would be a mix of at least one-and-two bedroom units. And, as we were told at our meeting OAHS will be coming to meet with us and discuss what the needs of the community are before they (OAHS) start development.”

At a meeting this past January, Gore Bay council had indicated it would like to see multi-room units included in the proposed apartment unit structure in the town, instead of just single unit apartments.