CENTRAL MANITOULIN—The submission of a preliminary concept design by developer Stephen Hill for the Seabrook property met with a cautiously positive response from the Central Manitoulin council during its Thursday, September 29 meeting.
Councillor Pat MacDonald cautioned that the motion before council was not in support of a zoning change for the property. “We are not supporting a zoning change at this time,” she said.
“That’s because we have not been presented with a zoning application,” pointed out Mayor Richard Stephens, who added that he had some concern with the wording of the motion before council expressing its support. “I am concerned with the word ‘design’,” he said. “He presented a concept to us.”
“It is a concept ‘design’,” pointed out CAO Ruth Frawley.
“Can we change the wording to a ‘concept design’?” rejoined Mayor Stephens. “I think you have to be careful.”
With a change to the motion implemented to reflect the council was supporting a concept design the motion was passed.
An earlier development proposal had met with stiff resistance from residents in the vicinity of that development leading to a refusal of support or zoning changes by the council. Mr. Hill indicated at the time he would not be appealing council’s decision, adding that it was important to work with the community rather than against it and that in hindsight consultation with the development’s neighbours should have been better.
“It was a bit of an unfortunate situation,” noted Mayor Stephens of the earlier proposal. “He had brought the plan to council and council had indicated its approval, but then local opposition to the plan came up and a number of the councillors had backed away from the project.”
The new concept design focusses on one-to-two bedroom townhouses, with as many as 10-12 assisted living units, but in an earlier interview Mr. Hill noted that, depending on local feedback, there could be considerable changes made to that plan.
Mr. Hill stressed that the project is not a “low income” development, but remains focussed on providing seniors’ housing. He said that seniors remain the target market for the development, and that focus is grounded in the personal experience of Mr. Hill’s own family and their attachment to the Island and the Mindemoya area in particular. Mr. Hill’s wife was born on Manitoulin and he was primarily raised on Manitoulin. The couple returned to the Island after being away for several years and, like many couples, the Hills were faced the challenge of finding suitable accommodation for aging parents.
The developer said that it was his intention to improve communications with the community with the new project.
“I think we all learn from our previous experiences,” noted Mayor Stephens.
Mr. Hill noted that their research found the nearest assisted living accommodations were to be found in Elora. “There was nothing at all on the Island,” he said.
The mayor said that it was his understanding that the developer had already been approached by a number of people interested in the development. Mayor Stephens said that, from his perspective, the project looked to be very positive both for his community and the Island as a whole.