Thwarted on sixplexes, Central developer looking at new Mindemoya location

CENTRAL MANITOULIN—Balked by the Central Manitoulin municipal council over a planned development of a six-plex seniors’ housing complex when neighbours of the proposed development opposed the plan, developer Stephen Hill had one response when asked if he planned to challenge the council’s decision at the Ontario Municipal Board. “No, no, no,” he said. “You have to live with people over the long term.”

Mr. Hill said that he and his partner were looking at an alternate site for development and that the experience of the earlier declined project has informed their approach to the new development. “This time we are making sure to talk to the neighbours to make sure they are onside,” he said. “We probably should have talked to the neighbours in the first instance, we might have had better luck in preventing some of the misconceptions that were out there.”

Some of those misconceptions were that the development was for “low income” housing. Although the plan was for some “thrift” units, they were definitely targeted at senior couples and singles.

In the end, Mr. Hill said that he believes the new development will prove to be a “better project.”

Seniors remain the target market for the development, a focus that was borne out of the experience of Mr. Hill’s own family and their own strong attachment to Central Manitoulin in particular. His wife was born on Manitoulin and he was mostly raised here, and the couple returned to the Island after being away for a few years. Like many couples, the Hills were facing the challenge of finding suitable accommodation for aging parents.

“But the nearest assisted living was in Elora,” said Mr. Hill. “There was nothing at all on the Island.”

In its present incarnation, the new development will focus on one-to-two bedroom townhouses, with perhaps 10-12 assisted living units, but Mr. Hill cautions that it is still very early in the planning stage, and depending on local feedback, there could be considerable changes made to that plan.

“Once we get closer into the development and things are firmed up a little better, that would be a better time to talk about the specifics,” he said cautiously.

As to the building schedule and costs, Mr. Hill noted that the construction projects he has completed have been both on time and well under budget so he is confident that his company can turn the dream of a real option for seniors’ housing in Central Manitoulin into reality.

“We are more than willing to talk to other municipalities about projects in their communities as well,” he said.