The Town of the Blue Mountain (TBM) wants to build a new operations facility to better service the east side of the municipality.
“The multi-use operations facility could be used by the town to potentially provide a range of municipal services, similar to what is currently offered at town hall in Thornbury as well as a public works yard for storing equipment and potential relocation of the current Teed Fire Hall and the Grey County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Station in Craigleith,” stated TBM CAO, Shawn Everitt.
TBM council approved the multi-use operations facility project through the 2021 budget. Currently town staff are working through phase one of the project, which focuses on site selection and analysis.
At a recent committee of the whole meeting, Everitt provided council with an update on the site selection, noting that staff had examined six possible locations for the facility and is recommending a town-owned plot of land on Grey Road 19 as the best option.
“We've owned this piece of property on Grey Road 19 for a number of years, it's commonly referred to as the former board of education land,” Everitt explained.
The nine-acre plot of land sits on the east side of Grey Road 19 between the intersection of Craigleith Road and Birches Boulevard.
In a staff report, Everitt outlined the key considerations for the site selection:
Following his presentations, TBM council members endorsed the use of the site for a town operational hub “in-principle,” despite a stream of public comments opposing the site selection.
“There is no mention of the location of the other five sites. Where are these? What were the criteria used to compare the sites and why is this not public information? The letter states that the Grey Road 19 site is the preferred staff location without any further rationale; this is not acceptable,” wrote local resident, Sarah Ryerson.
Everitt said that the other five pieces of land that had been evaluated are not currently owned by the town and that it would not be advisable to release any information about them as it may impact any future land acquisition negotiations.
“We looked at the Craigleith Provincial Park property that is just south of the Craigleith Provincial Park camping area,” Everitt explained. “The other four pieces of property are privately owned, and it would not be appropriate for me in open session to be identifying privately owned lands that we've reviewed.”
However, a number of local residents expressed their concerns that it would be premature for the council members to earmark this site as the preferred location.
“We request that council direct staff to reconsider the proposal based on concerns expressed, to assess the impacts of the proposal on the surrounding areas, and to fully analyze alternatives for the operations facility with a view to minimizing the impact of the site on residential, recreational and tourist areas and uses,” said local resident, John Carson.
“If the town is sincere in its suggestion that it wants to work and discuss these issues with the nearby residents, then we should be given more information. For instance, we should discuss the other possible sites, and proposed services to be used at this site,” added Corey Adler.
In his staff report, Everitt noted the project is in the very early stages and the town will need to work through several considerations before proceeding with the development and construction of a facility.
One of those considerations is “if the preferred site can provide for other community needs such as attainable housing, medical clinic and or access to additional parking.”
Thomas Vincent, the president of Global Hospitality Inc. and Collingwood’s Balmoral Village has had a proposal for attainable housing on the same site for the past four years.
Vincent said he is perplexed why the municipality would even consider using this plot of land for a utility site.
“That is absolutely insane,” Vincent said. “It would be better for them to buy some land that is never going to be developed. I chose this site because its attributes would work extremely well for attainable housing. And they want to take that away and build a depot? That just doesn’t make any sense.”
However, according to Everitt, council’s endorsement of this site as an operations hub doesn’t necessarily mean the development of attainable housing is off the table.
“We have to be open to look at potential attainable housing development opportunities. This specific site has been subject to those discussions previously. So this is an opportunity for us to again, take a look at what are the best opportunities for us,” Everitt continued.
He added that the proposed location is the most centralized piece of property available, and that because Grey Road 19 is a county road, it has been constructed to handle any possible traffic impacts.
The recommendation for the proposed preferred project location will be revisited at TBM's July 12 council meeting.
Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca