By Darren Lum
The plan for the affordable housing development on Wallings Road is taking a step forward after Dysart et al entered into an agreement with Places for People, with the approval of a letter of intent for the conveyance of land at the regular council meeting on March 22, held virtually.
Council accepted the contents of the draft letter of intent in principle and staff are recommended to come up with a bylaw at a future council meeting to authorize the execution of the letter of intent.
The vote finished 6-1, with Councillor John Smith as the dissenter, who had questioned the vagueness of the wording in the letter of intent, and was in opposition to give more assistance than conveying the land.
Just before the vote, Dysart Mayor Andrea Roberts said, “I understand details are important, but I believe the general letter of intent is good. We have made a couple of changes. Staff asked us for specific direction in terms of an end date, we added a change there, explained some clarification, so I really think we should be moving on.”
In the previous letter of intent, Dysart director of planning and land information Jeff Iles said, there was a higher associated cost for Places for People because of “stricter language with regards to the Affordable Housing [program] incentives. And those have been removed from this letter of intent.”
He added there could be costs in the future related to that program.
It’s been a little more than a year since the township donated the Wallings Road land to Places for People, with the intent to build affordable housing. Complications arose from differing results following two traffic studies, with one commissioned by the county and one by Dysart. The county’s results indicated Wallings Road was not suitable, citing traffic safety concerns while Dysart’s study indicated differently.
Dysart decided in January to move plans forward when they agreed to enable P4P to plan to build on a small portion of the donated land on Halbiem Crescent, which allows for planning to continue the first part of the build in the interim.
Council agreed to reimburse P4P for incurred costs to this point, which include administration costs related to land conveyance and the zoning bylaw amendment.
The expense of the geotechnical engineer study will be covered, if the situation changes.
“We’ll only pay those studies in the event that the land reverts back to Dysart and Places for People are not successful and everything else we’ll cover, including the appraisal fee and the survey fee,” Roberts said.
Smith said, “My own sentiment is we’re giving the land. Waiving the other fees, ought not to be on the taxpayers of Dysart,” he said.
He also asked why council wasn’t able to deliberate more about the Places for People additional incentives at the meeting.
Iles explained the discussion can’t take place because of how the Affordable Housing Program works.
“That will be up to the applicant to make a request for the incentives they’re looking for. It’s possible they ask for none, but at the time when they make an application council will reveal their request. Currently, we don’t have policy. It’s something we worked on at the county level, all four lower tiers, but currently we don’t have policy. At the time it will be up to council’s sole discretion when it comes in,” Iles said. “And council, if they choose, could recognize what’s previously been donated, but that’s why it hasn’t been included because Places for People haven’t made a specific request.”
Council agreed to enter into an exclusivity period that ends Dec. 31, with the option to extend the exclusivity period, if it desires.
Places for People will have time to examine the letter for approval and return to make it official later when council meets again later this month.