By Darren Lum
Construction on first phase could begin late-spring and take up to 18 months
The plan for the Fleming College student residence with space for 94 beds is taking a step forward in its process to add much needed accommodations to the area, following a special meeting of council on March 25, held virtually.
The municipality of Dysart et al council agreed to the zoning bylaw amendment to address setback provisions, and has deferred the site plan agreement to discuss at a future meeting.
The plan, which is expected to be executed in three phases, includes a 1,790 square-foot residence, with four three-storey buildings, divided into two pavilions, which includes 54 suites.
Phase one includes the construction of the first two buildings, with one building for each of the next phases. Pending site plan approval, the first phase is expected to start late-spring or early summer of 2023 and the construction will take up to 18 months, then the college will evaluate phase one’s success in terms of occupancy to determine the need to continue with development. A year or two would elapse before starting phase two. This residence will be serviced by municipal sewer and a new private individual well.
Even before the discussion started, Dysart Mayor Andrea Roberts, who is confident residency will be filled in the opening phase, showed her enthusiasm for the development.
“It’s a very exciting day for Dysart and for the college. This has been a long time coming and it’s been a desire for the municipality and basically for the county to see student residence here, which will only help the college grow and [I’m] really looking forward to today’s meeting,” she said.
Public consultation of the plans for the new Fleming College residence on the 3.7 acres in Haliburton is continuing. Part of this already included the “circulation requirements of all neighbouring property owners within 120 metres of the subject lands and appropriate agencies have been circulated for comment on March 1, 2020. The required advertisement was also placed in the local newspaper, as per the requirements of the Planning Act,” Dysart senior planner Kris Oran said.
While the mood from the township and the college was positive, there are concerns among stakeholders. Some of those concerns include parking such as if there would be designated spots for students, users, which include hikers, bikers and Nordic skiers; lighting of parking and walking paths; the location of the gate at the timber frame entrance (closest to the college); accessibility; ensuring the width of a path is consistent for the needs for the winter snowmobile trail under the Haliburton County Snowmobile Association and ensuring the access route for emergency vehicles is established in accordance with requirements.
The college and their team were encouraging about addressing these concerns and accommodating recommendations, as presented through this process, which included delegations made at the meeting. The team’s plan includes native landscaping, lights that meet night sky requirements, and ensuring a landscaped buffer exists between the museum’s historic buildings and the residence. The latest concerns raised are expected to be addressed in the plan that is still up for site plan approval and will be part of a future meeting later this year.
Area resident Adam Brind, who lives steps away from the college parking lot, asked about the lighting and suggested planting mature coniferous trees to reduce the light directed at the back of his home.
Part of the consulting team, lead designer with D.M. Wills Associates Limited Joe Fleming was open to the suggestion and said it’s “a great suggestion to mitigate the light trespass.”
He added trees would also help provide shade to the parking lot.’
Glebe Park and Museum Committee’s Jim Blake, spoke on behalf of a few groups such as the museum, the HCSA, and individuals. Blake highlighted the pathway between the museum and the timberframe entrance way are used frequently as a throughway and needs to be considered a part of the plan wasn’t visually definitive with a path. The kiosk has value and needs to remain, as it functions as a gathering site and the space between the gate and the parking lot is used as an assembly area for groups, he added.
Blake said Mike Darlington noted the parking lot lights at the college do go off at night.
“That’s true, Jim. The parking [lot] lights do go off when the college is closed. However, once we start to have a residence in there where students are coming and going at all hours of the night, we will have to be mindful about their safety. That being said, I think that we can have further conversation around the overflow parking lot [furthest away from the college]. I think that we can do that for sure. But we can’t turn all the lights off. We just have to be very, very mindful of the students’ safety,” Fleming College executive vice-president, academic and student experience Sandra Dupret said.
Blake also conveyed concern from Darlington about “how water management ditch has silted at the bottom of the hill near the leaf sculpture.” It was suggested it and it needs to be examined, so water doesn’t flow to the homes where his residence is instead of east to Head Lake.
Another issue that was brought up at the meeting included the planned use of asphalt for the parking area for close to 200 spots, which was chosen in part for accessibility. The concern from council was about the environmental problems asphalt can pose and how it wasn’t complementary to the setting.
“Dealing with climate change and everything else in our world, it’s always trade offs. And, you know, I guess I’m looking to the college team to kind of express either a willingness or an unwillingness to go away, maybe, reevaluate the need for all that asphalt,” Smith said.
Until council saw this recent plan, they were not aware of the choice to use asphalt for the parking lot area. The Fleming team said the storm water management was considered to mitigate flooding before Darlington’s observation.
Dupret said she recognizes the concern about the surface choice.
She will consult with the team to deliberate about options related to the amount of asphalt used at the request of council.
Smith suggested the team look at the Minden Animal Hospital’s parking area, with its permeable surface as an example to consider.
Co-chief executive officer of Prism Partners Inc. Susan Conner, who is the project manager for the development, said the timeline for completion of all three phases is not known at this time.
“We heard a lot today. I think we need to digest that and think about what those solutions would look like both in terms of how to implement them, as well as the cost to implement them. And I also think working with Kris [Orsan, Dysart senior planner] and Jeff [Iles, Dysart director of planning], we need to do some housekeeping with the site plan agreement that you have before you … I think we have to do another draft, you know, and work with staff to do a draft that addresses some of the things I’ve just spoken about,” she said.