By Mike Baker
Dysart et al council has signed off on the development of a new office building on the corner of County Road 21 and Nimigon Lane – right next door to Tim Hortons.
During a public meeting held on Jan. 26, the community’s elected officials voted unanimously in favour of a proposal brought forth by Andria Cowan Molyneaux, who sought approval to build a new space for her business ACM Designs.
Currently located on Industrial Park Road in Haliburton, Cowan is looking to expand her firm and feels a new location just up the road will help to foster that growth.
“This is a big step for me as a small business owner,” said Cowan, who launched ACM Designs in 2012. “… We are growing considerably. There just isn’t room for us to grow, with the staff we already have [in our current location].”
Kris Orsan, Dysart’s senior planner, informed council that, for the project to go ahead, the land in question would need to be rezoned. At present the land is listed as suburban residential, while the application seeks to amend it to highway commercial.
The application included a list of permitted uses for the site – bank, business office, clinic, home office, personal service shop and professional office. Orsan felt this clarity was especially important, given that Dysart council had turned down a previous proposal that would have brought a fast food restaurant to the site.
The property in question, while presently zoned residential, is ripe for change, Orsan explained.
“Our official plan policy framework, based upon direction from provincial policy and the county’s official plan, helps us to direct long-term land use in the community,” Orsan said. “The property is designated as commercial within the municipal official plan, therefore the plan [to encourage] future growth is for the land [to be used for] commercial use.”
Kathy Prymak is one of eight area residents who openly opposes the potential development.
Having purchased a property on County Road 21 last November, Prymak said she did her due diligence prior to buying and was surprised to learn that her new home could soon be joined by more commercial space.
“One of the things I did before purchasing the lot was check all the zoning in the area to make sure there would be no more commercial [sites built] and that the area would remain residential,” Prymak said. “It was very disheartening for me to find out this was even in the works… The purpose of me purchasing up here was to have outdoor and nature all around me. I had decided, at the time, that I could deal with having one commercial property across the street [Tim Hortons]. Now seeing there’s going to be another added, I have to question if there’s going to be even more added down the road.”
Mayor Andrea Roberts noted that the land in question had been included in the municipality’s official plan with a view to being zoned commercial “for as long as I’ve been on council.” Roberts has served on council since 2006.
Karen Warren built her “dream home” along County Road 21 in 2011. At the time, she was aware that one parcel of land across the road was slated for commercial development, but pushed ahead anyway. Now, she feels a second commercial presence will only serve to diminish property values in the area.
“We built our retirement home, retired here and commercial business is a problem for us. The price we paid to build the home, it’s probably not worth [now] what it cost to build it,” Warren said.
She brought up concerns related to lighting, asking Cowan Molyneaux what plans she had for the site. Warren said she is able to walk through her house without turning the lights on during the night, such is the brightness of the lights emanating from the Tim Hortons signage across the road.
“It is not my intention in any way, shape or form to overstimulate that location with lighting,” Cowan Molyneaux responded. “I don’t want to upset you and keep you up at night and will figure out a way to balance it all.”
Responding to some concerns leveled her way by those in opposition that she was simply a developer with no ties to the community, Cowan Molyneaux made a point to say she was raised in Haliburton.
“I’m not a developer. I grew up here. I live here. I live right in town, and understand some of the challenges of living in town,” Cowan Molyneaux said. “Something that’s important to me as a person, is that we at ACM Designs are good citizens. That spirit will continue into the build process.”
She added, “I care very much about our county. We try to support any kind of community initiative, and try to lead by example as well. This development will be no different.”