Developer Steven Webster joined councillors at a Sept. 22 virtual council meeting to discuss a development planned for 10 Hops Drive in Haliburton./Screenshot

Work continues to move Hops Dr. development forward

By Sue Tiffin

Dysart et al councillors want a commercial development proposed for 10 Hops Drive in Haliburton to move forward, and are working with the developer to make that happen sooner rather than later.

Steven Webster, a developer with Marnac Management Corp. of North York, joined the Dysart et al regular council meeting held virtually on Sept. 22 to discuss final cost estimate amounts, that the development meets the intent of councils’ vision and how to work toward the finalization of the site plan agreement, including the completion of a hydrogeology study.

The commercial development being proposed for 10 Hops Drive in Haliburton – located on County Road 21 across from Haliburton Lumber – would include a gas bar, 10,000-square-foot retail building and drive-thru restaurant.

A report heard during a Sept. 8 committee-of-the-whole meeting noted some discrepancy in the amount of securities that should be given to the municipality by the developer, those securities calculated based on the value of the groundworks at the site.

The developer has pegged the securities amount at approximately $150,000, the municipality approximately $200,000.

“It’s really up to council at this point,” said planner Kris Orsan, noting that Dysart et al staff were standing by their numbers.

Mayor Andrea Roberts and Deputy Mayor Pat Kennedy suggested adjusting the percentages on the project to make drawdowns easier to manage.
Councillor John Smith asked if council was setting a precedent in allowing that, and Roberts said “although we’ve rarely had such a discrepancy,” between two plans, council had negotiated in the past with other developers as well.

“We do want to see this go forward and we have a responsibility, as staff remind us, as councillors, as council to make a decision that mitigates risk to the corporation of the township,” said Roberts. “That’s what we’re doing here. We want to see this development go forward and I think the numbers are still significant enough. I feel confident that this is not putting the municipality at risk.”

Orsan also suggested council discuss their satisfaction with the proposed development, in particular the facade and landscaping, to ensure it aligned with their guidelines and vision for the town. Roberts mentioned the possibility of a “cottage country” feel and “Haliburton look.”

Webster said he would love to build a post-and-beam building, though made note that example was extreme and that he recognized it wasn’t what council was asking for.

“But from the time that I started this project, which was almost three years ago now, to today, I think we can all agree that times have changed,” he said. “I still have my lead tenant that still wants to go there, my other tenants have come and gone and come back around, but different economies, so it’s getting squeezed on all sides here which is difficult to say the least. It’s going to be a difficult project to come out of the ground to start. And I guess that’s just from an economic standpoint. Doing anything that requires additional costs money, and I’m trying to pinch the corners wherever I can now to create some economic feasibility here. That’s one side, and that’s my issue, it’s definitely not council’s issue, but it’s something to be aware of.”

Webster said he didn’t think there was consistency in facades throughout the town, noting that while local tenants might have developed such a look, “all the national players in town have their prototypical signage,” and especially in the area he was looking at, which is outside of the downtown area.

“What I’m proposing is pretty much exactly what everybody else has in the area, so to be the one development that starts to get picked out on this during these times, more projects are getting mothballed than are being built, and I’m still trying to figure out a way to get this thing built,” he said. “With all due respect, I need all of your help to make it happen right now, it’s tricky.”

Roberts requested that a bicycle rack be added to the plans to align with council’s promotion of varied transportation, a recommendation with which Webster agreed.

Kennedy noted that near Webster’s proposed development, the recently built Home Hardware had done façade work, and Gardens of Haliburton had added wood to their entryway.

“I don’t think we’re looking for a radical change here, just some influence if we could,” he said.

Webster said he would consider that, but noted other elements at play, including timing of the project.

He said that he was asked to do a hydrogeology study, the first he has done after 17 developments. While his engineer had done that work, he said, it didn’t meet the municipality’s standards which he said hadn’t been clear to him and that further studies would take time.

“I feel like I’m caught between a rock and a hard place,” he said, noting that he wanted to have the groundwork and foundation work started “prior to snow falling.”

“As it stands right now, I don’t see how I can do it,” he said.

Roberts said the study as it was done was incomplete, and that Dysart et al could not negotiate on that.

“We can’t accept an incomplete study,” she said. “That’s something we can’t negotiate, we have to have the complete study.”

While Roberts said ample opportunity had been afforded for the developer’s engineer and municipality’s engineer to speak with each other, Webster said the municipality’s engineer had not called his engineer back after phone calls made within the past two weeks. Roberts noted, “what’s happened in the past is past. We are in favour of this proposal. We are in favour of this development. I think we need to move it forward as best we can.”

Roberts suggested they “start the ball rolling” by sending the agreement to lawyers conditional on the completion of the study. Staff were directed to bring a draft agreement for review to the October meeting of council.