By Tim Kalinowski
Lansdowne Equity Ventures, the real estate developer tapped to help build a new 39 lot subdivision in Irvine, sent a letter to council last Tuesday informing councillors of its decision to not go ahead with Phase 1 of its construction for the foreseeable future. The company cited economic circumstances for its decision. Phase 1 was originally slated to begin by July 2016, and was a big motivator in the county’s decision to complete construction on its $16 million Dunmore-Irvine-Walsh regional water line.
Lansdowne had also previously approached council last November to ask the county to defer or forgive the expected offsite levies for the work for a total of $117,000. Council instead opted to provide $3,000 in additional funding to Lansdowne for each of the expected 39 lot water/ sewer hook-up upgrades it was to put in, up to a maximum of $117,000; essentially resulting in a direct taxpayer subsidy to get the real estate development going.
The letter, received from Lansdowne’s executive vice president Don Sandford, suggested three possible courses of action to council going forward.
1. Allow Lansdowne to continue development at its own pace, without a timeline for completion, until economic circumstances change.
2. Wait until Lansdowne can procure a partner to co-cost share on the development; again without a timeline.
3. Give Lansdowne guarantees the current subsidies the county has with them will remain in place so they can be packaged in the deal for Lansdowne to sell the project to another developer who may be better able to complete construction.
County staff provided two options for councillors to debate and consider given the changed circumstances.
1. Keep to the original November 2015 agreement with Lansdowne retaining the $117,000 hook-up subsidy, giving them to 2018 to carry out the work.
2. Honour the November 2015 subsidy agreement with Lansdowne until Dec. 31, 2016.
The actual content of the debate is not known because Coun. Dustin Vossler moved that the discussion be taken out of the public portion of the meeting and held In Camera. Council unanimously agreed to Vossler’s motion. The Commentator/Courier has since learned council voted later in the day to honour the County’s agreement with Lansdowne Equity Ventures until only Dec. 31, 2016.
Reeve Darcy Geigle, who represents Irvine, gave some of the reasons for council’s decision, and some flavour of Tuesday’s debate, in an interview last Thursday.
“The land (for this development) has been sitting there for 20 or 25 years; so a lot of us felt it was time to get it going. We (on council) thought if we leave it until 2018 are they going to sell it somebody else or are they going to do it? So we thought we would give them until the end of the year. And if things don’t work out by then, they can at least come back and tell us their plan. And we’ll go from there, right?”
Geigle said the county has spent a lot of money to make this development happen, and is disappointed Irvine did not see any construction on the new subdivision this year as originally promised.
“It’s kind of shock,” admitted Geigle. “We gave them (Lansdowne) quite a bit. We delayed the fees and helped them with some of the infrastructure. How much can you do, right? And now nothing is being done.”