CORNWALL, Ontario – City councillors have flip-flopped on a massive housing complex in the east end, reversing a committee decision that would lead to the construction of a multi-unit dwelling for people with special needs.
Councillors, surprisingly, could not come to a consensus on approving a $1.8 million Heart of the City tax-savings plan for the Montreal Road development, which could be the deathknell for the project.
“We still have some hope,” said Gary Jans, who along with partner Ray Brunet and landowner Jack Haines want to build a multi-unit complex at 1154 Montreal Road which will also include a strong commercial component. “But when we left Monday night we were done.”
Jans said while avenues are being explored to save the project, the city council decision has scared off not all, but many investors.
“We feel incredibly let down,” he added. “We’ve been in this city for a long time.
“And one of the things that irks us is you’ll get a developer from out of town and they’ll get the funding right away.”
The move Monday night was all the more perplexing because the planning advisory committe (PAC) had approved the project – and PAC is made up solely of the same city councillors that turned it down.
Council made the decision in part over concerns that the project would create a precedent for approving similar initiatives outside of the Le Village area, where Heart of the City grants are mandated to take place.
Council couldn’t come to a consensus, tying at five votes on either side for approving the tax-savings plan. Coun. Denis Thibault was absent from the meeting.
Tensions were running high Monday night, with plenty of fingerpointing around the council table.
“I’m at a loss for words,” said Coun. Andre Rivette. “Everybody seemed to be involved and really happy with this thing going in there. We’re getting really zero tax there compared to what could be getting.
“Are we trying to kill Le Village or bring more people down there?”
Rivette pointed out that city council has approved other projects outside the Le Village area, to the tune of $7 million, just two years ago.
There was also a concern that the city would be losing out on tens of thousands a year in revenue over the next 10 years by allowing the tax plan to proceed. But proponents of the project point out that city would be in store for more lucrative tax payments after that – more than the $2,000 in annual taxes it gets right now.
Coun. Maurice Dupelle said council’s decision will reflect poorly among the business community.
“I find this is where our vision is very narrow for the future,” he said. “When we do things like this we drive desire away for people to come before us and develop here.”
Councillors Bernadette Clement, Gerry Samson and David Murphy also voted in favour of allowing the tax grant for the project, while the balance of council, including Mayor Bob Kilger voted against it.