By Stephen Patrick
Four years ago a prominent Waterloo area developer, Mady Development Corporation, announced plans to build a large condominium overlooking Head Lake on the site of the old FlemingCollege. The six-storey development, dubbed Watercolours, offered 150 upscale units in an imposing building that would have easily been the most dominant feature of HaliburtonVillage.
As soon as the development was announced, a committee of neighbours and ‘concerned citizens’ was formed to demand changes to the plans. The concerns ranged from the sheer size of the development to its impact on Haliburton’s water table, traffic concerns, neighbours losing access to the sun, and so on.
The committee managed to force an OMB review, costly for the developers, and that, combined with the dire economic downturn in the fall of 2008, managed to put the project on a semi-permanent hold. There was much civic, business, and political anger directed against the neighbourhood committee for daring even to raise questions.
There were also many rumblings to the effect that the temporary failure of Watercolours would mark theHighlands, and in particularHaliburtonVillage, as being unfriendly to new condo development.
But lo and behold! Just a short year ago, along came Muskoka D&M, in the persons of Doug Grey and Pat Dube, who in remarkable time have managed to get Granite Cove — a 30-unit, four-storey building — up and running (with 29 units sold), and another, Granite View — a 24-unit, three-storey building — approved by council for technical, engineering studies. Already the developers have had serious indications of interest from at least 10 potential buyers.
Indeed, many of the neighbours who formed the committee that protested Watercolours made a point of going to council to add their voice of support to Granite Cove, even though the chosen site was but a few short metres away from Watercolours. As for the 24-unit project, there was some concern expressed from neighbours (see story on Page 1 of this issue), but the developers, at a public meeting, addressed those concerns in a straightforward, upright manner.
Muskoka D&M have successfully developed similar projects in Bracebridge and Parry Sound, and seem to have the enviable knack of listening to local demands and needs, and tailoring their developments accordingly. They want to build what’s clearly needed, and wanted, in a manner that doesn’t take over the town – they are adamant that their projects blend in with their surroundings in style, landscaping, and scale.
The company has also proved that the Highlands can be very friendly indeed to development that is well thought out, and is respectful of local concerns – and local incomes.
The pressure to develop more of these projects will only intensify in the coming years. Our lakes are essentially at their residential and recreational capacities. And no one wants extensive back lot development, although that pressure won’t go away anytime soon either.
As the county, and the municipalities, look ahead to the next phase of strategic planning, they will surely recognize that we will need to utilize our small villages and towns as appropriate sites for these kinds of projects. When, that is, the developers are as canny and far-sighted as Muskoka D&M seem to be.