Developers are prepared to front-end the multimillion-dollar cost to extend Strasburg Road, thereby expediting the construction of hundreds of new homes in Kitchener’s Huron Park community.
A development charges credit-refund agreement authorized by the city’s finance committee on Monday is the culmination of more than two years of collaboration with six private landowners that want to put shovels in the ground as early as September.
Harold Freure, on behalf of Freure Homes, said some property owners have been waiting the better part of three decades for the road, which has been part of development plans dating back to the 1980s.
There are several reasons why he wants to see the project fast-tracked, not the least of which is increased demand for single-family homes.
After selling out of new homes in Huron Woods last summer, Freure closed its sales office but kept open a model that was visited by 20 to 30 people on weekends. The developer currently has 250 names waiting to purchase a new home in the next phase.
“We would like to accommodate these people,” Freure said. “Most of the people we have on our list are families (from Kitchener) looking for their own little patch of green grass. They’re not content with asphalt and concrete.”
Touted as a “rare, collaborative approach” by Mayor Berry Vrbanovic, the road extension will include the installation of stormwater and sanitary sewer lines. Previous estimates pegged the city’s total cost at more than $27 million.
While municipal funding is already in place for underground pipes, including a new watermain to be funded by the region, the developers’ initial bill to build the road is expected to be around $12 million.
The Strasburg Road extension is required to pave the way to new schools that will accommodate students from existing schools in the area that are over capacity. It’s also needed to facilitate plans for the South Kitchener District Park.
The city has already completed a detailed design for the secondary collector road that will provide alternate access to the Brigadoon and Doon South areas.
Strasburg Road North will run from its current terminus at Rush Meadows Drive to the Robert Ferrie Drive roundabout, about 880 metres north of Stauffer Drive.
According to a report, the project includes construction of a four-lane road with a multi-use trail, bridge, landscaping, street lights and signals, as well as the installation of a noise wall and wildlife passage culvert.
The Strasburg Road extension wasn’t anticipated until 2020-2022.
Coun. Kelly Galloway-Sealock noted that the project will likely save the city millions of dollars in inflationary construction costs and will also bring in tax revenue several years in advance of the city’s capital forecast.
Developers have also agreed to foot the bill for operational and maintenance costs until the projects appear on the city’s books.
But not everyone was happy.
Coun. Yvonne Fernandes accused developers of padding their own pockets.
During the past decade, Fernandes said she’s witnessed development push through sensitive lands in the area and wanted to know who’d be responsible for environmental monitoring during road construction, which will impact a natural woodlot and part of Strasburg Creek.
Staff assured Fernandes that environmental monitoring would be undertaken by a third party for five years, as mandated by the Ministry of Natural Resources.
“I’m going to be voting against this because I still do not believe this road should go through,” she said. “I still believe there are other alternatives.”
However, Galloway-Sealock noted the decision for the finance committee had nothing to do with the extension of the road, which has been on the books for years and was mandated by an Ontario Municipal Board decision to establish a transportation network for the area. As she defined it, the road extension is a city-led project that’s only being paid for upfront by developers.
Coun. Frank Etherington said he has confidence in staff’s oversight of the project, including environmental monitoring, though he’d like to see the same rigour of developers when it comes to construction of much-needed affordable housing in the future.
Paul Britton, a consultant with MHBC planning, said the development of new homes might help level the playing field for prospective buyers.
“Right now there’s a general lack of supply; there’s a general lack of competition,” he said.
“This is one of those unique circumstances where friendly competitors have come together to provide necessary infrastructure so they can all compete in the marketplace, and I think with the additional units it will help with the level of supply and assist on matching the demand side.”
According to a city staff report, prospective developers include, but aren’t limited to the following:
The subdivision is proposed to be mixed-use with a range of residential, institutional and commercial uses together with parks and open spaces. The proposed applications should facilitate a final density of approximately 60 residents and jobs per hectare and a range of low, medium and higher density residential uses.
Primeland Developments (2003)
Draft approval for a residential subdivision on lands south of Huron Road and west of the Strasburg Road extension was granted in 2000. The subdivision has been partially constructed and at completion is expected to include 584 residential units and an elementary school, together with parks and open space.
The proposal contemplates a multiple residential form of development with approximately 200 residential units on lands east of the Strasburg Road extension and west of Brigadoon Woods. The proposed official plan amendment and zone change have not yet been considered by committee or council.
Applications are for a draft plan of subdivision, zone change and official plan amendment, seeking approval of a residential plan of subdivision on 27.5 hectares. The proposed draft plan contemplates approximately 470 residential units in a range of low, medium and high density housing forms, together with parks and open spaces. The applications have not yet been considered by committee or council.