Norfolk hub land sold to developer for 'a profit’

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Renewed investment in the Simcoe Recreation Centre has emerged as a possible Plan B now that Norfolk has abandoned the idea of a $50-million recreational hub on Ireland Road.

Norfolk Mayor Kristal Chopp suggested major renovations to the rec centre Tuesday after sharing word that the 24-acre parcel of vacant land on Ireland Road has been sold for “a profit.”

“We’re not going to get funding for the hub so why don’t we work on turning the recreation centre into the best recreation complex it can be?” Chopp said in an interview.

Following an in-camera session on May 18, Norfolk council voted 7-1 to accept a bid for the hub land from Newmarket home builder Calibrex Developments.

Norfolk council bought the parcel from Paris-based developers associated with the Zitia Group, builders of the new subdivision south of Oakwood Cemetery in Simcoe, in 2019. Council obtained the land as the basis for a multi-million dollar funding application to the province for a $50-million, multi-use recreational complex.

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The county’s commitment to the project was contingent on substantial provincial support. Norfolk’s application was denied, leaving the county with a large parcel of surplus, unserviced land.

At the time Norfolk obtained the hub parcel, council understood the vendors would buy the land back, upon request, at the original purchase price of $3.2 million if hub funding was denied. For their part, the vendors interpreted the agreement to say they had till the end of next month to reimburse the county.

After receiving that information last summer, council gave the vendors 90 days to redeem the parcel. Failing that, the county would proceed with a sale, which is what occurred.

Norfolk council shared some terms of the sale Tuesday but not all. For one, Calibrex has agreed to deed 1.5 acres to the Haldimand-Norfolk Housing Corporation for affordable housing.

As for the profit, Norfolk listed the property for $4.95 million. The purchase price has not been released pending closure of the sale.

Although council is withholding the final purchase price, Chopp’s remarks Tuesday suggested a substantial sum will be available for renovations to the Simcoe Recreation Centre if that is how council chooses to allocate the money.

Chopp said there is an opportunity to create a year-round, indoor space conducive to soccer, tennis, volleyball, basketball and other sports that are increasing in popularity. She’s also interested in proposals for expanding and improving the municipal pool at the Annaleise Carr Aquatic Centre.

The lone vote against the land sale was cast by Delhi Coun. Mike Columbus.

Following a discussion with one of the Zitia vendors, Columbus expressed concerns about the transaction. Columbus said the vendors assumed the county’s only recourse once the hub proposal fell through was to sell the land back to them at the original purchase price.

“I’ve been against the purchase of the hub land since Day 1,” Columbus said.

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