Norfolk County committed a substantial amount of money last fall when it optioned a 24-acre parcel of land in Simcoe as the potential site for a new recreation complex
Documents obtained from the Norfolk land registry office in Simcoe say Norfolk purchased the land at the corner of Ireland Road and Decou Road for $3.239 million.
Norfolk purchased the land from Zitia Farms Partnership of Paris, the developers who started the Zitia subdivision development south of Oakwood Cemetery.
The documents say the deal closed Oct. 31.
Norfolk obtained the property to qualify for federal-provincial funding for major recreational initiatives. The latest application criteria stipulates that qualifying projects must be “shovel ready.” This includes having land ready for development.
The land has been under tillage while it sits undeveloped. Documents from GeoWarehouse say the parcel is zoned vacant residential-commercial-industrial.
When the county announced last fall that it had secured the property, it added that the purchase is conditional on receiving a substantial grant toward the $50-million recreation complex Norfolk has in mind.
If the funding application is denied, Norfolk has the option of demanding a rebate of the purchase price from Zitia Farm Partnership and its principals Paul Halyk and Nancy Labiris.
Norfolk council conducted deliberations leading to the purchase behind closed doors. The Municipal Act allows and encourages municipalities to transact real estate matters in-camera.
A land transfer tax document says Mayor Kristal Chopp and county clerk Andy Grozelle acted on behalf of the county. Chopp did not respond to an email request for comment on the nature of the rebate agreement with Zitia.
Zitia Farm Partnership also did not respond to an email request for comment. Calls to Zitia’s number in Paris were not answered.
The land at issue is unserviced. Conversely, it is within the urban boundary of Simcoe and is zoned for uses which increase its market value far beyond farmland.
In recent years, the province has made it much more difficult for municipalities to expand their urban boundaries. This was done to limit sprawl, preserve farmland, and force developers to infill and densify while making use of land already zoned for development.
Norfolk tapped this parcel, in part, because of its close proximity to the Simcoe campus of Fanshawe College. The expansion of Ontario’s college and university network has proven to have economic benefits in outlying communities where this has been applied.
Last year, Norfolk’s recreation facilities advisory board (RFAB) made a business case for replacing aging recreation infrastructure in Simcoe. The board produced a report which said the cost of building new will not be that much more than repairs pending at Simcoe facilities.
Meanwhile, the county expects to get more years of trouble-free use from the new facilities than the infrastructure it would replace.
Council members in recent days have emphasized that the hub project was not a factor in their decision last week to raise residential property taxes this year by 8.4 per cent.
The RFAB business case states that Norfolk is on target to spend $26 million over the next 20 years on repairs and upgrades to the Adult Community Building on Pond Street, the Simcoe Recreation Centre and Talbot Gardens. However, Norfolk council announced last week its plans to vacate the Pond Street facility and sell it.
RFAB estimates a hub would cost the county $6.7 million over and above estimated maintenance costs for existing facilities. RFAB has suggested a fundraising component to the project.
The application Norfolk put before the province calls for the construction of two NHL-rated ice surfaces, an eight-lane 50-metre swimming pool and aquatic centre, a 15,000-square-foot seniors centre and an innovation centre where people can come to develop new ideas.
The design allows for future construction of an indoor soccer complex and a double gymnasium for tennis, basketball, volleyball and the like.
As a matter of policy, Norfolk council will not proceed with the hub project unless it receives funding from senior levels of government. The grant Norfolk has in mind is in the range of $35 million. A reply to the county’s grant application is expected sometime this year.