Seniors’ facilities proposed for greenbelt, foodland in Springwater
Location of retirement complex east of Elmvale planned by a non-profit group. Separately, a seniors’ care provider company is proposing a complex on Bayfield St.
By Kate Harries AWARE News Network
Two proposals for seniors’ facilities in Springwater Township were under discussion recently by local councils.
In both cases, there was enthusiastic support.
In neither case was the selected site appropriately designated under the township’s planning process.
So in both cases, proponents are asking to bypass land-use protection, in one case, for agricultural land, in the other for greenbelt (the greenbelt in this case is not Ontario’s Greenbelt, but a Springwater designation).
On March 4 2020, Springwater Council heard from Matthew Melchior and Jill Knowlton of Primacare Living Solutions Inc. regarding the development of a “Seniors Campus of Care” at 727 Bayfield Street North – on the east side of Bayfield, north of and behind the motel.
Their proposal is for a 192-bed long-term care facility on a 40-acre site that would include retirement lodges and other forms of seniors’ housing.
“Beyond the ‘housing elements’ would be a community health hub that can include adult day services, dialysis care, primary care and social space,” the proposal states.
The plan is to follow a model of care developed in the UK for dementia patients, known as the “Butterfly Model,” that “shifts culture to prioritize emotional well-being.”
Melchior and Knowlton told council they needed support as well as an immediate decision because of a March 31 2020 deadline on an Ontario health ministry request for proposals for the construction and operation of long-term care facilities.
Councillors were keen to cooperate.
Councillor Jack Hanna put forward an amendment to a resolution of support instructing staff to assist by initiating any required exemptions to Official Plan conditions and other policies, rules and regulations.
That didn’t sit well with Planning Director Brent Spagnol, who pointed out that it would be unethical for staff to expedite applications. Municipal planners can act as a resource and guide applicants through the process, he said, but would be in a conflict of interest if they acted on behalf of applicants.
A couple of councillors said they do not think Springwater’s greenbelt designation is an important obstacle.
“We don’t want roadblocks to this project,” said Councillor Anita Moore. “The greenbelt is subjective and I don’t want that kind of subjectiveness inserted into this project.”
Councillor George Cabral said that with the Midhurst Secondary Plan coming online, “the greenbelt… is becoming less and less significant in my mind as far as what might be able to go in there.”
During question period, a Bayfield St. property owner questioned how Primacare would be allowed commercial access which has been denied by the Ontario transportation ministry to other property owners in the area.
“That is a challenge,” said Mayor Don Allen.
Last week, at the urging of the Springwater mayor and Deputy Mayor Jennifer Coughlin, Simcoe County councillors voted unanimously to support a request that Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark issue a minister’s zoning order (MZO) to permit a seniors’ complex to be located mostly (9 of 10 acres) outside the Elmvale settlement area boundary, on farmland east of the village, on the north side of Highway 92 past the cemetery.
A March 10 2020 staff report noted that “this request is somewhat unique as the matter is not formally in front of the township or the county as per the usual planning processes… the normal events, studies and reports have not occurred, and thus have not then led to what would be deemed a complete planning application.”
The project is proposed by Elmvale Active Seniors Residence, a non-profit group that grew out of a well-attended public meeting in the fall of 2018. Sam Langman chairs the EASR board.
Other members are Craig Beacock (treasurer), Rosemary Johnston (secretary), Dan Mclean, Doug Jackson, and Sid Tjeerdsma.
The plan calls for a “Comprehensive Seniors Retirement Campus” that would include a 240-unit four-storey residence as part of a complex with dining facilities, doctor’s offices, pharmacy, nursing stations, activity rooms, coffee shops, restaurants, banks and hair salons. Tennis courts and a putting green are among the recreational amenities proposed for outside.
An MZO saves money and time for proponents who are trying to develop on properties that are designated and zoned for other uses, for instance to protect natural heritage and foodland. It also removes any public commenting and input period.
In a January 29 2020 letter to Simcoe County Warden George Cornell, Langman states that “we had an opportunity for a brief conversation with Minister Clark at a recent event. He indicated that he would look very favourably at a request from EASR, provided it was accompanied by letters of support from both the Township and the County.”