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Moving forward with the 5th Line Interchange

In Bradford West Gwillimbury
Nov 21st, 2013

Bradford Times November 21 2013

Bradford West Gwillimbury Council received a pep talk from Dr. Frank Clayton, Real Estate and Land Economist, on the value of the Hwy. 400 Employment Lands, and the proposed 5th Line-400 interchange – and heard from two developers, who urged the Town to move forward with servicing.

It was Dr. Clayton who produced the original report in 2005-2006 “which set the foundation for the Hwy. 400 Employment lands Secondary Plan.” At the time, Dr. Clayton said the lands were well-positioned for Industrial development, highly visible, close to the GTA, and that once designated and serviced, would successfully attract a share of the expected job growth in Barrie/Simcoe County.

“We all know the world has changed dramatically since 2005-2006. No-one expected the meltdown,” Dr. Clayton told Council on November 19.

Asked to revisit his report, he said that since the 2008 economic collapse, the Greater Toronto Area “has done very well” – and Bradford is “part of the Economic Region of Toronto, even though you’re in Simcoe County.”

All of the jobs lost in the GTA in 2009 have been recovered, and bodies like the Conference Board of Canada are predicting further job growth, he said. “We have done well and we will continue to do very well. The fundamentals are quite good for industrial lands.”

Dr. Clayton said that the vacancy rate for industrial/employment land is normally around 5%. Back in 2007, it was 6.9%. Today, it’s dropped to 3.7% – showing strong demand.

He suggested that there has been a reversal of the trend that saw manufacturing and production move overseas, and the return to North America of some manufacturing – driven in part by the high price of oil, concerns over supply chain and distribution costs, and the security of proprietary information. Combine “reshoring” of some industries with the entrepreneurial start-ups by recent immigrants and, he said, “there’s a lot of opportunities happening, on the manufacturing side.”

But, he warned, “If you want economic development… there is a need for municipalities to be prepared and nimble. You have to be ready for those opportunities” – which means providing access and servicing. Dr. Clayton concluded, “My opinions are basically the same as they were in 2006 – there is a market, there will be a market, the market will grow.”

Council also heard from Cheryl Shindruk, Executive Vice President of Bond Head Properties, which owns lands near the 5th Line. Shindruk urged the Town to move ahead with servicing and the 5th Line interchange, noting that her company has an agreement of purchase and sale with Tormont, that is only waiting for the green light to proceed.

When Councillor Peter Dykie Jr. demanded to know what other “real solid offers” Bond Head Properties had received, Shindruk said, “There is a great deal of interest (but) we need to have these lands serviced before we can entertain further offers.”

Council heard a similar story from Strathallen Group, which owns 125 acres at Hwy. 400 and 88, and has proposed a hotel and conference centre for part of their holdings.

“Obviously the Recession slowed us down,” said Grant Pretorius, Vice President of Development with Strathallen – but the biggest hold-up has been the lack of servicing. “We are unable to develop because we can’t guarantee it is online.”

Possible development partners are “not interested in an unknown timeline,” Pretorius said, urging the Town to move forward. “At this point of time, there is a momentum… We cannot capitalize on it until we know the servicing is in place.”

He noted that the property, purchased in 2007, is a “gateway site to Bradford… a highly visible site on a highly visible highway, yet we are unable to capitalize.”

Councillor Gary Lamb pointed out that the Strathallen site has had water servicing “for more than a decade,” and suggested that development might have proceeded, if the Town hadn’t made the development of the Employment lands contingent on the 5th Line interchange “and a few houses in Bond Head.”

Other Councillors were dubious about the positive picture painted by Dr. Clayton.

“I work in manufacturing,” said Councillor Raj Sandhu. “Next month I’m being shipped to China, to set up a plant there. What will bring manufacturing to Canada, let alone Bradford?”

And Councillor Ron Simpson pointed out that Ontario continues to lose jobs, with the announced closure of the Heinz Ketchup plant in Leamington.

Dr. Clayton replied that Ontario’s population continues to grow, taxes are low, and governments are business-friendly. “Heinz is gone, Blackberry is gone – reduced in size anyway,” but there are new jobs being created by new companies. “The world changes,” but the GTA remains “the economic engine of Ontario.”

The delegations appeared to have an impact on Council later in the meeting, when Councillors were asked to award the tender for the design of the 5th Line Interchange to URS Canada Inc., in the amount of $2.195 million.

Town Manager Jay Currier noted that although the Early Payment Agreement (EPA) with the developers has yet to be signed, Bond Head Properties has offered to finance the cost of the design “at no risk to the Town”, in order to maintain the momentum of the project.

“Town staff are engaged now with Ministry of Transportation staff, moving it forward,” Currier said, noting that approving the award of tender doesn’t have “any downside to the Town.”

Councillor Ron Simpson agreed with the need to move forward, noting that he was “quite shocked” to see traffic backed up on 88, waiting to get onto Hwy. 400.

“There’s a strong indication that Tormont could come to Town… We heard from Strathallen. I think that we should move forward on this,” he said.

Although the design was selected through an Environmental Assessment, at least two Council members challenge the engineering.

Councillor Gary Lamb expressed a concern that the design would require extensive expropriation of lands. “We’re going to pay a premium for it,” he said, calling instead for a “diamond”-type interchange, with traffic lights.

And Deputy Mayor Rob Keffer, who has consistently opposed the interchange, said, “I can’t support this recommendation. I don’t think there could be a more costly design.”

But new Manager of Capital Projects Khurram Tunio explained that the Ministry has “significant concerns” with a diamond-pattern interchange, and that, in fact, all four of the options considered in the Environmental Assessment had a similar price tag.

He promised that the Engineering department would ensure “value engineering” during the design phase, to reduce costs – and in particular would be looking at the proposed realignment of the 5th Sideroad, currently a large part of the budget. “Can we further refine it? Yes we can,” he said, promising to report back to Council.

There is a cost-sharing agreement in place with the Federal, Province and County of Simcoe for the $54 million project. The Federal and Provincial governments have agreed to ante up $17 million, with the rest split between County and Town – and the development community picking up the Town’s share, once the EPA is signed.

Councillor Lamb remained dubious. “We’d better go to the County and ask for more money. Somebody’s going to have to pick up the extra cost (of land acquisition), and I don’t think it’s going to be the province.”

But Mayor White challenged Council to “contemplate the concept of a Town of 50,000 without that interchange,” noting that the interchange is being driven not by the Hwy. 400 Employment lands, but the needs of the current population.

A majority of Council approved the award of the design contract; Councillor Lamb and Deputy Mayor Keffer were opposed. Councillor Raj Sandhu declared a conflict.

The next piece of the puzzle is the Early Payment Agreement with the development community. That will be back before Council in a Special meeting on Monday, December 2.


Hwy. 400 commute will improve by 2017

By Dominik Kurek Bradford West Gwillimbury Topic


If heading south on Hwy. 400 every morning is dragging out your commute, you will be happy to know the town came one step closer this week to having a second interchange.

Bradford West Gwillimbury council approved a $2.2- million contract Tuesday night to URS Canada Inc. to design the Hwy. 400-Line 5 interchange.

This decision does not affect the proposal to service lands around the interchange for future industrial use, which will be decided as part of an early payment agreement with developers at a future meeting.

The bridge construction is expected to cost $54 million, which does not include land acquisition or road realignment.

We need that interchange now and for the growth that is coming to town, said Mayor Doug White. “Let’s get on with it.”

Councillor Gary Lamb and Deputy Mayor Rob Keffer, who voted against the motion to award the contract, questioned the cost of the proposed project and the unknown land acquisition costs.

The new interchange, unlike the one at Hwy. 88, calls for on and off- ramps, rather than intersection lights, which require more land use and the realignment of other roads, but allows for the movement of a greater volume of traffic.

The ramp design is the preferred choice of the Transportation Ministry and traffic volume is high enough to support the project, town staff said.

A new interchange would include taking down the bridge over Hwy. 400 and constructing a four-lane overpass designed to accommodate the eventual expansion of Hwy. 400 to 10 lanes.

Bond Head Properties, one of the developers involved in the early payment agreement (EPA), will finance the costs associated with the interchange design until the town enters an EPA or other financing arrangement with the developer.

The bridge is expected to be complete in 2017.

The province and Ottawa will fund $17 million of the project and the remainder by the town and Simcoe County. The EPA calls for 10 per cent of the cost of the project to be absorbed by developers.

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