Development of former water treatment plant: “Let’s move forward”

Posted on: February 15, 2022

Julia Crowder, Manager of Economic Development in Smiths Falls, presented a report with a draft RFP (Request for Proposals) to the town council at the Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday night, in regards to the former water treatment plant on Old Mill Drive.

This draft RFP included requirements that any potential developer preserve heritage features of the property, which is designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act for its historic and architectural interest. Crowder’s report notes that either a Cultural Heritage Evaluation Report or the (more comprehensive and costly) Heritage Impact Assessment, as recommended by the Municipal Heritage Committee, could be included in the RFP, but either would delay the development process. The town’s planning division is currently working with MTBA Associates to review the town’s Heritage Designation Bylaws, which will impact the potential development as well.

Councilor Chris McGuire was in favour of including a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) or a Cultural Heritage Evaluation Report (CHER), even at the risk of delaying developments. “At the end of the day we only have two mill complexes left on the river, and I would be concerned with aspects of the RFP that don’t set that in stone or preserve heritage features. If this is delayed six or eight weeks, I think it’s worth that – it’s more important to get this right. 

Mayor Shawn Pankow was torn. “In some ways, I want to cast as wide a net as possible, to capture as much attention as we can from the development community. At the same time, it’s a good idea to give them some reasonable expectations about what they can expect when it comes to developing the heritage components of this building.” 

Mayor Pankow asked Crowder if a CHER would delay the RFP significantly.“If it ends up being delayed 2 months, it pushes us to nomination day and risks getting parked until the new council is sitting, which obviously isn’t great for developers.” Crowder confirmed that a CHER takes from four to eight weeks, and noted that the draft RFP made it very clear that developers would be required to maintain heritage features of this heritage property.

Councilor Wendy Alford added that she was concerned about the preservation of the heritage buildings, but that she was comfortable knowing there were “enough safeguards in place … to ensure that the developer is on the same page as us with preserving our heritage assets.”

“Let’s move forward, that’s what I say,” said Councilor Jay Brennan. 

Councilor Lorraine Allen, who chaired the meeting, directed Crowder to go ahead with the RFP “with some provisos on that.”

Article by Janelle Labelle

Hometown News
Author: Hometown News