‘We will not build less than adequate buildings’: Perth enters into agreement with Carebridge Community Support to purchase 63 Halton St.

Chambers Street apartment building in Smiths Falls
This apartment building on Chambers Street in Smiths Falls is being built by Saumure Group of Companies as an affordable housing initiative. Chris Saumure referenced this build during a council meeting in Perth, where his company has partnered with Carebridge Community Support to create a design at 63 Halton St. Photo credit: Laurie Weir.
Posted on: April 17, 2024

Property sells for $1 with stipulation that it’s for affordable housing


Affordable housing in Perth has been earmarked for the property at 63 Halton Street, (PerthWorks), prompting only one bid. 

The town’s chief administrative officer, Michael Touw, said despite the interest in the property and the affordable housing component, they received a single bid from Carebridge Community Support (CCS), with the developer being the Saumure Group of Companies (SGC) from Smiths Falls. 

Representatives from both CCS and SGC were at the regular meeting of Perth council on Tuesday, April 16 as the town passed a motion to enter into an agreement with Carebridge Community Support (CCS) to sell the property for $1 with the understanding that it will be developed into affordable housing. 

Robert Eaves (CCS), and Chris Saumure (SGC), were in attendance to hear some of the preliminary concerns.

Coun. Gary Waterfield noted, “The concept of PerthWorks is based in part on collaboration, building community and respect for the environment … residents are generally not opposed to affordable housing on the site. I feel this is a golden opportunity to provide affordable housing in Perth. However, they feel the proposed building is too big and not compatible to this particular location.”

The RFP included a draft proposal for a 15-unit building. Some councillors brought their residents’ concerns to the table, saying they felt that was too large for the PerthWorks community. 

Waterfield questioned if they could reduce the scope with smaller units, or reduce the length of the building by 36 feet, as was a suggestion by a resident. He also asked how the proponents would collaborate with residents on this project. 

Eaves said CCS and SGC submitted the proposal jointly.

“When we first looked at this project it was actually 24 to 30 units,” Saumure said. “It’s more financially feasible. The more units you build, the less expensive it becomes. So, 15 was a very reasonable compromise. We will talk to the planning department and neighbours.”

Saumure said the reduction in size by 36 feet “was a number out of the air,” but they’d look at different things. He said 10 years ago they were involved with the cooperative group that were looking at the same piece of property, “and I think it was 18 units … but I think 15 is a very realistic number and it’s not an overbearing building. It will be tastefully done.”

The SGC is currently building a 34-unit structure in Smiths Falls on Chambers Street across from Giant Tiger, for Carebridge, which he referenced. 

“Take a look at that building,” Saumure said. “It’s classy. It’s masonry, with cement, Hardie-board type siding, not cheap vinyl garbage. It’s a real nice building and Carebridge are tasteful people. We will not build less than adequate buildings. We stake our reputation (on it). We’ve been around a long time and we take pride in the things we build.”

Saumure added that it will be “tasteful affordable housing.”

Coun. Barry Smith was at the site during the visit with the partners, and listened to the residents. “They all said it was too big,” he said. “They called it a monolith. I totally agree with them. They said it started off – they were talking 10 units. That’s more reasonable, but 15 takes up more space. And I understand why they’re jumping and unhappy about it. Everybody wants affordable housing but I think this is too big for the lot, and so do they – that’s the bottom line.”

Coun. Jim Boldt said he also listed to residents’ concerns. “I thought it was nice they set out parameters for the proposal, to give me a better feeling for the size and scope of it.” The councillor asked about concerns dealing with the bedrock in the area and if the cost of removing it or working around it. 

Saumure said that’s standard practise his company. 

“We’re building a 128-bed facility in Smiths Falls replacing Broadview nursing home. It’s about a 15-acre site. I have never seen bedrock quite like that. That’s a walk in the park over at your PerthWorks (site) compared to what we’re working with right now. We’re blasting 30 feet deep so that is pretty nice over there. We have considered that … that is what we do for a living.”

Boldt asked about other concerns, specifically the road height behind the building, snow removal and how it would affect neighbouring properties.

Saumure said it was a little premature at this point, but they’d hire engineers to address these concerns. 

Mayor Judy Brown asked if they would consider less units or is it part of the funding calculations that it has to be this large.

Eaves said that 15 units is minimal to make the project feasible. 

Coun. Isabel Anne McRae asked what the plan was to engage residents so that everyone wins. “I would hate to see a lot of tension and if we want to make this work, everybody’s got to get along. It’s imperative that there are these conversations.”

Eaves said that because they’re in the preliminary stages, he can’t answer these questions about unit sizes and what they’d end up with in the end. 

Saumure said the “cart seems to be ahead of the horse. If we responded to an RFP, and the Town of Perth wanted 10 units, that should have been clearly stated. We seem to be the bad people here and I’m not quite sure that’s the right way to do things. You asked for an RFP for affordable housing. We responded … we haven’t even started the design stage yet, so somebody telling us we have to shrink the building by 36 feet is not very rational … You have a planner here; we will start the planning process.”

Eaves said it seems like they’re coming in and wanting to have their way on the project. 

“Frankly, Carebridge or Guy Saumure and Sons are not desperate for this project. We were responding to what we saw in the community, a great deal of enthusiasm from the CHIP group.”

Community Housing Initiative Perth (CHIP)
Community Housing Initiative Perth (CHIP) has been active in its support for affordable housing and has developed a working relationship with Carebridge Community Support. This concept drawing shows their idea of affordable housing for the PerthWorks community. Photo credit: CHIP [https://chip-housing.ca/]

The CHIP group – Community Housing Initiative Perth – has been active in its support for affordable housing and has developed a working relationship with Carebridge Community Support. 

Eaves said that they have “a number of opportunities for development that are not in Perth, and if Perth’s not ready right now, that’s totally fine with us. We’ll look at other opportunities and come back to Perth when you’re ready. This is not us trying to sell you, you should be trying to sell us on Perth.”

McRae said she doesn’t see any “bad guy in this situation” but she would like to see flexibility from the proponents. 

“I believe we can work with this group and we can also work with the people of this neighbourhood,” she said. It can be a win-win situation. 

“There’s got to be a way we can make this work, but we’ve all got to be flexible,” she said. 

Coun. David Bird said, “Sometimes in business things don’t work out and you can’t get exactly what you want. This is an early stage, but if they are threatening to walk away at this point, they don’t want to buy the land.”

Bird added that they have to be aware of what they’re putting into people’s backyards. 

Brown said she was in favour of the motion as there is a “crying need” for affordable housing. “As Chris has said, they are a reputable builder and they know what they’re doing. This is slightly different than any other proposal for affordable housing that might come forth, in that the town is basically giving the money for the project. We have no other available land that the town owns that we may give for another project.”

The mayor noted that the issues will be addressed through the process, like drainage, “and if it can’t be addressed then the project won’t happen.” 

Deputy Mayor Ed McPherson wanted questioned whether they would have “true consultation with the residents,” to let them have a chance to speak to the teams behind the project. He spoke of the professionalism of the Saumures. 

“I’ve never met a guy who does what he says like Chris … if it was anybody else, I’d be a bit nervous about it.”

But McPherson said if they get through the process and there is a lot of concerns from the public who live near the project, “that we can stop the process. We are stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

Director of planning, Joanna Bowes interjected saying, “Respectfully, development is always between a rock and a hard place. When a good decision is made, nobody is happy – that’s what compromise is.”

Having worked with the Saumure Group of Companies in the past, Bowes said he “does great work and has really good attention to detail. This project is very lucky to have him on board.”

The CAO cautioned council that this project “is at the very beginning stage.” There is an entire planning process to go through yet, “so the recommendation to council is to proceed with a conditional sale of the land for the development of affordable housing,” Touw said. “Just like any other project, this will have to go through the planning process.”

That includes designs, studies and public consultation to adhere to. The RFP process is to see if there is support for the project. 

The planning process – which Bowes dove into — will begin soon, Touw said. 

By a narrow margin, council agreed to the motion. Staff will come back to the May 7 committee meeting with an authorizing bylaw and agreement. 

Touw said this is not a motion to approve anything aside from the sale of the land and to start the process. There’s a long way to go yet – possibly years, he said, as there are many stages, including public consultation, to go through before the final project is approved.

Hometown News
Author: Hometown News

One thought on “‘We will not build less than adequate buildings’: Perth enters into agreement with Carebridge Community Support to purchase 63 Halton St.

  1. Tim Holmes

    The concept drawing presented by CHIP, ( the sketch that is depicted in this article), does not resemble the building that is proposed by Carebridge. That CHIP concept sketch is misrepresentative of the project being discussed in the article.

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