Despite some planning concerns, Minden Hills councillors expressed unanimous support for an affordable housing project near the intersection of Highway 35 and County Road 21 during a public meeting Jan. 28.

A formal official plan and zoning bylaw amendment came before council. The land is now highway commercial with a service and business area designation.

Bill Switzer has donated the land for 30 units, in 15 duplexes, south of the Minden Legion and overlooking the Gull River. The Kawartha Lakes Haliburton Housing Corporation will manage it.

Town planner, Ian Clendening, said he had a number of issues, including that Minden does not have a lot of serviced lots ideal for commercial development.

“In terms of an opportunity for future larger commercial development, this one, especially its location at County Road 21 and highway frontage, is a very optimal spot for its currently intended commercial use,” he told council. He added having housing would now limit opportunities for abutting commercial properties.

He added there is some concern about parking spilling over into a busy Rotary Park since the applicant had reduced parking to 1.23 spots per unit and there is no off-street parking along the highway.

He said another issue would be traffic and noise from the highway. However, he said there is a proposed noise barrier fence and there’s been a noise impact study that will also factor in how the units are built.

Clendening said at a recent open house, there were comments about safety along Highway 35 and the potential for a sidewalk to address accessibility issues, including potentially having a scooter going along the highway.

Finally, he emphasized that flooding is not a concern.

Speaking for the applicant, planner Kent Randall of EcoVue Consulting said it was an exciting and much-needed project for the area. He said the two-bedroom units would cater to seniors, couples and small families.

“We feel it is an appropriate site. I don’t share the same concerns as Ian does. I do believe that there are some details that we’ll need to hammer out but that can be achieved.” He added a lot of the concerns can be dealt with at the site plan approval stage.

He noted The Ministry of Transportation had no issues and they would be using Passivhaus building standards with the developer working with local contractors. He said they’d like to begin in Spring 2021 and finish by Spring 2022.

Deputy mayor Lisa Schell said it wasn’t the township’s first experience of working with the housing corporation. “I have full confidence that this can happen and all the worries that the planning department had, rightly so because that’s his job, can be alleviated.”

Coun. Pam Sayne commented that Minden Hills needed a policy about integrated housing, and affordable housing.

“So, we’re not in these binds of trying to find some place to put this housing. We need to integrate affordable housing with our regular housing plan and work consistently then with groups like [the housing corporation] to be able to do that kind of housing in an overall affect and so we’re not putting housing in unexpected places and then try to work around how to blend that in with the rest of our community.”

Coun. Bob Carter, who is chair of the housing task force, added, “I firmly believe we need more housing before we need a Walmart. I’m not stressed by any of the challenges and I think we as a community have to work to finding a way to get to ‘yes’ to making this work.”

A staff report will be coming back

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