Dysart et al council has agreed to reserve around a fifth of the township’s available sewage capacity for a proposed 88-unit development overlooking Grass Lake.

Paul Wilson, owner of Harburn Holdings, has been working with the township for more than two years as he seeks to develop 2.5 hectares along Peninsula Road. His proposal is calling on the municipality to rezone the lands, which he wants to split into four lots that would each house multi-storey apartment and condo buildings.

Dysart’s previous council supported the project in principle last September. It will be discussed at the upper-tier County of Haliburton next month and, if an amendment to the County’s official plan is ratified, will come back to Dysart for final approval.

Speaking to Dysart council Jan. 24, Wilson said he was nervous about the potential for delays, with outside entities able to lodge a complaint with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT), even if both municipalities approve the project.

“Your consultants have advised me that my project will require 70 ERUs (Equivalent Residential Units) of sewer capacity… the problem I’m having is that I’m already two years into this and could be another two years away [from getting shovels in the ground]. At some point, I need to have some assurance from the township that I will get these ERUs,” Wilson said. “I’m told they are available right now, but not necessarily assigned to me.”

He said he doesn’t want to run into a situation where other potential developments leapfrog his and take up the township’s available sewage capacity.

In Dysart, a single ERU connection is valued at $4,700. Costs to tap into municipal sewer lines are typically paid by a developer once a project has been officially approved. Wilson said he is prepared to pay for 35 connections up front to secure the 70 ERUs his development requires, reserving them for up to two years at a cost of $164,500.

Mayor Murray Fearrey doubted whether any developments would progress enough over the next two years to get to the ERU application phase. After Coun. Barry Boice asked how many ERUs were available now, Fearrey said “around 400, I think.”

The mayor told the rest of council that he believed they were “safe” accepting Wilson’s offer. There is an out clause included, with Dysart to return Wilson’s money should his proposal be denied, or if he decides to walk away. There’s also a clause stating Wilson and Dysart could negotiate an extension should this issue not be resolved in the next two years.

Following the meeting, the Friends of Grass Lake community group, which is opposing the project, put out a press release expressing their concern over this latest development.

“We believe as a publicly-funded utility, this type of decision requires more thorough consideration than the time it was given,” said Carolyn Langdon. Wilson’s presentation and subsequent discussion ran just over eight minutes.

“There are too many unknowns about this proposal for an extraordinary decision to be taken… we believe Dysart council should not be tied up with business that has yet to make its way through the relevant approval authorities,” Langdon added.