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Genosha complaint quashed

Council rules against development charge complaint, but project will push ahead owner says

Richard Summers, left, the newest owner of the Genosha Hotel, will need to have approximately $250,000 in education development charges for his redevelopment project at the historic building after council dismissed a complaint he brought forward. However, he says it won’t stop the project from being completed. (Photos by Joel Wittnebel)

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

The developer of the Genosha will have to pay approximately $250,000 in development charges after Oshawa city council decided not to side with him on his reasons for why the development should be exempt.

The latest hiccup in the storied history of the Genosha Hotel began on March 5 when Summers, the owner of the Genosha, appeared before council with a lawyer to argue against the quarter of a million dollars in education development charges he was being asked to pay to local school boards.  These charges are usually applied to new development in order to collect funds to go toward the school board to assist with any pressure said development could place on the surrounding schools.

At that original meeting, Summers and his lawyer John Mutton with Municipal Solutions, argued that because the Genosha project is  “urban renewal,” and not new development, the EDCs should not apply.

The school board fired back, noting that they were “bushwhacked” by the complaint from Summers, and that the reasons for allowing an exemption to education DCs are very few and far between.

The two sides were provided with some time to meet and try and iron out the issues before once again appearing before council on March 16.

At that meeting, it appeared that councillors had heard enough, and noted nothing of what they had listened to over the past two meetings convinced them of Summers’s argument.

“Both on the previous day and today I don’t believe we received much in the way of evidence or argument from the complainant,” said Councillor John Aker.  “I believe the limited evidence does not provide legitimate grounds for this council to amend the development charge.”

Aker’s motion to dismiss the complaint was backed unanimously by the councillors in attendance, which included Gail Bates, Rick Kerr, Nester Pidwerbecki, John Shields and Mayor John Henry.

Speaking to The Oshawa Express following the meeting, Summers noted that he was slightly disappointed with council’s decision, but recognized that their hands were tied to following the education DC bylaws.

With that said, he didn’t shy away from sharing his thoughts on the school boards, and the policy being enforced.

“It’s shameful and ridiculous that a 90-year-old building is paying the same as a brand new four-bedroom, five-bedroom house,” Summers said.

Under the act that governs education development charges, developers in Durham share the burden of EDCs, regardless of whether that development is aimed toward young families or will have more or less of an impact on the schools in the area.

However, Summer says he’s not letting the decision slow down progress at the former hotel, and they are currently working to obtain the building permit.

“We’re working diligently on finalizing the items for the building permit,” he says. “We’re not letting it stop us, we’re not letting the school board, inefficient, lack of vision policy or bylaw hinder us from completing the project.”

And once the permit is obtained, Summers says they are ready to hit the ground running on the more serious work involved in revitalizing the building.

“We were ready to go for months. We’ve already engaged many local trades, we’re assembling a great team for an accelerated schedule,” he says.

Despite having to pay the education DCs, the Genosha redevelopment has received much in the way of financial breaks from both the city and Region of Durham.

The project has received strong monetary support from the city  in the form of development grants, which are set to be paid out upon the project’s completion. These include a façade improvement loan of $750,000 to be paid out in annual payments of $75,000 over the next 10 years, the money for which will be coming from the city’s Civic Property Development Reserve and funded through $75,000 in annual budget contributions. The remaining incentive comes in the form of an increased assessment grant to be divvied out over the next 14 years, which allows the city to waive all or some of a building’s property taxes for any given year.

In December, Durham regional council approved $564,000 in funding assistance for the project.

As well, both the DCs from the City of Oshawa and 93 per cent of DCs from the Region of Durham have been waived.