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Weak public interest in Harbour Road plan

The proposed Harbour Road Community Improvement Plan area. (Graphic courtesy of the City of Oshawa).

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

A new plan to help encourage development and drive the population up in a key area of the city near Lake Ontario received little interest from the public during a meeting on Monday.

The Harbour Road Community Improvement Plan (CIP), if approved by council at its next meeting on May 23, will offer grants to developers looking to develop on land north of Harbour Road.

The CIP, which consists mostly of lands generally north of Harbour Road between Simcoe Street South and Montgomery Creek and south of Wellington Avenue East, would allow developers building in the area to receive an increased assessment grant, giving them a reduction on their taxes over a 10-year period following the project’s completion.

Larry Ladd, a dedicated city hall watcher and waterfront advocate, was the lone resident to come forward and speak on the CIP. He urged councillors to move ahead with the plan, but to be weary about the condition of the lands.

“I would love to see hundreds, if not thousands of people down in that particular area,” he says.

With that said, he notes the land will need to be analyzed for potential contamination from past uses.

“I would certainly hope that this council would do, or request, a full and cumulative environmental assessment,” Ladd says.

Current zoning would allow for a range of low-, medium- and high-density residential use – something that has been suggested for some time, with a 2006 study concluding a “residential focus” is the preferred use for the area.

According to Warren Munro, the city’s director of planning services, there has already been interest from developers to build in the area, despite concerns recently raised about a new cement operation coming to the harbour. Munro says developers have recognized the industrial presence on the east wharf will be a challenge.

“I don’t think it’s insurmountable, but it’s going to be a challenge,” he says. “I think there are people that wouldn’t mind living in an area that has an active port.”

Apart from Councillor Amy McQuaid-England, the CIP was as good as signed, sealed and delivered.

McQuaid-England attempted to have council install a caveat in the CIP to encourage developers to bring a bank to the south end, an area she describes as a “bank desert,” as there are no financial institutions south of Highway 401.

“We now have an opportunity to deal with that,” she says.

However, the steps in order to make that happen could have required council to send the CIP to a second public meeting to deal with the change – a stopping point for several councillors.

“We’ve waited for a long time to try and get something going,” said Councillor Nester Pidwerbecki, who added there are already areas in the south end zoned for banks, but none have stayed. Pidwerbecki says moving forward with development on the north side of Harbour Road could act as a springboard for those lands south of Harbour Road, currently being remediated for parkland uses and a marina.

“We have the opportunity to move forward and I’m going to encourage all of you, for the sake of both sides,” he said.

The motion carried unanimously and will go to council on May 23.