Midland’s electoral ‘pause and rethink’ on the Midland Bay Landing project last year has turned into a ‘reset and rethink’ strategy.
In a recorded 8-1 vote of approval at its most recent meeting, council disbanded the idle Midland Bay Landing Development Corporation and authorized a new request for proposal (RFP) for the full 40.4 acre site.
Following direction in April for then-acting CAO Andy Campbell to provide a report on Midland Bay Landing with RFP options, council held back on making snap decisions until CAO Rhonda Bunn was hired and introduced to the full scope of the position to gain her input.
Campbell provided a history of the Midland Bay Landing property from the Unimin aggregate sale in 2012 to the recent backing out of developer Georgian Communities following the election of the new council.
Included in the description of the property were: 10.7 (27 per cent) of park and open space in the master plan; 8.2 acres (20 per cent) as roadways; 7.7 acres (19 per cent) as water lots extending from the land’s edge; and finally 13.8 acres (34 per cent) remaining for buildings to be constructed upon.
“We’ve had two failed engagements currently on this site,” said Campbell. “Clearly we can’t do the same thing and expect a different result; I don’t think that’s going to work.”
In addition, the contaminated aspect of the property, making it a brownfield site, would require future development to restructure the parkland which many residents had demanded, but at a cost according to Campbell.
“For all the parkland and open space, we have to put at least a metre of soil on top of that to cap the contaminants underground. What that would mean in simple terms is: every tree needs to be cut down, because you can’t put a metre of soil up against an existing tree. That will just kill it,” Campbell stated.
The recommendation from staff was to put out an RFP with a blank slate approach, to let developers come to the town with their ideas for the site.
Council members Jamie-Lee Ball and Beth Prost pushed staff for assurance that the preservation of parkland would be included as part of the RFP process, which Campbell confirmed. However, Campbell added that public input wouldn’t be included prior to the planning procedure.
“We’d be asking the developer to come to the table with their ideas,” said Campbell, “and then it would go through the normal Official Plan and there’s public meetings that would be required. I’ll be very clear: no public consultation prior to the RFP going out. It would be part of the design process.”
Mayor Bill Gordon stated that it would be the biggest decision the current council would make in their term.
“This is the reset and rethink that, I think, a lot of people wanted and voted for dropping our hook back in the water, shall we say, with a fresh worm on it rather than the shriveled one we had before," said Gordon.
Gordon also introduced the amendment to disband the Midland Bay Landing Development Corporation, which had sat idle following its cut budget last year and the mass resignation of its entire board of directors in February.
With Coun. Bill Meridis sharing that he found a recent developer presentation of the Collingwood Grain Terminals project to be informative and pleasing, Campbell advised Meridis that such presentations usually cost developers up to $200,000 with a risk of no return, and Midland’s waterfront may not get the same level of polish from the expected shortlist of developers Campbell would compile for council.
“I wouldn’t think we’d have a development proposal back to this council – well, we’d have the shortlist back as a discussion – but a concept drawing wouldn’t be until the first quarter of 2025 at the earliest,” noted Campbell.
The Midland Bay Landing report, including a 2022 survey of the property, is available in the council agenda on the town of Midland website.
Council meetings are held every third Wednesday, and can be viewed on Rogers TV cable channel 53, or through the livestream on the Rogers TV website. Archives of council meetings are available through Rogers TV and on the Town of Midland’s YouTube channel.
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca