Simcoe lot deemed unsuitable for housing
This stone monument in Simcoe marks an entryway to Holmewood Park on Orchard Avenue. Norfolk council this week thought better of rezoning the land for a Habitat for Humanity project after residents in the neighbourhood objected. MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER
Members of Norfolk council apologized to Habitat for Humanity this week for suggesting that there was an inexpensive building lot available on Orchard Avenue in Simcoe.
News in December that Norfolk County was prepared to sell the vacant lot at 88 Orchard Ave. prompted an immediate backlash in the neighbourhood. A petition against the project was circulated while several residents shared their concerns with Norfolk council this week.
Residents objected because the lot has served as an entryway to Holmewood Park since the end of the Second World War.
The lot is also the site of a large stone monument to the late R. Garton Holmes. Holmes donated the land in 1945 to the former Town of Simcoe for the creation of the park.
“I feel we erred on this in some respect,” Simcoe Coun. Doug Brunton said.
“These people have had the quiet enjoyment of their property for a lot of years. Are we going to start opening up our parks for a building lot here and there?
“I recommend we not proceed with this proposal. I think these people deserve to keep this as a quiet space for the continued enjoyment of their homes.”
Orchard Avenue resident Larry Moase has lived in the neighbourhood for 36 years. He was among the residents who spoke at Tuesday’s council meeting.
“All these years it has been known as ‘the Holmes Park access,’ founded 1945,” he said.
“It has been taken care of by the town all that time as parkland. It’s never been known as anything other than parkland. ‘Open space’ is something we should cherish. It is something we should keep.”
Council’s re-think came during a public meeting under the Planning Act. Norfolk County had declared the parcel surplus to its needs and was the applicant to rezone the property from “open space” to “residential.”
The Norfolk chapter of Habitat for Humanity has invested time and effort in the application but was not out any money. The county bore the costs of steering the application through the planning process.
“We heard this land had become surplus and had been put on the list,” Habitat CEO Dan Brooks said.
“We took the lead and the initiative when we learned this land was available.”
Windham Coun. Jim Oliver agreed that framing the parcel as a building lot was a mistake. Given the sentiment in the neighbourhood, Oliver said it is not a good idea for Habitat for Humanity to mount a project in this location.
“I think this is one where council has erred,” Oliver said. “This is a situation where we can stop the process and help Habitat for Humanity find another building lot.”