|Breaking ground with David Allen of Fonthill Gardens Inc.|
Maryanne Firth/Welland Tribune/Postmedia Network
Why was it an historic moment for Pelham? Because 25-years of thinking, discussing and planning have finally become action and construction!
Former Mayor Ralph Beamer told me that it took more than a decade to get Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) approval in 2000 to expand Pelham’s built boundary from east of Station Street to Rice Road – creating the 450 acres of “East Fonthill.”
But the OMB ruled that the Town needed to undertake more detailed planning – called a Secondary Plan – before development could proceed. Pelham’s 2000/03 Council hired the Planning Partnership to work together with the community and area developers to finalize the plan.
The 2003/06 Council, led by former Mayor Ron Leavens, purchased 32 acres of land at the corner of Hwy 20 and Rice Road to build recreational facilities and playing fields, and to construct a gateway feature. That Council also gave control of the Secondary Plan to private sector developers – hoping it could be completed more quickly.
Since 2006, Council and I took back the leadership of the Secondary Plan and, with exceptional planning and legal resources, worked together with the development community, the Region, and the public to complete the Plan and get OMB approval in January 2014.
Then we overcame the next obstacle by thinking more broadly. We notionally erased ownership lines and thought not just about the Town lands or the commercial / mixed use lands, but about how we might ensure this new area could improve the rest of the Town. And, Council directed Town CAO Darren Ottaway to work very closely with the commercial developer to design a great development.
This great development not only includes new commercial, retail, and food establishments, but also a Medical Centre, a significant Retirement Residence, and new Wellspring Niagara Cancer Support Centre. This development also includes a gateway pond, pedestrian and cycle-friendly paths and roads, a two-acre public square, new parks, and protection of significant environmental features – all linked to existing community. Finally, the development also includes space for a potential new Community Centre – with a single-pad arena, expandable to two pads, fitness facility and walking track, double gymnasium, multi-purpose & performing arts space.
With the vision, determination, and hard work of so many, we have worked together to complete this 25-year steeplechase. This groundbreaking signifies the start of construction of a more integrated and complete community and puts Council’s vision of a more vibrant, creative, and caring Pelham into action.