Development put on hold

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer

The Planning and Development Executive Committee made the recommendation to council to approve the request submitted by Newfort Developments to delay their development project in town and have their deposit returned to them.

Newfort Developments had an intention to construct an 18-unit apartment complex in the Town of Fort Frances on 814 Scott St. starting this year.

However, with about a 25 per cent increase in building costs and previous border restrictions from Ontario to Manitoba, George Friesen, president of Newfort Developments, wrote a letter to the Fort Frances council asking to have their deposit returned back to the company.

According to the report submitted by Cody Vangel, chief municipal official and municipal planner, the town and Newfort have entered into a Site Plan Control Agreement on the development with a line of credit in the value of $75,000. This deposit would ensure the completion of the project as per plans and drawings.

For example, Vangel said, if the drawings show a paved parking lot with curbs and gutters, but the finished project did not adhere to those landscaping specifications, the town would utilize the $75,000 to complete the project on the exterior to reflect the plans and drawings.

“The Site Plan Control Agreement outlines a number of specifications as to how the developers finish out the project,” Vangel said. “Given that we may be releasing the letter of credit and don’t know when and if construction will take place in the future, it makes sense to deregister that from the title if it is not taking place at this time.”

In the letter, Friesen said this will settle their borrowed accounts and stop the negative cash flow and associated costs to their business.

According to the letter, the $75,000 deposit is costing the developer $500 per month from one of their lending sources. With Newfort not anticipating the project to take place prior to 2022, they would resubmit the deposit prior to resuming the project in order to avoid the annual eight per cent interest rate.

Even with the Ontario-Manitoba border being open since last week, Vangel said he met with the company last week, but they still had no plans to move ahead.

“With the size of the development, it would be something they want to start early in the season in April or May,” Vangel said. “There was no mention of anticipation of starting this year at all.”

Newfort started their initial consultation with the town in 2019. In 2020, they conducted a number of planning applications such as rezoning the official plan agreement, bylaws and entering into the Site Plan Control Agreement.

Coun. Wendy Brunetta said it is unfortunate to have the project delayed, but completely understandable given the price of lumber and other construction material.

If the town approves the request, Newfort would reimburse the town for the reimbursement issued under the Community Improvement Plan for the value of $7,471.98. The property owner would also be required to reapply and issue a new fee of $1,040.30 for a new Site Plan Control Agreement when ready to resume the project, including any applicable legal costs.