When it comes to development charges, it’s the pits for the upcoming Cherry Blossom Farm facility with $300,000 at stake on who is to pay.

Tay Township held a special council meeting for a Development Charges Act hearing this week regarding a notice of complaint by Cherry Blossom Farm.

Under parent organization the Blossom Group, the new facility under construction is anticipated to be a therapeutic farm community and home for 24 adults with neurodevelopmental disabilities and complex needs while also offering individual homes for children and adults who require specialized care, similar to the Apple Blossom Village in Oro-Medonte.

delegation to Tay council in January by the Blossom Group addressed a $303,231 development charge where it was claimed that prior to purchase of the property and its development, discussions between the group and municipal staff led Blossom Group to believe the development charge fees would be waived.

Furthermore, a letter for the notice of complaint was sent to the municipality in early May by legal representation for Blossom Group, reiterating that the group had paid the charge but stating that the charges were applied in error due to municipal bylaws.

Where the hearing became interesting was when Blossom Group co-founder and program director Sherri-Ann Bloom spoke at the meeting.

“Unfortunately, last night our lawyer called us and said that even though we were correct in the law complaint, it must be made within 90 days of the date payment of the development charges – and we paid those fees in January,” stated Bloom.

“He said the limitation date is non-discretionary and for that reason our complaint would fail, which is why he is not here and I am. We’re a family business and I am here – my partners are busy working in the field – to request that council request an injustice.”

Bloom continued with the ambitions for Cherry Blossom Farm and its beneficial impact to the township and community, concluding her remarks by saying: “Let’s forget this as a complaint and figure out what the right thing to do is here.”

Coun. Sandy Talbot asked Bloom: “Do you have any documentation that says that there will be no DC charges, from staff or –?”

Bloom replied by addressing the back and forth nature of the discussions, with Talbot following up that the municipality required a paper trail. Bloom simply responded, “understood.”

A question by Coun. Paul Raymond clarified that the reason a complaint hearing was needed was for Blossom Group to make a formal appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal.

Mayor Ted Walker shared his opinion that “that doesn’t sound fair, from our perspective either” regarding the January 90-day period.

From the public, a comment was made regarding who pays development charges. Walker responded that exemptions can be made under the Development Charges Act with select criteria concerning certain health or education components.

“From our perspective, it’s not simply waiving the fee; we actually have to pay it ourselves,” said Walker. “If we waive a fee, then the municipality has to make up that money into the development charges.”

The hearing concluded with Walker thanking the appellant and public for their comments, informing them that the matter would need to be looked at further by township staff, with a follow-up to occur next month.

Following the meeting, Walker spoke to MidlandToday on the rarity of the Blossom Group challenge.

“I haven’t come across this exact situation, but certainly our staff to date have done a lot of research with legal and also our development charge consultant, and we haven’t been able to find ‘a way out’ (for the Blossom Group),” said Walker. “But we’ll see if we can discover anything further before the June council meeting.”

“Hopefully we can come to a solution that will be beneficial and agreeable to both of us.“We’re very happy to have that facility coming to Tay Township. It’s a super facility with huge employment implications; we’re definitely excited about that,” Walker added.

MidlandToday contacted Blossom Group co-founder and clinical director Howard Bloom for comment.

“We will continue to work with council and township staff, and the processes availed to us to resolve this matter with an optimal outcome,” he replied via email. “We are very proud to be building Cherry Blossom Farm in Tay Township.”

Howard Bloom reiterated the numerous employment opportunities and “supportive, therapeutic nature-based environment” that the facility is anticipated to provide.

“We will open in early spring 2025. Construction is well underway with exceptional progress. We have begun collecting resumes for those who are interested in working at Cherry Blossom Farm in the spring of 2025.

“We have postings on Indeed and on our website,” he said, listing a need for direct-care supports, clinical staff, site and facility staff, catering, chef and kitchen team members, and professional farm and recreational therapeutic specialists.

“In addition, we are working through the referral process for people who will live at Cherry Blossom Farm. There is so much positive interest as this community is solving a vital housing need.”

The Development Charges Act notice of hearing complaint, including correspondence from Blossom Group, can be found in the agenda page on the Tay Township website.

Tay council meets for committee of the whole meetings every second Wednesday of the month, and regular council meetings every fourth Wednesday of the month. Archives and livestreams of council meetings are available through the Tay Township YouTube channel.

By Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 03, 2024 at 06:56

This item reprinted with permission from   MidlandToday.ca   Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
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