The Blue Mountains council is probing the corporation overseeing work to build attainable housing after the recent request for proposal (RFP) process to find a design/builder for the Gateway project ended without success.

The Blue Mountains Attainable Housing Corporation Executive Director Jennifer Bisley was a delegation at council’s meeting on March 6. It was council’s first opportunity to address the housing corporation’s announcement last week that the Gateway bid process had finished without a contractor being selected.

The Gateway project is proposed as a three-storey building with residential apartments and possibly some commercial space on the ground floor. It is intended for 171 King Street, the former Foodland site at the east end of Thornbury.

“In the end, the decision was made to end the RFP without an award,” said Bisley, who said the housing corporation’s board would be conducting a planning session on Gateway in April to determine the next steps for the future.

What will happen next with the proposed project for 171 King Street in Thornbury was on the minds of members of council during what, at times, was a tense meeting.

Members of council shared their frustrations about the result of the RFP and the Gateway process to date.

Coun. Gail Ardiel said first learned about the end of the RFP process by reading an article posted to CollingwoodToday.

“I wasn’t very happy about that. I didn’t know what was going on,” she said. “I would have anticipated this council would have received this news right after the (Feb. 24 meeting of the housing corporation’s board).”

Coun. Paula Hope raised financial concerns about the situation, noting that the town had extended the housing corporation a loan of $715,000 to operate and prepare for the Gateway project.

“We’re all kind of reeling with the fact that we’re not where we want to be,” said Hope, who said council now has to think about how to proceed with an eye towards finances. “We have to protect members of the community, the taxpayers.”

Deputy Mayor Peter Bordignon wanted to know what the next steps will be.

“What is door number two?” he asked.

Bisley explained that the housing corporation’s board of directors would be examining all options. They might include: exploring partnership opportunities, seeking alternative delivery models for attainable housing or seeking developer support for the project.

“The board will be looking at all aspects,” said Bisley, adding that the corporation continued to need the town’s support. “We can’t do this without municipal council support.”

Coun. Alex Maxwell said the situation the town and the corporation found themselves in was unfortunate.

“The Gateway project has become a lightning rod for everything that could possibly go wrong with attainable housing,” he said.

How to proceed and what to do next consumed a great portion of the morning portion of the meeting. Hope brought forward a resolution asking for immediate meetings between the housing corporation and town staff on the matter and more financial accountability in the loan arrangement between the town and the housing corporation. However, determining the exact wording of the resolution proved challenging.

After a lengthy discussion and multiple revisions council ultimately voted 7-0 in favour of a resolution to direct CAO Shawn Everitt to meet with the housing corporation to discuss next steps. Council also voted to have the housing corporation present its findings from its upcoming planning sessions about how to proceed with Gateway to council by the end of June 2023. Finally, council decided that all requests for further financing through the town’s loan agreement with the housing corporation come to council for consideration.

By Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 07, 2023 at 07:19

This item reprinted with permission from   Collingwood, Ontario
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