Artist drawing of one of the many packages offered by Wellings of Winchester. Courtesy Photo

WINCHESTER – North Dundas council has agreed to lower their general capital charges for water and sanitary sewer connections to the North Dundas system by 25 per cent specifically for Senior Oriented Dwellings.

Such a dwelling is one that is specifically designated for seniors.

The reason for the change was to address a request from Wellings of Winchester to keep future capital charges for their future phase in line with charges they have already been assessed for phase1of their five-phase project.

Since the Wellings project began the capital charges have increased from $2,278 for each unit built during the first phase of development to $4,474 per unit. The expected total number of completed units in Winchester when the entire project is completed will be 400 plus units.

After the 25 per cent reduction, that amount for a senior – oriented dwelling drops down to $3,356.

The first phase charges were naturally lower because the water and sewer infrastructure in Winchester servicing the seniors’ designated homes already existed. However, future development would have to connect to infrastructure still to be built, and would naturally come at a higher cost.

Wellings of Winchester is a project driven by the Nautical Lands Group, and has five separate phases to its development. The housing development company has several similar completed housing initiatives throughout Ontario.

They have currently built 41 of 61 units in Winchester along the town’s Main Street. Phase two and three are expected to take place in 2023.

The positive response to the housing project aimed at the senior population has been overwhelming.

Mayor Tony Fraser was reasonably satisfied with the compromise.

He said, “They do not consume as much water as a detached home. We have looked at other aspects of senior dwellings. We want diversification. I have talked about this for a number of years leading up to the 2018 election.”

Fraser explained that the municipality was unable to find out what other municipalities were doing about these kinds of housing developments for seniors’ situations so they decided to develop their own strategies.

“We are leading the way,” said Fraser. “We have instituted a development charge for seniors. This is another step forward in the water sewer capital charge strategy that people can measure against others. We needed to be realistic about water consumption by seniors.”

Residents have said they want an alternative to existing housing in the area. For example, as residents grow older they will want to move somewhere affordable, safer and more practical than their existing home, but not a facility that doubles as a long-term care home.

At the July 12 council meeting, Peter Gregor vice president of production and design for Nautical Lands Group made a request of council to try and reduce future capital development costs for the Wellings of Winchester project.

Gregor explained that the project was well underway, and was in the process of building out all of the Phase 1 houses. He said the units had all been leased and over 50 deposits had been taken for Phase 2.

In a letter to the council he stated: “I would also like to point out that our affordable housing model works with the senior oriented development support provided by the Township, however, the recently noted significant fee increases would undermine the affordable housing concept that we have created. We are looking for the continued support of the Township of North Dundas council and staff to be able to provide the same great housing product that we have in Phase 1.”

After he made his request the council asked staff to revisit the capital water and sewer charges with the aim of finding a way to reduce those charges related to specifically senior designated residences by 25 per cent.

These same capital charges were planned to finance the sanitary sewer upgrades currently being designed for the west end of Winchester.

At the Aug. 9 council meeting, the council accepted the 25 per cent reduction in the capital charges that Wellings of Winchester was expected to pay for their future phases. They also agreed to the idea of support for establishing a cap on the County Road 3/Main St., West sanitary sewer capital charge at 20 residential sewer units per developer, per property.

Fraser said, “We never anticipated so many units.”

The actual description of a senior oriented dwelling where the discount is applied states: “Senior Oriented Dwelling means a dwelling unit specifically designated for seniors to provide an age-targeted residence, primarily for persons who are either retired or close to retirement, which is part of a complex of 30 or more similar units, and shall have access to shared common facilities, sometimes with indoor and outdoor swimming pools, exercise facilities, craft rooms, demonstration kitchens, and decks and patios for gathering, but shall not include a single detached dwelling.”

The analysis of the reduction by North Dundas staff indicated that, “Reducing the general water and sewer capital charge for Senior-Oriented Dwelling Units (SODU) by 25 per cent is a reduction of $1,118 per SODU. As of July 12, 2022, water and sewer allocations have been approved for 196 SODU that would be impacted by any change in the capital fees. The proposed fee reduction would result in a $219,128 loss of revenue.

Establishing a 20 residential sanitary sewer unit cap per developer, per property means that it will take longer to recoup the cost of the sanitary system extension than it would without establishing a cap. It does not mean that the Township can’t recoup the total cost of the original sanitary system extension.

Funds collected from the County Road 3 extension are used to fund other water and sewer expansion projects.”