Cleanup efforts complicate land deal for St. Jacobs seniors’ bldg.

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Land acquisition is part of a planned expansion at the seniors’ complex in St. Jacobs.

A St. Jacobs seniors’ home got more than it bargained for in acquiring a small piece of surplus land from Woolwich Township: a cleanup bill that has topped $130,000.

The remediation expenses factored into council’s decision to charge just $2 for the unused road allowance at 33 Front St. The 340-square-metre property had been valued at $18,000, but  Sprucelawn Apartments for Seniors Inc. picked up all the costs, including legal fees, to facilitate the transfer of land.

The non-profit housing complex has long used the land as a driveway/parking lot, but the company’s formal purchase of the property as well as the neighbouring lot at 2 Isabella St. paves the way for a 30-unit expansion.

Sprucelawn’s agreement to take on the cleanup costs of the land, formerly part of railway spur line and a municipal road, was an essential part of the deal, said Dan Kennaley, the township’s director of engineering  and planning services.

The goal was to protect the township from liability, similar to the process that was used to sell the Elmira pool to a private group after the opening of the WMC.

In acquiring a Ministry of the environment “record of site condition,” Sprucelawn had to remove polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) such as benzopyrene and napthalene – oil and coal tar derivatives, for instance – from the property.

The work has been carried out, with the contaminants hauled away and replaced with clean fill, an expansive undertaking, he said.

“The $2 reflects the fact that the record of site, including remediation efforts, was $130,000,” said Kennaley of the sale price.

The nominal fee is also in keeping with the township’s support for seniors’ housing, he added.

While the final details are still being worked out, the sale ends a process that started in the fall of 2016 when the township signalled its intent to declare the land surplus, with the goal  of a “targeted sale” to Sprucelawn rather than offering the land to the public, he explained.

Woolwich’s surplus land process gives that option to council, which conducted most of the deal in closed sessions.

Just before breaking for the summer on June 26, council finalized the closing up of the unused road to clear the way for the sale, with the details now available following some legal consultations, according to chief administrative officer David Brenneman.

The disposition of the land follows similar treatment of  an old railway spur line used by a previous mill operation located on the property at 1441 King St. N. The spur line was removed and portions of the railway lands were conveyed as lot additions to the various abutting properties, including the Front Street road allowance and the Sprucelawn property.

Brian L. Shantz, the planning consultant for Sprucelawn, said the organization would be bringing a proposal for an expansion to the township once the land deal is finalized. The project will need official plan and zoning changes from Woolwich, with the timing of actual construction dependent on future funding.

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