Town to seek partnership in land development

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Council discussed and recommended that the Town pursue the collaborative partnership approach in the development of the Boutin Avenue lands with other organizations and developers.

The Town of Hinton has been exploring development opportunities for the undeveloped, Town-owned lands at the intersection of Boutin Ave and Drinnan Way since 2018. 

The design team from the development firm, V3 Companies of Canada, and architect firm, ncx+, conducted the Boutin Avenue design charrette at the Government Centre in July 2020. The result from the four-day intensive collaborative design charrette was a final preferred concept for the lands to be developed.

“The partnership could be set up as simple as you as the municipality don’t necessarily front the cost but you may be the person who leases the land in a long lease arrangement,” said Nick Pryce, from V3 about the partnership approach on the development project, during the standing committee meeting on Oct. 27 where he presented the results from the Boutin Ave Design Charrette.

He added the Town could agree on a low lease rate, and the developer would then be responsible to develop the site or the municipality could cover certain approval costs to help the partnership move forward in the development. Any collaboration to make it more inviting for a developer, Pryce explained.

Collaboratively, other sources of grant funding can be determined to provide affordable housing through a phased approach.

“The Town is getting more housing, which of course is beneficial for the Town. If you did look at a solution being a long term lease, then you’re deferring the cost of the land to make it more desirable for a developer to get in there quicker to do the development and make something happen,” Coun. Ryan Maguhn stated in response to Pryce.

The report brought to council presented three options the town could pursue in the development of the lands to achieve affordable housing, with collaborative partnerships being the one council chose.

Rather than choosing to pursue collaborative partnerships, council could have chosen to sell the land to a developer or become the land developer. Pryce believed the salability on the actual lands overall isn’t there.

Next steps in the Boutin Ave project includes redistricting to align with the preferred design concept and thereby enabling the lands for future development. 

Pryce recommended the Town create a direct control district to maintain the integrity of the work, giving council control over the development during a collaboration. Council would then approve any changes.

The next steps of the development include moving on to phase one and two and further analysis of servicing the land to which $150,000 is slated to be included in the 2021 budget to finance that, stated CAO Emily Olsen.  

Administration can now pursue seeking out partnerships and grant opportunities, and some of those conversations have already started, said Olsen.

Another step forward will include sourcing potential housing grants to assist with off-setting the estimated $2.5M to service the lands.

Approval from council is required to access any grant funds and any impacts to the budget will come forward in coming weeks.

One of the main constraints for development moving forward, is the need to carry out further analysis on the servicing infrastructure to identify design solutions to improve the capacity levels.

Pryce explained that phasing of the development is based on obtaining quick wins and providing a product that is currently in demand within the local market.

Phase one of the project would include tiny homes as affordable senior housing, a professional centre or medical-type facility, and a storage facility. This phase would be done between 2021 and 2024.

Feedback from the seniors community was positive about the price points of the proposed units, Pryce stated.

He added that there was a developer who tried to develop senior facilities in Hinton for around $340,000 per unit, which was too high for most seniors that were looking to downsize.

“The other comment that I heard from the seniors was that there are a lot of people that aren’t ready to go into the seniors facility but they were by themselves and they had friends in there, so they wanted to be nearby,” Pryce said.

If units can stay around $230,000, Pryce believes the units will be popular.

Phase two would begin in 2024 until 2027 and include multi duplex units for seniors. Town houses would be built in phase three between 2027 and 2032 but requires additional work on the sanitary system. 

Additional analysis is required to evaluate the capacity of the stormwater line between the utility right-of-ways (ROW) manhole and the stormwater manhole at Hart Cove on Maurer Drive. Additionally, there are capacity issues downstream in the system and the updated flows will need to be reviewed for the proposed concept.

A mixed-use multi unit would be done in phase four during 2032 and 2042, and phase five includes a four storey multi unit residential building between 2037 and 2042.

A total estimated cost for phase one is $14,331,221, but this could still change, Pryce said.

Pryce noted there is some flexibility in changing the phasing or layout of the project, but that the costs should be considered and the impact on the downstream upgrade.

He added that the phasing timeline is based on the unknowns of the market take-up, which includes subdivision cleanup, detailed design, building permits, followed by construction, and the sales.

“It could happen a lot quicker but it’s just to get a gauge of what could be the uptake. If we get the price point right, they might go in a year,” Pryce said. “From a phasing point of view, it’s always good to just have a little bit of a buffer on expectations.”

Administration retained the services of V3 Companies of Canada in 2019 to prepare a due diligence report for the three parcels owned by the Town. 

The purpose of the due diligence report was to determine the overall suitability of the parcels for residential development, to determine the geotechnical nature of the lands, to conduct an environmental phase one analysis, to determine if the servicing to the site could support residential development, and to prepare an estimated cost to service the parcels. 

The charrette earlier this year invited different stakeholder groups to collaborate and discuss their needs and vision for the site.