An important piece of the revitalization puzzle in downtown Delhi has fallen in place with the approval of a 10-unit townhouse development at the site of the former Delhi Foundry on King Street.
The proposal also includes plans for a laundromat, a convenience Delhi currently lacks.
The approval followed council’s approval of new phases in the Bluegrass Estates subdivision at the east end of Argyle Avenue in Delhi. The phases involve construction of 41 single-detached homes and nine semi-detached homes.
At the June 15 meeting of Norfolk council, Mayor Kristal Chopp welcomed this flurry of activity in Delhi, which has struggled in recent decades following the decline of tobacco farming.
“Did you ever think this day would come where it would be development application after development application in Delhi?” Chopp asked Delhi Coun. Mike Columbus.
Columbus agreed the developments are welcome, especially the investment on King Street at the gore of Talbot Road.
“You’re right,” Columbus said. “At one time, one applicant (on the foundry property) was looking to use sea containers that were four storeys high. I’m glad that didn’t go forward but I’m really happy to see this one go forward.”
Chopp recalled meeting with Port Rowan lawyer Tom Cline and planning consultant David Roe a week after taking office in 2018. Chopp said the pair spoke of a number of promising development applications in Norfolk that came to nothing due to county red tape.
Noting that Robert Malinowski of Breslau – sponsor of the foundry project – nearly gave up on his application, Chopp congratulated Norfolk’s planning division for finally steering the proposal through to a successful conclusion.
“It (the proposal) looked amazing the first week after being elected and it looks like a great project now,” Chopp said.
Roe is the agent for Malinowski. On June 18, Roe recalled how he and his client had almost reached the finish line in the site-plan approval process when – out of the blue – Norfolk’s public works department came forward with an order to move all proposed construction several metres back from the sidewalk.
Roe said that destroyed the engineering and architectural reports Malinowski had commissioned and put the developer back at Square 1 with a requirement to perform new soil tests and the like. Inflexibility in Norfolk’s public works department, Roe said, has been a long-standing headache for developers trying to do business in Norfolk.
“The whole thing was basically killed right then and there,” Roe said. “They weren’t even open to any discussion.”
Roe – head of Civic Planning Solutions in Delhi – said there have been improvements in this regard in the county’s planning division. However, he added inexperience is a problem following a large turnover in staff since the new council was sworn in.
Roe added that Norfolk’s public works division doesn’t tailor its demands according to the development proposals in front of them. As an example, Roe asked why anyone would force a developer to pay for a traffic study for a five-house subdivision in a remote part of the former Houghton Township.
“They have their checklist, and there is no one you can approach who is really willing to be flexible,” Roe said. “They don’t seem capable of looking at anything and saying ‘No – that’s not needed. That is overreach.’”