Developers in Port Dover were inconvenienced last year when Norfolk County imposed a moratorium on new construction due to water supply issues.
Sixteen months later, the moratorium is beginning to bite.
Several developers are sitting on millions of dollars of stranded infrastructure. Servicing charges on the associated debt has some worried about their long-term viability.
“I don’t believe we were ever told there would be a shutdown or moratorium,” John Lennox, principal of the massive Dover Coast subdivision on the east side of town, told Norfolk council by audio link on Nov. 17.
“If improvements were needed, we were told it would be done in a timely manner. The moratorium has been very hard on us.”
Norfolk council imposed the moratorium in June 2019, after confirming that Port Dover’s water treatment plant cannot keep up with demand during peak periods in the summer.
The situation is critical due to its potential impact on Norfolk County’s ability to fight fires in the event of an emergency. Charlotteville Coun. Chris VanPaassen said Norfolk’s processing capacity is about half the rate of consumption during peak periods.
Lennox and associates plan to build 1,500 residential units on 500 acres east of the lift bridge. Two hundred homes have been built so far with plans for a hotel, a retirement home on eight acres, and retailing to service the surrounding neighbourhood.
Dover Coast associate Jason Fleury told council the situation is getting critical. Especially worrisome, he said, are interest payments on debt incurred on stranded infrastructure.
“Everything is stuck in the ground with nowhere to go,” he said. “We need a solution – a way to get rolling again. Most developers would go bankrupt sticking that much infrastructure in the ground and having to sit on it for years.”
Robert Hunter of Black Creek Developments said five development companies are willing to pay more for building permits if Norfolk County will partner with them on the installation of a temporary treatment facility. Such a facility would kick-start construction that was in the final stages of approval before the moratorium.
Hunter said his homes sales have declined 70 per cent since the moratorium. Potential customers are not enthusiastic about the idea of cisterns and the $150 a month it would cost to truck in water.
“We had a client say he had dead rats in his last cistern as he walked out the door,” Hunter said.
Hunter is nervous because he has signed pre-build contracts he is unable to honour. He said he worries about running afoul of Tarrion home-guarantee policies with some clients.
“It makes no sense that everything would be stopped in its tracks,” Hunter said. “We’re in a very difficult position with our clients. We paid our development charges. We were pre-approved. We want our water.”
Norfolk council is expected to comment on the temporary treatment plant proposal in December when it receives a comprehensive report on the county’s water-servicing needs.
The developers have the sympathy of the Port Dover Board of Trade.
“A new home is a major purchase with many spin-offs,” president Nick Childs said in a letter to the municipality last week.
“Smaller businesses and the trades are also affected when development comes to a halt. That downturn moves through the entire local economy and every business feels it to some extent. When coupled with the pandemic, it’s a double-whammy for local businesses.”