Ron Higgins sees himself as a kind of hub in the wheel that is rolling towards a major change in the economic and social reality in North Frontenac Township over the next ten years. He is neither and investor nor a proponent for any of the series of projects that are in various stages of development, but he has been at the centre of the effort to put groups and individuals interested in starting new ventures with the governmental and non-governmental agencies that can help make the ventures come to fruition.
Higgins brought the projects together in one package at a special meeting of Council almost two weeks ago. He was seeking Council’s support in principle in order to advance one of the projects, a power generation proposal, which is still in the conceptual stages, but the meeting provided an opportunity to bring forward two other initiative that are at a more advanced stage, even though they do not require council action.
In an interview with the News last Friday (November 19) Higgins took the opportunity to clarify where all of the threads of the complicated set of initiatives are located, both physically and in terms of time frame.
The proposal for a wellness centre, wood shop and apiary is the first that will get underway. It has a location that has already been purchased. Planning is underway now for a renovation to the former Tooley house and 36 acre property which has road frontage in Plevna on Road 506. The property has commercial-residential zoning and starting up the new ventures will not require any planning applications. However renovations to the 2,275 square foot house on the property to create an interim home for the wellness centre will require a building permit, which has not been acquired as of yet. The proposal that was presented to council said that there is potential for the centre to offer the following services: massage, including Reiki, Shiatsu, accupressure and other types, chiropractic services, physiotherapy, First Nations healing or crystal/herbal healing, and primary care services offered by three medical doctors, and the services of a locally based Nurse Practitioner and midwife.
There is a large garage/worskhop on the property, and the plan is to build a canoe this winter to “show the community the quality of canoes that can be made here in North Frontenac. Publicity would be enhanced by raffling off the canoe,” according to the report on the “One Small Town Implementation Plan that Higgins submitted to Council on November 3.
The other project slated to get underway in the near term on the Tooley property is an apiary. All of the projects will be taken on by a co-operative called C&T North Frontenac (C&T stand for Contribute and Thrive). Part of the operating mandate of the co-op is that members who contribute 3 hours per week to one of the projects will receive a share of the benefits. In the case of the canoe factory, if one develops, that would amount to a free canoe.
David Craig, one of the main proponents of the Talking Trees project, which will be discussed below. According to Ron Higgins Craig will be involved in the renovation project in Plevna and will be living and working in North Frontenac this winter. He has been residing near Perth until now.
The second initiative covered in the plan is the Talking Trees Earth Ship project, which has been the subject of articles in the Frontenac News as early as last spring. In its current incarnation, the project envisions constructing 89 Earth Ships, homes built from used tires and concrete, built into the land to make them self sufficient in terms of electrical power and heat/cooling. The land for this project has not been purchased but there are un-comfirmed reports that a property that is suitable for the project has been located to the east of Ompah towards Snow Road, close to Road 509.
Higgins said that this project will require planning approvals from Frontenac County, likely a Plan of Condominium will need to be prepared and approved before lots can be created and construction of the pod based community can get underway.
“I don’t think the process will create the same amount of controversy among neighbours as a proposal to create 20 or more waterfront lots would,” Higgins said, comparing the Talking Trees initiative with the Ardoch Lake Plan of subdivision, a project in North Frontenac that is being opposed by neighbouring property owners. In the plan that was presented to Council, construction on the Talking Trees project is slated to begin in late 2018, although Higgins said he does understand that may be an overly optimistic given the land has not been purchased and planning processes in Frontenac County tend to be slow.
The longest term plan is the proposal for electrical generation and aquaculture projects, which will require some land that includes waterfront because the generating process requires water to be drawn from a water source, processed and then returned to the water source. A second factor about site selection for this project is proximity to the electrical grid to feed power into the hydro system. The aquaculture project will be energy intensive and will require the electrical generation to help it remain competitive in the market place. The municipality will need to be the owners of the power project, but Higgins said that Langenburg, the company that has expressed interest in building the project, is prepared to cover all the costs in exchange for the profits that will be generated, making North Frontenac a power producer in name only.
There is no time frame set out for this part of the One Small Town initiative.