Jeff Green | Mar 13, 2008
Feature Article - March 13, 2008
Back toHomeFeature Article - March 13, 2008 Condominium proposal retractedBy Jeff Green The controversial high end condominium project in Sharbot Lake has been abandoned by the proponent.
Cameron Chiarot of the Chiarot Development Group (CDG) sent a letter to Central Frontenac Council on March 5 in which he retracted his zoning amendment application.
“The proposed application was for a new and exciting luxury multiple residential townhome condominium development project … Due to unforeseen opposition CDG deemed the project not feasible.”
When contacted later by the News, Cameron Chiarot said there were two reasons why he has pulled the plug on the project, even though he has already spent over a quarter of a million dollars on it thus far, with most of the money being devoted to satisfying requirements for zoning and condominium approval by various bodies.
“I as surprised that council was so negative about the proposal at the public meeting,” he said, “in fact my engineer told me that three councilors approached him after the meeting and told him they were opposed to the project.”
The second reason, and the one that Chiarot described as the “final straw” came when on the day after the public meeting he was informed by the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority (MVCA) that a more extensive environmental assessment would be required before the authority could give the proposal their blessing.
Chiarot had already completed an assessment and it was his expectation that it met the requirements of MVCA.
“In January they had raised an issue about what they have determined is the 100-year high water mark at the property, but my understanding was that this had been dealt with. This further assessment would cost me at least $50,000. More importantly it would mean a further delay, which has a cost attached to it as well,” Chiarot said. “To be hit with this after approaching them back in the summer and asking them what they needed and then giving it to them, is difficult for me to accept.”
Chiarot said he has launched a complaint to the executive director of MVCA about how his case was handled.
John Price, the watershed management coordinator for the authority, told the News there were issues that concerned MVCA about the Chiarot project. One was the location of the proposed buildings, which, they found encroached too close to the lake on both the north and south ends of the project.
Although the extension of the development to the south end was not necessarily a problem for MVCA, the north end was identified as a problem and they did not see how the three proposed units could be built on the lot.
“This problem was communicated to Mr. Chiarot last fall,” Price said.
But Cameron Chiarot had not been told that the MVCA would need what is called a three-season environmental assessment of the project in order to support it until he was sent a letter on February 29, 2008.
Price explained that it is deemed necessary to look at an ecosystem in the spring, summer and fall to get a full picture of how it operates and what its sensitivities are. “Potentially we didn’t communicate as early on as we should have about the three-season assessment, but he had professional consultants working for him and it is pretty standard,” Price said.
“I have the marketing all ready for this spring, which is the time to market this kind of project. The three-season assessment cost me a year,” Chiarot said. “I can’t afford that.”
In contrast to the impression that Cameron Chiarot received from council on February 28, the councilors who attended this week’s meeting expressed uniform regret that the project wasn’t going forward.
“From my point of view it unfortunate that a person who has shown goodwill has withdrawn before we had a chance to look at the whole proposition in detail,” said Councilor Gary Smith.
“I think that it would be worthwhile to try and get to the bottom of the story. If our application process has to be upgraded so that this doesn’t happen in the future. Let's try to find out what went wrong,” said Councilor John Purdon.
“We should make a request to the conservation authority to ask them to develop a guideline, so everyone will know what is required at the start of the process,” said Frances Smith.
For Cameron Chiarot a review will not make much difference as far as this particular project is concerned.
“I will be taking out a building permit for a single dwelling on the site, a high end dwelling, and I should be able to break even. But I wanted to do something with more impact, something that added to the community,” he said.
But Cameron Chiarot is not giving up on Central Frontenac. “There are many other opportunities in the township.”