Pearle Hospitality using public easements as parkland dedication

ELORA – Pearle Hospitality is using public easements in place of parkland dedication for the proposed condominium development on the south side of the Grand River in Elora. 

The easements will protect public access and infrastructure on the Pearle land, Centre Wellington CAO Andy Goldie told council at a special meeting on Aug. 22. 

The trails on the property will connect with the Victoria Street right of way, to connect with a future trail. 

Goldie said there’s another trail that will go through the hydro corridor, and then to Wellington Road 7 and then to the environmentally protected area (ESA), which is a proposed location for the relocated Potter Foundry. 

“From the parkland dedication this meets and far exceeds the standard parkland dedication,” Goldie said. “The advantage for the municipality is that we won’t be having to own those properties.

“These will be owned by Pearle and be developed to far higher standards than what we will ever be able to as the township. 

“So they are making that investment but we will be securing those through the easements.”

Goldie said the documentation is ready to go. 

“All we need to do is create the registered plan and these will be registered on easements on the property,” he said. “So if any time in the future land is sold or whatever it will be protected on site along those properties but the township will have those easements for now into perpetuity.”

Pearle Hospitality planner and project manager Brian Blackmere explained the public easements make up about 24 per cent of Pearle’s land holdings.

This far exceeds the municipality’s right to ask for 5% of the land as parkland under the Planning Act.

Heritage River Retirement Residence owner Bob Cameron said the property connects all of the trails. 

“You’ll be able to walk across two bridges, walk through this new amazing development, through the environmentally sensitive area,” he said. “This is a private citizen, Pearle Hospitality, saying come use our land. 

“Come, we’re going to donate 24% of our entire project back to the public access, they can then walk across the bridge, through the arena, back down across the David Street bridge, back down through Victoria Park and that’s an amazing trail.”

Councillor Bob Foster asked if easements are included under the planning act as parkland dedication. 

Salmon said usually a land dedication or cash in lieu contribution is made.

“In case of this property other than what Pearle has already committed to retain, there isn’t any other land that township staff would recommend that the township needed to own to take as a dedication,” he said. “Everything that we would wish to have public access to through this development is being preserved as such, so we didn’t envision a dedication of land.”

He said the question was whether the township would ask for cash in lieu. 

“The request that Pearle is making is that the dedication of easements to … provide a public access in perpetuity and their obligation, therefore, to maintain those easements rather than the township maintaining a trail … would be the equivalent to a cash payment or a dedication being made.” 

Foster asked if the easements were meeting or exceeding the spirit and intent of the parkland dedication. 

“Staff, we think so because we’re getting public access to the trail, not having the burden there and not having the burden to maintain all of this, to pay the cost of maintaining it,” Salmon said. “And also you know it’s land that is environmentally sensitive so it requires eyes on it all the time and by being the owner Pearle will achieve that, whereas we don’t have the resources.”

Councillor Stephen VanLeeuwen said he’s comfortable with easements acting as parkland dedication. 

“What I see really different from any other subdivision or any development that we would see is generally the parkland is for play structures, much different use than what we see is going to happen on this property,” he said. 

“I think that this is a really good solution to not trying to carve out a green space for some jungle gym.”

Council approved a resolution to allow the pedestrian public easements to satisfy Pearle Hospitality’s parkland dedication requirement.