Ripley downtown development one step closer to construction

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News

By Kristen Shane

 

A development that would see a host of new stores, a restaurant and 140 to 150 residential units built in a block of Ripley’s downtown is one step closer to starting construction next year.

 

Huron-Kinloss council approved two zoning bylaw amendments and an official plan amendment for the project at its July 27 planning advisory committee meeting.

 

The $10-million development is the idea of David Brown, a Toronto butcher and president of Meat Consultants International Inc.

 

Brown’s family has maintained ties to the Ripley area since 1900 and he currently cottages in Kincardine. He is also working to develop an 80-unit subdivision in Ripley’s south end.

 

Brown began buying properties in downtown Ripley in 2003. He first approached council and residents about his downtown plan last December.

 

It would encompass most of the block bordering Ripley’s main intersection at Huron and Queen streets as well as Jessie Street and Melville Lane. Six existing buildings, which house Dalton Pottery and The Glass Hummingbird gift shop among other stores and apartments, would be renovated to three stories to accommodate more upper-floor apartments.

 

The former hotel on Queen Street would be restored to include 16 suites and a main-floor restaurant.

Brown would construct two new buildings in vacant lots behind the post office and library. They would include main-floor stores and upper-floor bachelor apartments.

 

The buildings would enclose a central ‘market square,’ which could be used for farmers’ markets, concerts or other events.

 

Across Queen Street, the land around Lewis Park and the Thompson Feed Mill would turn into 228 parking spots. When the feed company that now runs the mill eventually moves out Brown said he would keep the structure, which he said is one of the last of its kind in southern Ontario. It may become a restaurant someday, he suggested.

 

Brown has applied for Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation funding to make 30 units of affordable housing available in the former Courtney building.

 

“It may work out being in parts of the other buildings as well, depending on the need,” he said, after the meeting.

 

Bruce County planner Heather James said more affordable housing would benefit Ripley and the broader community.

 

But Keith Van Der Hoek, the township’s former deputy-mayor, had concerns.

 

“Do we really need all this low-income housing in small-town Ripley, where there is not a gas station…no doctor’s office, a bank only open part time?” he said, after attending the meeting. “Can we really look after these people? We have no taxi service out of this village. We have nothing like that.”

 

Brown responded that he hoped the influx of new residents to Ripley would attract in-demand services such as a pharmacy or gas station.

 

Van Der Hoek also questioned whether Ripley’s waste water infrastructure could handle the new build. Mayor Mitch Twolan assured him there would be enough capacity.

 

Van Der Hoek was one of about 40 township residents who attended the public meeting. It took place at the Ripley-Huron Community Centre auditorium to accommodate the large number of people anticipated to attend because the county sent more than 200 notices to residents.

 

Ripley-Huron fire chief Doug Martyn also expressed his concerns.

 

“I truly believe we do not have the firewater capability to handle this as well as other proposals,” he said.

James said engineers were looking into the issue and a servicing study underway would reveal if there were any problems.

 

Matt Farrell, the township’s chief building official, added that it would be up to the developer to provide extra firewater needed for the site. He suggested adding a reservoir and pumping station, similar to those built at the Ripley-Huron Community School during its recent addition.

 

Farrell and James both called the development exciting. They recommended a site plan agreement be drafted to deal with any minor unresolved issues such as drainage, landscaping and garbage disposal.

Council agreed, and in passing the proposed amendments it approved the rezoning of the Thompson Feed Mill lot from industrial to commercial land and allowed up to a quarter of each main-floor commercial space to be used as living space.

 

Brown said the construction would be phased. Work would start on the Courtney building before moving to the former hotel and the two new buildings.

 

The businesses running on the main floors of the buildings slated for renovations would not be displaced, said Brown.

 

“If it turns out that we have to do some construction that would disturb them then we would temporarily move them into another unit,” he added.

 

At the project’s end, Brown said he hopes the square would bring back the charm of an 1880s rural marketplace, with places to sell local meat and produce. He said he expects business owners would live in the upper-floor apartments. The buildings’ facades would look similar to the yellow-brick Dalton Pottery building, which he previously restored.

 

“It’s going to make them viable, vibrant buildings once they’re finished, and help to put Ripley back on the map,” he said.