Citing the need to comply with accepted forestry practices, the owner of the West Ward property known as Ardmore Park told the Journal Argus last week that trees were cut down recently in order to insure that, if work on a new subdivision begins within the next year, it wouldn’t be delayed by the need to work around the trees.
“Every tree that could be save has been saved,” said John Richardson, president of PLP Investments Inc., owner of the approximately 10-acre former estate stretching between Ardmore Street (Lover’s Lane) and Elgin Street.
More than one resident of the neighbourhood has expressed concern to the Journal Argus in recent weeks, regarding the removal of trees from the property. When contacted by the newspaper, Richardson explained a surveyor and a certified forester were both called in to provide input prior to the commencement of timber harvest.
The surveyor, he said, was given a draft of the PLP Investments subdivision plan — which includes 40 lots described by Richardson in the interview as “executive-style lots” — and asked to identify which trees would interfere with the plans. The forester, meanwhile, was asked to look at the remaining trees and identify any that were “cracked or diseased.”
“The time to cut the trees is when the ground was firm and hard, and when the sap is not running,” Richardson said. “And what we tried to do was save any tree which would not impede the development.”
The planned redevelopment of the Ardmore estate has followed a long, sometimes tense path. The original proposal, under the direction of former owner Ed Shaw, called for 103 geared-for-retirement-living units of varied formats. This was opposed by numerous community members and Town Councillors on the grounds that it would represent too significant a change from the existing land use in the neighbourhood.
Richardson, after purchasing the property, was successful in 2008 in securing approval for an altered geared-to-retirement-living development. This included an agreement to apply for R-4 zoning instead of R-5, the severance from the property of the architecturally significant Hutton House, and a reduction in total living units from 103 to 71.
Richardson later reduced the proposal to 69 units, citing complications regarding the grade on the property.
Speaking to the Journal Argus last week, however, Richardson noted, “we’ve changed the concept altogether.” Gone is the retirement community concept; in its place — pending approval of a yet-to-be considered application for subdivision — will be about 40 “executive style lots” that the property owner believes “will please all the neighbours.”
He said one of the difficulties his company encountered, when working towards the retirement community concept, was an inability to sign a development agreement with the town. That’s because PLP Investments needed to get a local builder on side to oversee the construction of the development. And that proved too challenging.
Now, with a proposal he hopes will be more appealing to both the building trades and what is certainly an altered marketplace compared to the time of the original plan, it’s back to a waiting game for the Ardmore Park development.
“Right now, there isn’t much to say,” Richardson commented, noting the company’s updated application for subdivision with the Town of St. Marys. “Until the town moves it along, and we can have a public meeting, we can’t start on the development.”
But, as the recent removal of trees indicates, PLP Investments hopes to be able to start that work sooner rather than later — at least before next winter.