Commercial at the Core

A new building under construction on the south side of Innisfil Beach Road is the first development to follow the design guidelines set out under the Inspiring Innisfil 2020 Official Plan. It is a multi-story, mixed-use building that fronts the sidewalk.

IBR02

The original signage on the property indicated it would be a medical building. The current signage only indicates leasing availability. It remains to be seen what final form this development will take and whether it is the start of a new approach to Alcona development or whether it will be an anomaly on the street.

Meanwhile, the development proposal for the Abendel property on the north side of Innisfil Beach Road seems to have stalled or collapsed. Old signage has been left to deteriorate. Nothing further has occurred since the additional purchase of Scotty’s Towing, which is boarded up. This was originally proposed to be yet another strip mall with the addition of a bank building and a fast-food franchise. Local resident opposition blocked earlier proposals for a residential tower and townhouses on part of the property.

Over at the 25th Sideroad and Innisfil Beach Road, the corner property has also been idle for the summer in spite of reported OMB approval for a proposed multi-story seniors condo with ground-floor retail and a banner proclaiming, “great things are happening”.

After the departure of Lakeside Treasures this summer, 1041 Innisfil Beach Road also sits idle. This property has a history of frequent tenant turnover. A rezoning notice appeared briefly this summer for a “one story commercial” building before being taken down.

At the western end of Alcona, a new housing tract is advancing toward the northern edge of the No Frills parking lot and a new building is taking shape near the supermarket, expected to be another fast-food franchise.

The Centreville plan in Stroud is advancing. Land severance has been approved for single detached housing on the north side of the property. Townhouses, a gas station, convenience store and strip mall form the rest of the project.  A ‘hold’ designation remains on actual construction until final design plans are approved.

In late 2011, the Retail Demand Study found that 2/3 of all resident expenditures were made outside of Innisfil. It suggested that with further residential growth, it would present an “expenditure potential” of over $400 million by 2021. More than 5 years later, it appears that potential for local shopping will be difficult to realize for many more years to come. For the uninitiated, it’s difficult to understand what hurdles are preventing an obvious opportunity from being realized.

Passive Design, Active Results

We are slowly learning that we have the knowledge and technology to eliminate a lot of today’s conventional home energy use. The latest example is a passive solar home built in Innisfil. The outstanding feature is that it is built without the need for a conventional furnace. The south facing home is very highly insulated, sealed and uses passive solar gain. It’s no surprise that the builder and owner formerly worked with the Kortwright Centre for Conservation.

I first wrote about passive solar and net-zero energy construction a few years ago so it’s encouraging to know that the concept is finally attracting wider practical application and real world experience under our local conditions. Importantly, municipal authorities are learning to recognize this certification standard.

We’re able to learn about some of the technical details from a recent news article at Simcoe.com (Home builder lives without furnace in passive house, July 13, 2017). The home’s ‘raft’ foundation has a styrofoam base below concrete and the walls are “double stud” allowing for an R65 insulation factor. Notably, the owner says they have “come up with a wall [insulation] system just as efficient without adding significant cost.” Certainly the budgeted cost of ducting and furnace could be applied instead to this use.

An energy recovery ventilation (EVR) unit runs continuously to ensure a proper air circulation and stable temperature within the airtight building envelope. Surprisingly, energy-efficient windows came from Ireland. The article didn’t indicate what distinguished them from so many possible local window suppliers. Solar panels are being added to the home as well.

This type of approach continues to be a ‘pay now or pay later’ proposition. The builder suggests it could be offered as a “luxury option” in subdivisions with a pay-back over 20 years. Otherwise, potential home-buyers could just opt for conventional construction and take a chance with future energy prices or ‘move up’ later when energy efficient techniques become more widely adopted. Passive solar design and ‘net zero’ energy technology makes even more sense for multi-unit construction where the benefits are likely to be more easily achieved.

There is another option. Builders could consider a better trade-off between home size and efficiency. I walked through a builder’s ‘luxury’ model home recently out of curiosity. My wife remarked, “I could be happy with half of this house!” to which another couple immediately responded, “Great! I’ll buy the other half!” Maybe an enterprising builder can recognize an opportunity to make ‘less’ equal ‘more’.

Councillor Seeks InnPower Sale

UPDATE: One councillor, Richard Simpson, supported Mr. Daurio’s motion (below). Deputy Mayor Dollin suggested he was making the motion for ‘his friends’ at Alectra – an accusation Mr. Daurio attributes to the fact that he relied on financial figures provided by Alectra. Dollin also suggested that a $25 million charge was made to Barrie when joining Alectra – something Mr. Daurio describes as “an opportunity for Barrie to invest in the purchase of Brampton hydro and earn an additional $5m annually in interest and dividends forever!”. Daurio contends that “Alectra had promised a 14% rate reduction, and interest and dividends and other savings of $4m annually, while InnPower promised a rate increase and little/no dividends for  the next 6 years — a loss to Innisfil of $8m annually, and $48m over the next 6 years.” Under existing procedural rules, the subject will not be revisited at Council for a year.

This Wednesday, June 7, Councillor Stan Daurio is moving a motion at Innisfil Council “that the Board of InnPower be requested to explore options to sell or partner with Alectra and/or other utilities…”.

The saga of missteps at InnPower is already well known: an ill-fated attempt at joint ownership with Edmonton-owned Epcor Utilities Inc.; an overly ambitious investment in new facilities based on the assumption of leasing space to Epcor; an urgent need for alternative InnPower financing when the deal collapsed; a six year suspension of dividend payments to Innisfil; loans from the Town and Simcoe County plus an application for a rate increase to cover the cost of mandated expansion of service to newly designated urban areas.

In light of the current popular uproar over electricity rates, Councillor Daurio argues it would be more beneficial to sell our local utility to Alectra, which was formed from the merger of municipally-owned Enersource, Horizon Utilities and Powerstream plus the acquisition of Hydro One Brampton as of February of this year. Headquartered in Mississauga, Alectra’s service area encompasses 1,800 square kilometres and serves nearly a million customers in 15 communities from Alliston to St. Catharines and Hamilton to Vaughan. Alectra is now “the second largest municipally-owned electric utility by customer base in North America”.

Councillor Daurio puts the minimum value of InnPower at $40 million (2015 estimate) and expects a dividend return of 4.4 to 4.5% or $1.8 million annually. Additionally, the former Powerstream told Council in 2015 that a merger would lower electric bills in Innisfil by $23/month. This would be equivalent to savings of $4.4 million annually for 16,000 Innisfil households.  Continue reading

Townhomes Coming to 7th Line

radiancemap

Map from DIAM Developments Inc.website: radianceinnisfil.ca

Innisfil is attracting the attention of a developer that has previously completed building projects in Kleinburg , Mississauga, Oakville, and Toronto. DIAM Developments is advertising a new townhome development, Radiance, situated at the 7th Line west of Webster Blvd. in south Alcona.

The townhome project, set to launch “this spring”, will “range from three to five bedrooms and will boast spacious decks and rooftop terraces” according to online publicity. Prices are expected to be in the “mid-400s”.

DIAM Developments recently completed a mid-rise condominium project in Toronto, under the name, On the Danforth.

Creative in Cookstown

In past years, The Cookstown Chamber of Commerce has sponsored a Creative Chair Contest. Regular readers know that I enjoyed participating a few times. This year, “anyone, anywhere” – young and old(er) – are invited to join in a new fun challenge. I’ve got my theme picked, and my idea forming. How did they know I have a bunch of old frames in the garage?

creativeframepostercolour

 view / download entry formcreative-frames-17

The Price of Power

Bruce Laurie caused a stir with his article, “No one can make electricity cheap again”. I tend to agree with him, if only for his observation that the Darlington nuclear plant was built:

“10 years late and almost $12 billion over budget. No one could afford to pay the real cost of Darlington, so Ontarians carried that debt for the next three decades.”

With billions more committed by the Ontario government to refurbishment of our nuclear plants, there is no likely escape from this scenario in the near future.

Some critics blame Mr. Laurie for his role in higher prices as a “former director of the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) and Ontario’s Independent Electricity Systems Operator (IESO). He served as a member of the Electricity Transition Committee under the Harris government.”

So how high is ‘high’ for electricity prices? Hydro Quebec and Financial Post published comparative figures for 1,000 kWh of electricity from suppliers across North America (U.S.  figures were converted to Canadian dollars). InnPower came in at $182.09, which is not that different from Toronto Hydro at $181.95. ‘Low density’ rural Ontario had an average bill of $229. In Ontario our power relies on nuclear (60%) and hydro (24%).

Looking further afield, Montreal was $100, Winnipeg was $117, Ottawa $224, Halifax $220 and Vancouver $148. If we look across the US border, 1000 kWh averaged $409 in New York, $383 in Boston, $161 in Miami, $156 in Houston, $118 in Indiana.

How can we account for these variations?  Continue reading