Monte Sonnenberg

A derelict corner at the intersection of highways 3 and 24 in Simcoe is about to be cleaned up.

The northwest corner of Norfolk's main intersection has been an eyesore as long as anyone can remember. Norfolk council dismissed a raft of objections from county staff last night and approved a $7-million makeover.

Two name-brand establishments will anchor the 5.5-acre parcel. One is a 6,000-square-foot Boston Pizza which could employ as many as 125 people. The other is a 17,000-square-foot Shoppers convenience store.

Shoppers is the name the former Shoppers Drug Mart adopted when it repositioned itself in the convenience store market several years ago. Ten per cent of its floor space will be devoted to dispensing pharmaceuticals. It could employ as many as 100 people.

"This is a priority," Simcoe Coun. Peter Black said in response to objections from various county staffers. "The people of Simcoe think it's a priority. The people of Norfolk who come here to do business think it's a priority that this corner be cleaned up. I look forward to moving forward with this."

Citing the former Town of Simcoe official plan, Norfolk planners said retail and commercial buildings along this section of the Queensway have to feature a significant residential component.

Planning staff also objected to Shoppers's plan for a 17,000-square-foot convenience store.

Simcoe's official plan for this part of town limits convenience stores to a maximum of 2,000 square feet. A "convenience store" in this part of Simcoe must also cater strictly to the local neighbourhood.

Norfolk OPP are concerned that additional traffic exiting and entering along Norfolk Street North and the Queensway will increase the frequency of collisions. Public works officials have a host of concerns related to water mains, grading, stormwater management, catch basins, sanitary sewers and the like that the developer - Canadian Commercial Inc., of London - says are manageable.

Norfolk's heritage committee regrets that a historic brick cottage at 490 Norfolk Street North will have to be moved. The committee also isn't impressed with Canadian Commercial's site design. The heritage committee fears that large basic buildings and a sterile layout will blight the intersection and present a bland vista to visitors arriving in Simcoe from the north.

Jim McIntosh, Norfolk's manager of community planning, said the county will be unable to issue a building permit for the Shoppers because it doesn't meet the official plan's definition of a convenience store. McIntosh said a zoning amendment would solve this, adding it could take four months to process one. McIntosh said it may take longer because the Simcoe official plan requires that retail developments of this sort be directed to the downtown core. This in turn raises questions about the possibility of an Ontario Municipal Board challenge.

Given the corner's long history of neglect, Simcoe Coun. Charlie Luke said the county is unlikely to find another developer with the money and patience to perform a total makeover. In recent weeks, Canadian Commercial Inc. has hauled away contaminated soil at a cost of $5,000 per truckload. The many service garages that occupied the site have left behind significant deposits of gasoline and oil.

"We have to take what we can get here and make it work best we can," Luke said.

CCD planning consultant Jack Davis told council that this week was do-or-die for the development.

CCD had to assemble numerous parcels to make the project work. The "drop dead date" for completing the transactions is this Friday.

Council's vote in favour of proceeding was unanimous.

484 Waterloo Street
London, Ontario