Tecumseh suspends commercial building fees, positions itself for growth

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Windsor Star/Dave Waddell


A decision by Tecumseh town council this week to suspend building permit fees for a year on new hotel and other commercial development is the latest signal the municipality is positioning itself for growth.

The fee was supposed to rise from 85 cents to $1.05-per-square-foot this month, but that will now be re-assessed next March. Instead, Tecumseh has completely eliminated the charge for commercial builds.

“We wanted to see if this might be the little shove that could get developers over the line in deciding to do something in the community,” said Mayor Gary McNamara.

“Community growth is essential for the sustainability of the community. Commercial development is a key part of that.”

McNamara said the town decided to float this ‘trial balloon’ after hearing from developers and the commercial sector they’re interested in expanding or starting new operations.

Combined with a thriving industrial sector and plans for two new housing subdivisions containing 3,000 residences, McNamara said Tecumseh is on the cusp of substantial growth.

“We’re well-positioned financially to re-develop the town’s core and supplement it with new growth,” McNamara said.

“We have the most green space per capita in Canada. There’s a pent-up demand to live in Tecumseh.

“We have a lot of pieces in place, now it’s time to put them together.”

A new hotel has long been seen as a prized acquisition for the town.

McNamara said in addition to serving the growing corridor of tool and mould-making operations in Tecumseh and Lakeshore, a hotel would also open up opportunities for sports tourism.

“Our industrial sector is doing very well,” McNamara said. “It’s expanded and returned to pre-2008 recession levels.”

The town has another 70 acres in the Santa Rosa lands development near County Roads 46 and 8 ready for industrial use to meet the demand.

However, Tecumseh’s focus is increasingly on growing the commercial and residential components. The town’s population has hovered around 24,000 residents for several years as it worked at getting the infrastructure in place needed to support growth.

The first development is slated to go in along Manning Road between County Road 22 and the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks and could start as early as this fall.

The other project will be south of County Road 22 along Banwell Road and a realigned County Road 43.

McNamara said that project is expected to begin in 18 months.

“We have to have a better mix of housing types to attract first-time buyers, young families and seniors,” McNamara said.

“We need a mix of single-family homes, condos, townhomes and apartments. Too often, people wanting to downsize couldn’t find the right home and left town for other parts of the region.”

McNamara emphasized it isn’t just growth the town is pursuing. It’s also following a distinct urban planning vision.

“We don’t want people having to jump in the car to get everything,” McNamara said.

“There’ll be some commercial nodes in there. There’ll be trails, bike paths and parks.

“There’s a quality of life people have told us they want. They are demanding more varied recreational opportunities.”

McNamara said with the town well stocked for parks, it’s spending $800,000 this year to extend trails and connect those parks. Tecumseh is also moving forward on building a $24-million sportsplex.

‘We’ll announce an architect soon,” McNamara said.

As Tecumseh grows, the mayor concedes there’s going to have to be a shift in mindset of some residents.

For instance, a public meeting this week about a proposed multi-story condo project near Brighton and Old Tecumseh roads triggered plenty of questions from residents.

“Perhaps the days of 100-foot, single-family lots aren’t the best use of land anymore,” McNamara said. “I think a lot of those concerns can be addressed. It looks like a quality project.

“The developer (Davide Pettreta) has over 90 signed reservations for the 71 condos.”

Tecumseh officials have already shown they’re prepared to weather a little controversy to embrace modern urban planning concepts.

Despite some initial flak, the town is moving ahead on plans to narrow Tecumseh Road to two lanes from its boundary with the City of Windsor to just past the intersection of Lesperance and Tecumseh roads. Work is expected to get underway in earnest in 2019.

The Community Improvement Plan for the town’s core includes trails, pathways, architectural standards for new commercial developments and residences above those storefronts. Larger parking lots will be provided behind new developments to create a mainstreet feel.

“All of these plans will unfold over time,” McNamara said.

“We’re trying to build a more walkable, people-friendly and sustainable town. That’s our vision.”