High End Homes Planned for New Eco-Friendly LaSalle Subdivision

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Windsor Star/Dave Hall

While enduring a three-year wait to develop custom homes in LaSalle, Timberland Homes owner Gino Piccioni inadvertently became an expert on provincial endangered species legislation.

After putting together a 17-acre parcel from three previous owners just off Matchette Road, Piccioni soon realized he had some work to do before he could even break ground with servicing on Legacy Drive let alone start building.

The land, in addition to having a four-acre wetland, which Piccioni knew he could never develop, was home to the Eastern fox snake, an endangered species in Ontario.

“We had to go through an entirely new permit process under the endangered species act and I believe what we’ve achieved sets a precedent for how these permits will be issued to developers in the future,” said Piccioni. “Under the act, if we were to take over a portion of the snake’s habitat we had to enhance another section.”

So his company has donated a portion of the land back to the town and hired a biologist to monitor the impact the development will have on the habitat.

“And overall, I think we’re achieved a good solution for everyone.”

While Eastern fox snakes are plentiful in Essex County, they’re rare across Ontario and under the provincial one-size-fits-all legislation, Piccioni was required to mitigate the impact his 24-lot development near Turkey Creek would have on the habitat.

“I give Gino a lot of credit for sticking with this because many other developers might have thrown up their hands and walked away,” said Larry Silani, director of development and strategic services for the Town of LaSalle. “He’s gone beyond what most developers would have done and even though much of it was required, it’s still a pretty impressive contribution to conservation and environmental protection.”

Over the years LaSalle has acquired more than 400 acres of woodlots, wetlands and trails that it is tying together into a greenway, Silani said.

“Gino’s piece is another part of that trail system.”

The Essex Region Conservation Authority acted as a liaison between Piccioni and the Ministry of Natural Resources during the process of obtaining the permit, said conservation biologist Dan Lebedyk. “Not only was the proponent required to show there would be no negative impact on the habitat but he also had to show there would be enhancement of the habitat achieved through the development.”

Piccioni said he’s also planning enhanced landscape features throughout the development and common areas. It will have an LED street lighting system, which will help reduce long-term operating costs for the municipality. There will also be berms with deciduous trees, streetlight banners and other features residents would expect of a high end development.

Lots cost between $200,000 and $250,000, bringing the total investment to a prospective homeowners to between $850,000 and $900,000. All homes will be Energy Star certified with a minimum square footage of 3,600 for a two-storey and 3,000 for a ranch.

“We’re creating a custom community with the types of features that people at that price point would expect,” said Piccioni. “We have nine commitments so far and expect to break ground on the first home within two weeks.”

Piccioni is working with home designers Alan Djordjevic and Philip Fernandes to create a unique look through the development.

After his father Mario retired from the heavy construction sector where Piccioni also worked, he launched Timberland in 1996 and built one house his first year.

“We were just hoping it would sell and it did so we built more,” said Piccioni, whose company recently won an Ontario Home Builders Association award for custom homes over 5,000 square feet.

This latest development, The Enclave at Legacy Grove, is dedicated to his father, who is honoured with a small plaque at the entranceway.

“We’re trying to create a gated community without gates,” said Piccioni.

Piccioni’s now up to more than 250 homes throughout Essex County, including 10 currently under construction, with the vast majority of his developments in LaSalle.

Piccioni has four employees with the vast majority of the construction handled by sub-trades, many of whom work almost exclusively for Timberland.