Developer looks to transform Lindsay’s east side on parcels of land near I.E. Weldon
Local jobs are priority for Flato president
New homes, a park, a large grocery store, a good commercial plaza, and maybe even a recreation centre – all of this and more is being considered on Lindsay’s east side by Flato Developments. Shakir Rehmatullah, president of Flato, held a community open house at The Pie Eyed Monk in Lindsay recently — a chance for residents to get a sneak peak of the draft plans.
The self-styled “community builder” is soliciting feedback right now for the large parcels of land he has purchased that essentially surround I.E. Weldon Secondary School – including a large swath of land north of Pigeon Lake Road.
“We always give back to the communities where we operate,” says Rehmatullah, who is based in Markham. “We want to collaborate and be a part of this journey — to make new friends and get involved.”
The builder has been seen in Lindsay a lot lately, from holding community sessions in Cameron and Lindsay, to appearing at an open small business breakfast hosted by the Lindsay + District Chamber of Commerce.
“We don’t want to be a company that came here to make some money and left,” he tells the Advocate. “We believe in making new friends and giving back. If we do a great job, then people will remember us positively.”
Councillor Pat Dunn, whose ward 5 includes the east side, likes what he has seen and heard so far, overall.
“He asked what we needed here, and I told him more affordable housing, including rentals. He said he’d be more than happy to put that in his plans,” Dunn says.
The councillor says he has met a lot of developers over the years but none quite like Rehmatullah. Dunn says the builder seems to be going out of his way to build community connections and to solicit feedback.
“Anyone who is prepared to bring more housing to the community, then I’m going to support him.”
Rehmatullah hasn’t received universal support. The Cameron community session was marred by a handful of vocal protesters recently who are worried about the environmental impact of Flato’s footprint in what is a much smaller community. The focus in Cameron for Flato will be larger estate homes on Sturgeon Lake on Long Beach Road, all of them on one acre lots. There will also be smaller, all-season cottages with other amenities there, including perhaps a restaurant, golf, pool, and resort.
Even there, though, Rehmatullah has tried to demonstrate how they will be flexible.
“One of our neighbours there on an existing property, a very nice husband and wife, said we were welcome there but asked that when we build, could we push the development back a little so their views would not be blocked. If we can help others out, why not? This is why we want early public information meetings, to refine our plan,” he says.
The Lindsay development will create a lot of jobs and Rehmatullah says he will make as many of them local as possible, something that he says also separates him from other developers who bring their own people from larger centres.
“From construction material to tradespeople, if we can do it here, we will. If anyone wants to be a subcontractor on the site, we are always looking for good local people. It just makes sense that we keep the business in the community as much as we can,” Rehmatullah says.
Dunn was asked if he has any reservations about the Lindsay development. His first thought was wondering about the impact on the agricultural land.
“In Lindsay, this is agricultural land, there’s no doubt about it. So I want to hear what the farmers would say, to hear their rationale,” Dunn says. He wonders, for instance, how the land will be drained properly during the development process.
“Where will they put all that water?”
On the other hand, Dunn says he loves “the vision of building a community here.”
“And I love that this is happening in the east ward,” the least developed area of Lindsay and one that has long suffered from a lack of amenities.
“The east ward has already started to change, and it will soon be a destination place,” said the councillor.
Dunn says he knows it will take at least a couple of years for this to even move into phase one, which he finds “very frustrating,” given the need for housing.
“I do wonder why it takes so long to do anything.”
Housing has become a flashpoint issue in the current federal election campaign with all parties offering ambitious plans to increase the supply of available homes, and to address the meteoric rise in pricing.
In Kawartha Lakes, the MLS service shows an average house price right now is $734,687.
Zita Devan, chair of the Access to Permanent Housing Committee, which is a member of the housing/poverty reduction roundtable group, attended the Lindsay community session hosted by Flato. She said she was heartened to see the community outreach.
“It was encouraging that Flato is reaching out to the community to hear our needs. It is an opportunity to keep the conversation going especially around rental units.”