December 12, 2012

Subdivision would boost potential shoppers

As published in The Erin Advocate

Solmar Development Corp. says its subdivision should be good news for Erin businesses, eventually providing thousands of new potential customers.

Maurizio Rogato, Director of Planning and Development at Solmar, spoke to business owners at a meeting of the East Wellington Chamber of Commerce last week.

"A healthy business community makes for a better community overall," he said. "There is a real need to create some jobs."

Solmar has proposed 1,240 new homes north of Dundas Street over 30 years, a commercial zone on County Rd. 124 and an industrial zone. There are 60 acres of space for recreation, trails and parks.

There are 770,000 square feet of employment area and estimates of 900 permanent jobs and 3,646 construction jobs.

"We really are serious about trying to reach into the local talent. We believe there are great local suppliers, and we'd like to come up with some sort of procurement process where we can work locally."

More information is available in the Public Notices section of the Town website,, and in previous columns, at

"Growth is a scary thing – the first thing people don't want is somebody to come in and change everything. That is not our intent. This is a phased-in long term community plan. At the same time, we have to ensure that the rate of growth offsets the investment that Solmar is bringing to town."

He admitted Solmar will not solve the problem of so many people commuting long distances to work, but said their plan "lays the necessary foundation" to attract quality employers and give people a choice.

"We do building and land development, so we don't just come in and put in the sewers, streets and sidewalks, then leave. We stick around and build the actual product.

"Solmar is a strong supporter of the Chamber network. We do a lot of work throughout the GTA, and beyond, and in every community we work in, we try to support the local organizations.

"One of the biggest challenges is, how do we get 300 acres developed, yet maintain the distinct characteristics of the village, and not upset the apple cart. We believe that the plan we've come up with definitely strives towards that, or it's at least a great start.

"There is a need for different housing types, to accommodate different age groups. The predominant housing forms are single detached. There are semi-detached units, and there is also a beautiful central square, which aligns the main drag into the development, surrounded by medium density housing or seniors housing.

"If you look along the edges of the development, it's pretty much traditional housing forms, because it needs to blend in and work well with the existing community fabric." He said the amount of green space (in the wooded wetland area in the east part of the property) has been increased from 40 acres to 60 acres as a result of community comments.

The Chamber of Commerce, covering not only Erin-Hillsburgh, but the Rockwood-Eramosa area, was formed in 2010. It is now attempting to become more active in current affairs.

"There is power in numbers," David Netherton, the new chair. Membership information is available at

He said the group has adopted no official positions yet about the Solmar proposal, but that  they want to "develop an atmosphere of cooperation, and not a polarized community, over these issues."
Erin businesses, of course, would be in much better condition if the people who already live here would do more of their shopping here.

Obviously, Erin cannot compete directly with the big box stores in Orangeville and elsewhere. But they do compete well on service and quality in certain sectors. We have no obligation to buy locally, but we should give them the opportunity to win our business. Browsing small shops for Christmas gifts can be a rewarding experience.

A whole new subdivision of people will not likely shop locally at first. But the numbers could make it feasible for entrepreneurs to open a wider range of retail outlets here, the lack of which has been part of our problem.

Everything will change in the local business landscape, especially with the Solmar zone having its own commercial lands, so competition will increase. More consumers will increase the size of the pie, but businesses will have work hard to get their slice.