Essex Council Overturns Decision Affecting Major Housing Project

Essex council is overturning a previous decision to put a proposed major housing development on hold until after the upcoming municipal election.

On Tuesday, council unanimously voted to re-open negotiations concerning amendments for the proposed Essex Town Centre subdivision. The development proposed between County Rd. 8 and Hwy. 3 — formerly known as the Essex Crossing subdivision — could see between 400 and 600 homes built.

Ward 3 councillor Ron Rogers says the decision Tuesday night means the project could see construction begin sooner.

"It may have a shovel in the ground by next spring rather than two springs from now," says Rogers. "We need the development now. We need the taxes now. We want to see the growth now and tell people that Essex is here, we're open for business."

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Essex Ward 3 councillor Ron Rogers attends the regular meeting of council on September 4, 2018. (Photo by Ricardo Veneza)

Council's decision Tuesday night overturns an August 7 vote that pushed back the re-zoning application to the next term of council beginning December 3.

Some of those amendments included in the application covered removing garage restrictions, the reduction of side yards, 40 ft lots — even the reduction in the amount of pavement in roads. Town CAO Donna Hunter felt many of the amendments would affect residents for years to come and so should be handled be the new term of council, while sitting councillors worried they'd be overstepping their powers now that they're considered "lame duck" ahead of the municipal election.

Councillors agreed to reconsider the decision after learning council's lame duck status didn't create any issues on the matter.

Rogers says allowing negotiations to continue now will mean less work for the next term of council.

"It is for the betterment for the community and any individual council member that has an issue going forward with this should make their position known," says Rogers.

He says the project is important to Essex and would mean a boost for local businesses.

"This development, right here in Essex Centre, would be a boon to our merchants here," says Rogers. "It would be an absolutely phenomenal development to move forward on."

The August 7 vote to push back the re-zoning application to the next term of council passed 8-2 with only councillors Steve Bjorkman and Randy Voakes opposed.