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Foundry cleanup to begin shortly

Published on

Cathy Dobson

What’s left of two decaying Holmes Foundry buildings and the overgrowth covering the property could be gone by the end of March, officials say.

Demolition and cleanup will dramatically improve the look of the 16-acre (6.5 hectare) Exmouth Street property, which has been derelict since Chrysler closed its foundry 30 years ago.

Village council has awarded a contract to Watford-based Schouten Excavating, the same company that cleared the former Sarnia General Hospital site.

Schouten is scheduled to start the work in mid-February and be done in four to six weeks, weather permitting, the village said.

The cleanup will also dramatically increase the land’s marketability and chances for development, said Ray Lariviere, one of 17 shareholders of Point Edward Gateway Inc.

That’s the company formed after a lengthy and complex court battle determined Lariviere owns the land with several other, mostly local, residents.

A deal struck earlier this month between the village and Gateway Inc. to undertake the cleanup is “a win-win-win for everyone,” said Lariviere.

“We (the owners) will benefit, the village will benefit and the entire county will benefit. We’re finally able to move ahead.”

The courts granted Gateway Inc. ownership in 2017 but the company was financially exhausted from years of legal wrangling. According to Lariviere, Gateway was broke when the village asked Lambton County to issue a property standards order in October to demolish the buildings.

Faced with Gateway’s insolvency and the possibility of yet more delays in developing the prime real estate, the Village of Point Edward agreed to pay the $250,400 demolition cost until the property is sold.

“The village is enforcing the (property standards) order and will pay the bill, then send the owner the invoice, which we already know they can’t pay,” said village CAO Jim Burns.

The property is for sale with an asking price of $7 million.

“Once it sells, Gateway will pay the invoice plus a (1.25% per month) penalty, plus interest on top of the bill,” said Burns.

“We see it as an investment in the community to clean up the property and get new development there.

“I believe council also sees it as a win for everyone.”

Gateway is obligated to maintain the property after the cleanup and conduct a Phase II Environmental Assessment, which includes soil analysis.

Rumours have run rampant about the site’s condition since it was a foundry site, Lariviere said.

“I am sure it’s not contaminated anywhere close to what the general public thinks,” he said.  “There’s a stigma attached to the property that is hard to shake, but people forget that Chrysler spent $8.5 million in 1989 and removed over 6,000 yards of soil.

“It’s possible that it may not require any cleanup,” he said.

At least five offers to purchase have fallen through, including a conditional offer last fall, according to Lariviere.

“We accepted that offer originally and it didn’t work out but I don’t think it’s 100% gone yet.  Now that we are taking these steps, there is potential again,” he said.

“All we want now is to move ahead with this project. We can’t get the demolition done fast enough,” he added.  “I’m very happy with the village’s co-operation.”

Burns said the intent is to remove all vegetation from the former Holmes Foundry site, including large trees and tall patches of invasive phragmites reeds that cover much of it.

The trees are coming down for security purposes, he said.

“We’ve had people living in wooded areas of the village, so we want it cleared properly.”

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