Groundbreaking has begun on a once contentious subdivision about to rise west of Modeland Road.
Graders are preparing the site and sewers will go in shortly followed by new residential streets. The first 20 homes could begin going up this winter, said Phil Masschelein, a vice president at Sifton Homes Limited.
Phase One of Magnolia Trails includes 20 single-family homes, up to 37 townhomes, and a commercial plaza.
“We’ve got to a point now where all the approvals are in place,” said Alister Brown, Sarnia’s manager of transportation and development.
“Ultimately, we’re looking forward to that development bringing some additional housing in a highly sought-after area.”
The 109-residential unit project went to the Ontario Municipal Board twice after residents strenuously opposed it in 2015 and the city back them up. Since then, all concerns have been resolved, Brown said.
Fear of flooding in the low-lying ground was alleviated when an engineering consultant hired by the city concluded the developer’s control methods could adequately manage storm water on its site.
“We’re no different than the subdivision directly beside us,” Masschelein said. “We’re just building houses at a specific elevation … so there is no flooding concern or issue because the houses will be built above that elevation.”
Sarnia, Lambton County and the developer reached agreements on other contentious issues in 2018.
Following a hearing that January, the OMB sided with Sarnia, which had argued Sifton should be responsible for the cost of enclosing roadside ditches on Michigan and Modeland and installing a sidewalk and a multi-purpose trail on the enclosed ditches.
The builder and city say they’re in contact with concerned neighbours and Sifton is issuing updates as construction progresses, Masschelein said.
Large housing projects often generate opposition, Brown said.
“You always have your proponents and adversaries for what’s going on. Our job here is to protect the city’s interests as we move closer to this first phase of development, and we do field a number of concerns in order to do so.”
The lots range from 50 feet to 65 feet deep. Henderson Builders Limited is overseeing construction of the single-family and townhomes, Masschelein said.
Sifton’s initial proposal called for a larger commercial plaza at the corner, more townhouses, and a 160-unit retirement or nursing home on the 26-acre parcel of land.
A revised Official Plan approved in 2016 reduced the commercial and residential density and nixed the nursing home.