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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Councillor Bondy hosts community chat on Colchester to connect with residents

by Sylene Argent

On Sunday evening, Essex Councillor Sherry Bondy hosted a virtual meeting as a way to chat and connect with residents and hear about different perspectives on the future of Colchester.

  “It doesn’t matter where we live, Colchester is important to all of us,” Bondy said, noting the virtual outreach program was not an official meeting of Council. She was, however, not the only Councillor listening in on the meeting. Fellow municipal decision-making reps, Councillors Kim Verbeek, Chris Vander Doelen, and Joe Garon, made an appearance during the event to share opinions, explain past decisions and their processes, and to simply listen to what residents had to say.

  The event was hosted after Council asked developers to hit the pause button on the possible sale of the Colchester Schoolhouse at the January 18 meeting. The request was to ask the proponents to extend the deadline for Council to pass bylaws, in regards to the potential sale, from the end of January to March 15.

  The idea was to let the newly released plans from the potential developers circulate with residents, who came forward with many concerns on the matter.

  During the virtual meeting, Bondy said she believes the Colchester Secondary Plan, created in 2007, is outdated.

  Her hope is that Council will host a couple open houses with residents about Colchester.

  “This is just the first step and will hopefully lead to more important conversations about Colchester and what we all envision Colchester to look like for us and visitors,” she said.

  Each participant was given two-minutes to speak about anything on their mind that had to do with Colchester. In total, 46 participants took part in the event.

  Many on the residents in attendance noted the area has a rich history, including that of the Colchester Schoolhouse, which should be highlighted for regional residents and tourists.


A majority of those who spoke at the meeting noted they understood the importance of development, but had a desire to keep the village residential and the Schoolhouse as a community asset.

It was at the January 18 meeting, that developers James Flynn and Kim Lewis noted their intentions was to ensure the Colchester Schoolhouse was preserved and repurposed as the original structure. The property would offer 14, one-bedroom individual cottage units for year-round accommodations. It would be staffed as required, as an extension of the Grove Hotel, which Flynn said would not make it the same as a short-term rental property.

  It is an estimated $2m investment.

  There were a couple speakers, who spoke in favour of the 2007 Colchester Secondary Plan and potential Schoolhouse development, noting it would take at least a few years to recreate.

  Former Councillor, Bill Baker, said he appreciates the delicacy of the matter, but everyone experiences certain development issues wherever they reside. Development, he said, brings increased revenue and an increased tax-base. He was one of the individuals who spoke in favour of the Colchester Secondary Plan and the proposed development for the Colchester Schoolhouse. 

“If we pass this by, and I do understand there are heritage considerations to the old schoolhouse, but it has been sitting now for probably 12, 15, 18-years, since it has been purchased. I think it is going to sit there. I don’t see how the community could now start to raise money when it has been there for that long,” he said.

  The Town of Essex purchased the Colchester Schoolhouse in 2008.

  Some of the event participants noted that economic development is important, but needs to be managed, some had concern with the potential Schoolhouse development seeming to be rushed through, the need to ensure a safe community for all, and the need for Council transparency. Some also spoke of considering resident impact when planning development.

  A few residents suggested instead of selling the Colchester Schoolhouse, to sell its adjoining lots for residential units to raise revenue for renovations, with comments that the developer’s plan of 14 cottage-like units are beautiful, but too big for the area.

  Participant Kathy Beaudoin pointed out that Colchester is older than Canada by nearly 100 years. “We need to preserve it because of its history.”

  Some concerns from the public surrounded the issue of lack of regulation in regards to short-term rentals.

  Councillor Garon said the Town’s administration was already looking into the short-term rental issue well before the idea for the potential development came into place, noting in Essex there is not even a business registration right now.

  Garon added that the chat provided for a great conversation.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen said he was glad to hear all the views. He said the idea of the potential development of the Schoolhouse was not a transparent process or that the Town did not consulted with residents, is not true.

  “We’ve been consulting with the Town for decades.” He added the Official Plan gives dates, plans, and what people wanted. “We’ve had this dialogue going constantly, for decades. And, when people say something is not transparent, what they are really saying is that they weren’t paying attention and they missed it. And, in some cases, that is because our media aren’t doing their jobs and didn’t report on a whole bunch of important developments. That does not mean that Council has not been open. We are transparent. We are listening to people.”

   Bondy said the Colchester Schoolhouse matter is one of topics Council received the most emails about. Bondy said she has been listening and it is a desire for herself to provide some stability for Colchester residents.

  In her experience as a Councillor, she said sometimes plans and items are brought forward in times when public consultation is not done as well as she would like. Public consultation, she said, makes her job easier, because it ensures she is voting with the intentions of the public.

  Bondy added she believes there needs to be an extra layer of protection on declaring surplus lands when dealing with assets of historical cultural value. The public, she said, needs to be engaged.  

  In addition, former Councillor, Bill Caixeiro, brought forward the idea of the “Colchester Loop,” which he considers to be Jackson Street (at County Road 50) through to Sullivan Street, to Clithrow Street.

  He said this is an important part of the village, as there are homes, businesses, the Schoolhouse, Harbour, and park. To make it pedestrian friendly, he suggested a lane of parking and a one-way lane of traffic, in addition to a marked pedestrian way.

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