Hundreds of homes in planning stages in Petrolia

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Petrolia is about to have a building boom and some developers say it can’t come soon enough.

Lambton County Planner Rob Nesbitt says there are four plans of subdivision in the works for Petrolia with 356 homes in total. They will be built in a number of phases.

Nesbitt, in a report to Petrolia council Monday, says it is critical that the developers submit all the reports necessary in the next six months, to be approved.

That could be one of the difficulties. Developer Bob Leaper has been working with the county and the town on the next phase of Countryview Estates. Leaper says it is a bit more complicated because of the woodlot on the property. Aside from town and county approval, Leaper needs approval from the Ministries of Environment and Natural Resources and the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority.

And the Petrolia developer says getting those reports is more difficult because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID situation hasn’t helped,” he says. Leaper’s required reports to provincial ministries are submitted and since employees are working from home, he simply has to wait for them to notify him.

“I’m really at their mercy as to when, if, and how they’re are going to get back to me,” he says. And the rest of the process depends on getting those completed reports.
And that has dragged out his timeline for getting the next phase of Countryview ready for the builders. Leaper is expecting his subdivision will be among the first approved of the four slated for development in Petrolia.

GoldLeaf Development is also planning a seniors condominium unit connecting Valentina Street near the Greenwood Recreation Complex.

And it won’t be soon enough. Leaper says developers have “run out of lots” now and are turning people who want a new build away.

Leaper says Floyd Vanderwal appears to be the only developer with lots available – six on Petrolia Line near Oil Heritage Road.

The lack of available building lots also affects the resale market – people who may have purchased a new home aren’t putting up their current home on the market.

With the available housing stock low and demand high, developers are anxious to get moving. And Leaper admits to being a bit frustrated by the situation.

“I understand the need to follow protocols,” he says but adds it shouldn’t take three years to get the next phase of an approved subdivision off the ground.

“This isn’t rocket science,” he says. “We’re not trying to do anything complicated.”

Leaper is hopeful he will be able to begin building streets in the spring.

And he’s hoping by then, it won’t be too late.

A study by Moody’s Analytics and RPS Inc in late September says average house prices could fall seven per cent as the recovery from the pandemic stalls while economic stimulus from government fades compounding Canadians’ debt problems.

“Who is to say the market will be strong in a year or two,” Leaper says about the lag time between when Petrolia’s newest housing will be ready.

“Will there be the buyers?”