Discovery Line development a year away

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Heather Wright/The Independent

The trees are gone, but Petrolia’s mayor says it will be at least a year before a London based developer will be ready to build what could be a very large subdivision on Discovery Line.

Neighbours of Woodland Estates were shocked in early May to find heavy equipment removing brush behind their homes. It was part of a large tract that stretches to Discovery Line.

Trees had been removed on Discovery Line sometime after 2019, according to photos on Google Maps. And the contractor had also worked on the right-of-way currently owned by the Town of Petrolia, Mayor Brad Loosely says.

The town purchased the land from Giampietri Construction in July 2020 for $200,000. When the Woodland subdivision was built, easements to build roadways into the Discovery Line area were not negotiated by the town.

Council picked up the cost of the right-of-way in 2020, saying the new developer in the area would eventually bring in the revenue to cover the cost of repairing the mistake. Loosley says the town has begun working with the developer already.

The Independent has learned a company called MI 637 has bought 64 acres of land in the Discovery Line/Stanley Street area since October 2020. It paid $2,050,000 for the land which can link to Woodland Estates.

Documents from the provincial government show the company was formed in May 2020 with Tyler Murphy as the president of what appears to be a family run group.

The address associated with MI 637 is home to two companies, Murphy Contracting and Murphy Machining. Murphy Contracting provides heavy equipment to southwestern Ontario’s construction industry.

Local engineer, Ray Dobbin, is acting for the company however Dobbin had not answered a request for an interview by press time.

Some Woodland Estates residents called the Woodlot bylaw officer to the area. Tim Payne investigated and said while the developer should have sought the county’s approval, the bush didn’t meet the definition of a woodlot and could be removed.

The new owners have faced criticism for removing bush in the area and some of the anger has been directed toward the town. But Loosley says the town has no control over what private property owners do on their own land.

“Usually developers do let us know when they’re taking some of these trees down even though they’re on private property,” Loosley added.

He conceded the town does advise developers on procedure, including creating a detailed book for them with steps to follow, but he maintains for the most part, clearing woodlots is a county issue.

But a portion of the town’s newly acquired right of way has also been damaged, says Loosley. Town staff is dealing with the issue with the developers, writing letters explaining where the town property is. Loosley suggested if the issue wasn’t resolve the town could lay trespassing charges.

For now, the mayor says the town is working with the developer on the 64 acre site. But he says it will be some time before the shovel is in the ground.

“I figured we’re probably another year away before anything comes (to council) regarding public issue,” says Loosley. “Maybe they will go sooner, but they still haven’t even got started with what we call a plan of subdivision and as far as the things they need to do.”

Loosley adds at that time there will be plenty of opportunity for public input on the proposed subdivision including at the rezoning stage.