Image Credit: Google Inc. via Google Earth

If you didn’t catch the Public Notice in the local papers, you might have missed a notice from the Region regarding a Regional Official Plan Amendment (ROPA) application for the lands known as 502 Winston Road. The purpose of the application is to “refine the agricultural significance of the property from Unique Agricultural Area to Rural designation”. The lands are currently “Specialty Crop – Tender Fruit & Grape Lands” under the Greenbelt plan. But why re-designate you ask?

This property first came onto the GCFRG radar in 2019 while researching high-value property transactions in Grimsby. In the vast sea of 6 and low 7-figure sales, when you see a deal for $10 million you certainly do a double-take and file that information.

The Property

Image Credit: Google Inc. via Google Maps

For those who have never ventured to the north-end of Hunter Road at the lake, this is the (former) property of St. Vladimir’s Ukranian Greek Orthodox Church. Although the buildings front onto Hunter, the property is known municipally as 502 Winston Road.

Below is a visualization of the extents of the property once owned by the Church:

Image Credit: Google Inc. via GeoWarehouse

This is the easterly edge of the vast expanse of undeveloped radio tower lands in the Winston Road Neighbourhood, or “Grimsby-On-The-Lake” if you prefer. It has prime frontage on Lake Ontario, a developer’s dream buy.

The Buy & The Buyer

Pulling up the records from the Land Registry Office (LRO) reveals that the Church sold this property on May 15, 2019 for the sum of $10,000,000 (ten million) to a corporate entity named 502 Winston Road Inc.

If you have never heard of the company, you are not alone, neither have we. Another virtual trip to the public records was necessary to find out the particulars of the corporation.

502 Winston Road Inc. was formed on May 8, 2019, a week before the transfer/sale. In the development world, it is common practice that developers establish project-specific corporations for each development, as it easier to organize, administer and creates isolation for liabilities or any legal action.

In this case, using the municipal address as the corporate name gives as much detail regarding the people behind it as a numbered corporation… in other words, zero.  To get any real details, we have to take a look at the details in the corporate profile of 502 Winston Road Inc.

Using a popular Internet search engine, a reverse search on the Burlington address gives us the name of New Horizon Development Group Inc. (NHDG) at the same address.

Similarly the names of the principals of the”502″ corporation are or were the principals of NHDG. The NHDG website even has an unindexed placeholder page for 502 Winston here with “1 Unit”:

New Horizon and it’s President were in the local news starting in 2019, so the name may ring a bell with some. NHDG is the company that had proposed to build a trio of “landmark” skyscrapers at 48, 54 and 59 storeys in Stoney Creek as pictured below. This was later “reduced” to 33, 38 and 44 storeys  and aspects of the development are now before the OLT with a hearing in January 2023.

Image Credit: New Horizon Development Group/CBC (Fair Dealing)

While the two companies share the same address and officers, it does not necessarily mean the Winston property will be developed, or even developed by NHDG. Conversely, a large land purchase with entities involved with property development cannot be sheer coincidence either. What is your bet?

The Mortgage

When the transaction of the property at $10 million was registered at the LRO, only $2.5 million of the deal was in cash. The remainder of $7.5 million was registered as a Charge/Mortgage with the Church.

Given the rather generous sale price (in the 2019 market), it appears the Church offered a 3-year, zero-interest loan back to the new owners with payments starting in November 2019 and final repayment of the principal was due in May 2022.

Given the links to New Horizon, it is unknown why the property was not just bought outright. But if the Trustees of the Church were willing to offer an interest-free $7.5 million loan, given inflationary pressures, it was a wise move to take it. The financial detriment would be to the Church, as $10 million in 2019 would have had more economic power then than $10 million paid-in-full in 2022.

Summary & What’s Next?

Given the sensitive nature of waterfront development in Grimsby, especially in the Winston Road Neighbourhood, it appears like this big-dollar deal was initially meant to go silently and unnoticed through the night. It was a given that at some point the first process to try and remove this property from the Greenbelt for development would surface… and this now appears to be the case.

We will take a deeper dive into the intended roadmap for 502 Winston in our next post on this property.

While there is no public meetings yet scheduled for the Regional and local Official Plan amendments, you can read the development materials submitted to the Region at the following links:

IBI Group Cover Letter
Planning Justification Report
Agricultural Impact Assessment
Proposed Amendment Text