If any of you have driven passed Georgian College Collingwood campus on Raglan St. and wondered why it is called the “John Di Poce” campus, the reason is he donated the land that the college sits on to the town.
There was a lot of chatter a month or so ago from certain parties including an editorial in the EB and a cloying interview with Mr. Assaff by the infernal Penny Skelton on Rogers TV. About how fortunate we are as a town to have Steve Assaff gracing us with his ugly box like developments. Collingwood had another developer who was prepared to put his money where his mouth was, his name was John Di Poce. He owned (still owns)a good chunk of land out in the south east end of town, surrounding the Georgian College. At present he is in negotiations with the hospital with the view of donating some of that land for a badly needed new hospital. The comparisons between Mr. Di Poce and Mr. Assaff are quite startling, Mr. Assaff wanted to buy Block 9 from the town. A scrubby sliver of land between his BMO/Rexall property and his recently acquired Block 11 on the corner of Huron and Heritage Way in front of the the waterfront. This is to facilitate the extra parking that he needs to build his 3 story monstrosity on the corner of Heritage and Huron St (block 11) and rather than offer something worthwhile as a swap, he offered the town some swampland behind the courthouse that he apparently owns. Council quite rightly said “thanks but no thanks”.
Everything I write below is now on public record so I think it’s time for this story to be brought to light. It might give you a fairly reasonable insight into the way things have worked for many years in our town. It should also give you an idea on why few people other than Steve Assaff and to a lesser extent Larry Dunn, want to touch development around our town with a ten foot pole.
As I said above John Di Poce owns a fair amount of land on the south east end of town. He had draft site plan approval for a 320 unit sub division (Eden Oaks) on that land. The approval of which was one of the last decisions the Chris Carrier council made and passed prior to the 2010 municipal election. The then Deputy Mayor Sandra Cooper whom most of you know is Paul Bonwick’s sister and Ian Chadwick, an employee of Paul Bonwick’s Compenso company, were both opposed to that development.
Another interesting dynamic was that John Di Poce owned some land up in the Duntroon area (not sure if he still owns it). Around 2007 -2008 Paul Bonwick entered into a lease agreement, to lease that land from John Di Poce and started (or continued) with a quarry operation on that land. Rick Lloyd was the onsite manager running the operation. By 2010 this business arrangement had soured because Paul Bonwick had missed a substantial amount of the agreed upon lease payments to John Di Poce. This situation ended up in litigation, and apparently there was much unpleasant legal wrangling, most of which I cannot write about here. When the writing started to show very clearly on the wall that Paul Bonwick might personally have to cough up a fairly large chunk of cake, he very ineptly transferred the ownership of his house into his wife’s name. A transaction Mr. Di Poce had the courts reverse in short order. The actual amount owing to Mr. Di Poce was somewhere in the region of $1.3M and he eventually settled for around a third of that amount.
It has been suggested to me by numerous parties that because of the messy legal situation described above, a May 2011 decision by the previous town council, in which Rick Lloyd was deputy mayor, to revoke the Eden Oaks subdivision draft site plan approval, which had been passed and approved by the Carrier council. Was payback for the messy quarry legal fight. I have no opinion on this and will let you make up your own minds. Think about this though, to this date it is the only subdivision of this scale, to have its draft plan approval rescinded because of “density targets not being reached”. If you notice the land in question is still undeveloped and sits fallow to this day. The long term effect of all this was to drive a community minded developer with deep pockets away from Collingwood and deny our town the development fees and property taxes that this land could have generated. Apparently, John Di Poce is again starting to dip his toes back into the local development scene. Probably because a few of the people on that previous council were sent packing in the last municipal election.
Steve Assaff could take a couple of pages out of John Di Poce’s playbook, its not always about how much money you can make. Sometimes it’s about making our community a better place to live.