TorontoSun_SmallTownatBestMartin Slofstra • Toronto Sun • August 19, 2017 – It may be price that attracts home buyers to Dundalk, but it’s quality of life that they may discover later.

I’m driving up to Dundalk on a cool, rainy July morning and there is not that much to see. At first glance, this sleepy farming community, a good one-and-a-half hour drive northwest of Toronto, and geographically, sitting atop the highest land elevation in Ontario., does not seem to have a lot going for it.

It is about to get a huge injection of growth. Here, Flato Development Inc. is planning to build 1,000 homes over the next 10 years, the first two phases of which have sold well. This development alone will easily double the town’s population of 2,000.

Flato has just launched Phase Three of Edgewood Greens, a master planned community of detached family homes consisting of 120 two-storey homes with 36’ to 38’ frontages and starting at $499,000 — all with prices considerably lower than those in the GTA.

But it’s not just about price or what I first see — the reasons for relocating have also to do with quality of life, fresh air and quiet country roads, I’m told. “The Village of Dundalk iis a truly special community full of rich, rural heritage and wonderful people,” notes Southgate Mayor Anna-Marie Fosbrooke.

That morning, I have breakfast with John Van Beurden, vice-president of development for Flato. He tells me it’s not just about building a subdivision, it’s building community. But don’t take his word for it, he adds, as he offers to drive me around the new home site, a muddy tract of former farmland with nothing more on it now than a single sales office/ model home that is under construction.

Van Beurden says that before the building of new homes could occur, Flato had to commit to several conservation projects and allow for a generous amount of open space. The total site is 13 hectares of which 6.2 hectares will be an environmental protection area. “We will have walking trails throughout these areas and all areas are accessible by all of the town’s residents,” he says.

And there’s another reality here. It’s become increasingly difficult for builders to acquire land near Toronto, pushing them further and further north in search of quality parcels of acreage.

Price is usually comes up first, it’s the small-town quality of life and surrounding area that wins them over, and that within a one-half hour drive of Dundalk, residents will have access to wineries, provincial parks and hiking trails; plus downhill and cross country skiing in the wintertime; and close proximity to neighbourhood communities like Creemore.

Later that day, I drive over to Creemore, taking a small detour through the scenic Blue Mountain area, with a couple of unscheduled stops at the Ravenna Country Market (where local cottagers pick up fresh, homemade prepared meals) and at the Georgian Hills Vineyardsy (three samples of wine for $5) which convinces me of the beauty of the area.

Driving into Creemore, it was hard not to notice that this is an up and coming town. The small town, made famous by the iconic Creemore Brewery brans, has other things going for it, starting with its charming Main St. that benefits from it not being on a highway like most small towns.

There is, I quickly learn, more to Creemore than craft beer. A local farming community, deeply into the organic, food-to-table market, eagerly supplies fresh produce to local restaurants, some located right on the town’s Main St.

I’m led on the downtown walking tour by Amanda Murray, community culture and tourism co-ordinator, for Clearview. It’s been a long time in the making, but Creemore is also becoming an arts and cultural mecca with special events happening all the time, many of them built around a culinary experience.