A Toronto developer said this week that he had tenants and buyers for a 35-store plaza project in Simcoe but lost them all because of “hurdles” in the county planning process.Ed Bain, managing director of S. Land Development Corporation, said his firm has spent $500,000 over the past five years satisfying all requirements for Norfolk’s site-plan approval process.Two years ago, he had the development on the Queensway West at Cedar Street fully tenanted. However, Bain told Norfolk council Tuesday that interest faded as the site-plan process dragged on.It was a familiar story for Mayor Kristal Chopp, who said she’s “deeply concerned” by Bain’s report.“There are reasons why people don’t want to come and don’t want to develop in Norfolk County,” Chopp said. “It shouldn’t take this long.”Chopp asked her colleagues to remember this story as council considers ways of making the Norfolk planning process more user-friendly.Chris Baird, Norfolk’s general manager of public works, was general manager of development and cultural services for most of the five years in question.Baird said council didn’t hear the entire story.“The development is only as fast as the developer,” Baird said during a break in Tuesday’s meeting.“It would not be fair to say staff was delaying them. They were working at their own pace and staff was there to facilitate them.”S.Land Development has cleared the site-plan control process and is ready to proceed. Once a shovel is in the ground, Bain said the $12-million project could be finished within a year.Bain and partners were at Governor Simcoe Square to get council’s blessing for a property-tax rebate under Norfolk County’s Community Improvement Plan.The province allows municipalities to give developers breaks when they re-develop problem parcels such as brownfields.The 5.2 acres in question once had a rail line running through it.The parcel is also in a low-lying area. Bain’s company has raised it six feet with 13,000 cubic metres of clean fill.The improvements made plus the increased assessed value of the real estate qualifies S. Land Development for consideration under the county’s Community Improvement Plan.A previous owner wanted to build housing on the land but thought better of it when methane gas was detected from an underlying peat deposit.S.Land Development intends to build on a pile-supported slab foundation. Problem gases will be vented away from the buildings and will not impede or complicate commercial activity.At Tuesday’s meeting, Norfolk council supported economic development officials and county lawyer Nicholas Loeb drawing up an agreement that would commit the county to a tax-incentive rebate.The document and the magnitude of the rebate will be presented to council at a later date.MSonnenberg@postmedia.com