The Christmas events throughout Springwater have again been wonderful this year – even without snow! I have been to many of these and it has reminded me why we love the spirit and friendship which exists all around us in our Township.
Much has gone on at the Township and County over the last month. We had a marathon Council meeting last Monday which did not end until after midnight, it was so packed with items to review. Some of these are summarized below and as always, these express my interpretation and not necessarily that of Council.
EEK Pit – This is a rezoning application to allow for an expansion of an existing Sand and Gravel Pit (Eek Pit). The 50 acre property is located at 3658 Barrie Hill Road just south of Sunnidale Road. The existing Eek Pit is nearing exhaustion of its sand and gravel reserves and the applicants have applied to expand the aggregate operation onto abutting subject lands to the north of the existing pit. Many Centre Vespra citizens appeared at the Council meeting to support a deputation presented against allowing the rezoning. The planning consultant for the applicant responded with his views on the issues. Questions arose about the traffic study completed and other dated reports with respect to this project. Discussion occurred about the possibility of this matter eventually coming before the OMB and possible outcomes. A Council motion was passed receiving the report and referring it back to staff to obtain a report updating information on the traffic study and conducting further peer reviews of reports concerning this project.
Maple Ridge Estates – Located at Marni Lane, Flos Rd 4 and Hwy 27, in Fergusonvale, there will be a public meeting to gain input regarding the possibility of 8 new residential lots, similar to existing residences, being built here. This will sever the oversized parcels within the subdivision and will result in a total of eleven lots, if approved.
62 Doran Road – Having been approved by the Committee of Adjustments, Council approved the Mayor executing the development agreement for 2 residential infill 100 foot lots, each being approximately .6 of an acre.
Legal Services request for proposals (RFP) – Staff conducted an RFP for legal services for the Township. A total of 12 legal firms responded to the RFP. Analysis of the bids was performed by a senior staff committee using weighted evaluation criteria, including technical, professional, background and financial aspects. Surveys from the shortlisted firm’s clients were reviewed. Council agreed with the recommendation that Barriston Law be retained to address local Township matters and that Miller Thomson be retained for all new human resources, specialized law and planning matters. It was decided to continue to use Weir Foulds for legacy issues relating to the Midhurst Secondary Plan, including any related ongoing OMB hearings. The approved 2015 budget for legal services was $95,000, and the total expenditures to date amount to $143,190 of which approximately $43,000 is offset by reserves, resulting in a net amount around the 2015 budget total.
Replacement of Fire Vehicle Car 22 at Fire Station 2 – Structural damage beyond reasonable repair has resulted in this vehicle currently being removed from service. The present owned Car 1 will be redeployed as Car 22.The new vehicle will be an SUV and replace Car 1 at a budgeted $60,000 including installation of required emergency equipment. This happens to be one of the vehicles I referenced in an article about fire services equipment earlier this year.
Funds from Springwater Swing golf tournament – A committee of Councillors Austin, Coughlin and Hanna recommended, and Council accepted, that the approximately $15K net proceeds from the tournament should go to charitable causes on the basis of applications submitted. This Community Assistance Program (CAP) as it is to be called, will review and recommend to Council supporting situations demonstrating charitable and financial needs. The committee is finalizing the terms and criteria to follow up with Council and then share the information with the public. Council approved and initial amount of $2,500 of these funds be donated to the Elmvale and District food bank.
Simcoe Transit Feasibility Study (the Study) – County hired a consultant to co-ordinate the Study, which proposes seen inter-municipal transit routes across the County and various options for fare payment. County held a public information session regarding this in October 2015 and is now seeking comments from Springwater as part the recommendations to County Council in January 2016.
Two of the recommended routes traverse Springwater. The proposed Barrie Midland Route would travel north along County Road 27 to Elmvale and proceeding on to Midland. Occasional spur routes could then be used to service Hillsdale and Orr Lake as demand exists.
County proposes that the Collingwood-Wasaga Beach-Barrie Route would start out of the north end of Barrie, proceeding north along Bayfield Street to Midhurst, then continue west along Highway 26 to Stayner, finally doubling back and ending at the Wasaga Beach/Collingwood transit hub for further transfer to local routes servicing downtown Collingwood and Wasaga Beach.
Springwater staff and Council discussed whether a preferable route for this could be a Midhurst to Elmvale to Wasaga Beach connection, which would be a more desirable and a more direct route to the Wasaga Beach/Collingwood transit terminal. This alternative route would service the greatest number of residents possible while providing connection between the two significant tourist destinations of Elmvale and Wasaga Beach along County Road 92. A short intra-municipal loop from the Collingwood/Wasaga beach transit terminal could then service the Stayner area as necessary to meet demand.
After considering different fare systems, staff suggest that a flat rate fare will increase the marketability of Simcoe Transit and provide for ease of use and understanding for riders.
The link to the map of proposed routes can be found at http://www.simcoe.ca/Planning/Pages/transit-study.aspx
Feedback will be provided to the County for future consideration.
OPP Deployment in Springwater – The Mayor and CAO continue to attend the Community Policing Advisory Committee and reinforce the need for proactive policing and speed enforcement in Springwater. The use of data from “Stanley” the speed sign, managed by the Springwater Community Policing Committee, also helps the police with focused enforcement. There are ongoing discussions and considerations regarding alternative deployment strategies (policing from both Huronia West and Barrie). At this time, there has been no determination or changes involving Springwater’s policing. The OPP has introduced “Borderless Policing” to Springwater, meaning that if there is an emergency or an urgent call for service, the closest officer is deployed. For example, if there is a call for service in Midhurst and the closest officer is from the Barrie detachment, the Barrie OPP officer will be deployed to the call.
As a next step, the Township will make a presentation to the new Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, Yasir Naqvi, at the next OGRA/ROMA conference early in 2016.
Long Range Financial Plan (LRFP) Update – Over the past year, the LRFP has been proceeding through multiple technical stakeholder meetings with the expectation to reach consensus regarding inputs and methodology for the Plan. One item to be finalized was the projected residential unit population (unit yield) used to determine the financial impacts of infrastructure costs to the Township. The Township has used 7,858 residential units as the high growth unit yield for the Midhurst Secondary Plan (MSP), consistent with the assumptions used in the Environmental Assessment (E.A) process thus far. The Midhurst Landowners Group (MLG) indicated that a higher number of units should be considered through the process to obtain the true costs and impacts to the Township associated with the MSP development. Staff agrees that 7,858 residential units do not represent the full build-out of the MSP as adopted and approved. The intended purpose of the LRFP is to allow for updating as and when infrastructure costs for development beyond the 7,858 units become available, to enable an accurate account of infrastructure costs. It has specifically been agreed between the Township and MLG that no higher growth scenario, including a scenario that would test for 10,000 units, is to be examined at this time. The LRFP examines the fiscal impact of the development of 7,858 residential units in the MSP, along with a twenty year period of absorption under the high growth scenario.
Many qualifiers and disclaimers will be required on the face of the LRFP to ensure that it is understood that the Plan is to be used as a financial planning tool that will be subject to revisions and updated inputs in accordance with processes, such as a Municipal Class E.A. One such qualifier to be inserted into the LRFP will be … that the LRFP is a financial planning tool only and should not in any way be interpreted as a substitute or proxy for land use planning tools. For further clarity, the LRFP shall not be interpreted to be a land use approval, justification or support for any scenario tested in the LRFP.
It is not just unit yield, but rather a set of recommendations and policies tested in the LRFP, that will ensure that the Township is not negatively impacted from a financial perspective by development.
Draft Springwater 2016 Budget
To date, the 2016 Township Draft Budget process has been reviewed by Council and has been available for input from the public at three separate meetings and through the Township website. The updated Draft Budget was reviewed at Council on December 14 and final approval of the budget is scheduled to occur on January 20, 2016.
Staff have worked hard to find further efficiencies and reductions in the budget, which now proposes a Township level increase in the net tax levy of 2.64% 2015. This includes a 1% or $94,789 increase being used to set aside for the Capital Infrastructure reserve buildup. It also includes the County Simcoe approved 2% increase for its 2016 budget. Factoring all of these together results in a blended tax increase (excluding the Policing and Streetlight Charges) estimated to be 1.16%. For an average home assessed at $381,000, this translates into a $37 property tax increase over 2015 levels or approximately $3 per month. The water operating budget has an impact in 2016 on a typical household (one who consumes 240 cubic meters per year) of an increase of $20.58 over 2015 or $1.72 per month. The wastewater operating budget has an impact on a typical household is an increase of $23.94 over 2015 or $1.99 per month.
A consideration we and all other municipalities need to continue to address is that the Township does not have enough tax based funding being set aside to fund the replacement of the Township’s infrastructure, particularly roads and related infrastructure. The only other stable funding source that the Township has to fund capital infrastructure is Gas Tax, which the Township currently receives approximately $527K per year. This is not nearly enough to close our funding gap. Director of Finance Jeff Schmidt and I are recommending that the Township update its asset management plan early in 2016 to quantify the infrastructure deficit so we can plan further how to deal with it. In future, we might consider increasing the tax funding set aside for asset replacement. As stated above, the draft 2016 Budget proposes an additional 1% or $94,789 to assist in funding the Township’s tax based capital infrastructure.
What are your thoughts about this budget or anything else communicated here? Email me at email@example.com
Wishing you a safe and Merry Christmas.