Happy healthy 2016 to all. Council is back at it, with lots of matters to review and progress in 2016. Here is my perspectives on some recent happenings.
EEK Pit – The rezoning application to allow for an expansion Eek sand and gravel pit at Barrie Hill Road just south of Sunnidale Road was denied by Council in a 4-3 vote. Staff recommended approval of the by-law after obtaining updated information and agency comments concerning traffic and other regulatory aspects of proceeding and none of these reports expressed objection to the by-law. Many Centre Vespra citizens appeared at the Council meetings in December and last week, communicating constructive reasons not to allow this type of industrial expansion so close to growing residential communities. Petitions and letters were also received by Council expressing the will of the majority of surrounding residents regarding this. I very much encourage commercial development in the Township but I feel it has to be the right type and in the right location. Although the proposed land is lower quality farmland, it is not good planning to allow this type of industrial expansion when it is so close to growing residential communities. I was elected to help bring better control over growth, including residential, commercial and industrial. The clear majority of residents are against this for many valid reasons and to me, this trumps policy. Other townships are having similar challenges with aggregate developments wanting to expand close to residential communities and at least two have been successful thus far in deferring or preventing this from happening. Not sure if this is the end of this but for now, the wishes of the residents prevailed with this Council decision.
Springwater 2016 Budget
After hard work by the staff and valuable input by the community and Council, we unanimously passed the 2016 Budget at last week’s Council meeting, approving a fiscally responsible 1.08% tax increase over 2015 rates. When combined with the County of Simcoe approved budget as well as the education rate, which is assumed to remain neutral, the blended tax increase is estimated at 1.16%.
For an average property in Springwater assessed at $381,000 the approved rate amounts to an annual increase of $37.13 over 2015 rates, or $3.09 per month.
For every tax dollar spent, $0.40 is retained by the Township, $0.36 goes to the County of Simcoe and $0.24 goes towards education.
New this year is the introduction of an additional 1% tax increase in the Operating Budget to support capital infrastructure. These funds will be dedicated towards the future replacement of the Township’s roads, bridges, fleet, facilities and parks.
Part of the finalization of the capital portion of the budget involved a physical review of the parks and recreation facilities with Director Ron Belcourt, who provided a wealth of insight to past expenditures and the current status of facilities in different locations in Springwater. Council this year has allocated some monies for improvements and replacements in these areas.
20,000 population allocation
The Provincial population growth plan for Greater Golden Horseshoe (Growth Plan) provides Simcoe County (County) the possibility, until January 19, 2017, of allocating up to 20,000 of additional total population by 2031 within Simcoe municipalities over and above the population numbers necessary to fulfill the Provincial population forecasts for each municipality.
The County has developed policy to implement this discretionary population allocation program and it will consider, among other things, whether or not the local municipality Council passes a resolution with respect to this program regarding this as part of its official plan amendment.
To date, 5 applications, totalling additional requested population of 7,536 persons, have been made to the County in respect of lands within Springwater, all of which are situated within the Settlement Area of Midhurst.
Springwater already has Official Plan and/or draft plan of subdivision approvals, agreed to by previous councils, for a total of 6,460 units plus 800 adult community units, which already exceeds what is necessary to fulfill the 2031 Growth Plan forecast of 24,000 persons. When fully developed, these units would accommodate approximately 38,000 persons, without considering any of the County’s 20,000 allocation program. Of these 6,460 units, approximately 600 to 700 units could be development ready within the next 5 years, depending on market conditions. Also, Springwater’s population to employment ratio is currently well above the 2031 forecasts and any additional population, over and above what is currently being considered would take this ratio further in the wrong direction.
Council received numerous communications from residents clearly expressing that there is already far too much planned growth for Springwater in certain areas. Representatives from some of the 5 applicants expressed why their projects should be part of the 20,000 allocation. Council on the day of its meeting last week received correspondence from legal counsel for one developers contesting some of the options presented to Council in the staff report and recommending how Council should vote on this matter.
After careful consideration amongst Council and receiving legal counsel, Council unanimously voted against supporting any private requests for portions of this additional population allocation. This will be communicated to Simcoe County Council.
The Materials Management Facility (MMF) and Organics Processing Facility (OPF) screening and comparison of short listed sites is continuing, with an expected County report in the first quarter of 2016. The waste management strategic plan is being further reviewed by staff, with further recommendations coming to Council in the same time period.
I have proposed the following resolution this week at County and hope to gain sufficient support for it to pass when it is debated over the next month:
THAT, in conjunction with the continued siting and procurement of the Organics Processing Facility (OPF) development, staff be requested to develop a comprehensive business case for presentation to Council Committee of the Whole for green bin organics being processed through a County OPF; inclusive of capital and operating cost projections, incorporating all costs related to the OPF development, including necessary infrastructure development, traffic impact and other cost projections for building and running an OPF under various growth and technology assumptions;
AND THAT, in comparison to this, an analysis be completed of the alternative option of entering into a contract or contracts with the best choice of service provider(s) to fulfill the County’s anticipated needs in this area, under appropriate assumptions, for the 5-7 year period post 2018.
I feel that a detailed cost and business case analysis of the options is important for the community and County Council to know in its decision making moving forward with this matter.
Enjoy the snowy winter – stay well and safe.