Friday, December 10, 2010

What People In Springwater Say about Development

Development In Springwater-This is what the people think.

During the election campaign, many people expressed a desire to see the Township of Springwater retain its enviable lifestyle of rural and small urban living. Many stated that they moved to Springwater because of the proximity to Barrie but also the ease of access to a quieter and simpler style of living. Most acknowledged that they were willing to forego some of the amenities offered by the larger urban centres, if they could retain the open space, small community atmosphere and access to nature.

To better understand the wishes of the residents I signed up to use an online survey tool and constructed a brief survey for residents to complete if they so desired. A number completed the survey and here are the results of that survey.

The questions were simple and easy to follow.

Most people have thought about the potential of uncontrolled development especially in the Midhurst and Hillsdale areas.

The fact that 80% of people feel that development must be controlled goes against the concept that developers are the best ones to decide how to build the future of Springwater.

It appears that most residents feel that Springwater is an area where smaller developments are in order that are complimentary to the mainly rural nature of the township. There are obviously a lot less conflicts with agriculture if we continue at the pace we have experienced over the last many years.

The 500 plus proposed development projects are contrary to all provincial planning policies in non growth areas and definitely not something that is desired by most of Springwater residents. I am sure the two respondents in the 500 or more homes a year represented some of our larger development community.

It is interesting to note that Midhurst and Hillsdale with two official plans and the township’s focus for larger developments are out of sync with what the electorate feel is appropriate. We know the largest developments on the table comprising about 5,000 homes over the next 20 years are focused around Midhurst.

It is interesting that many residents including those in Midhurst think that is poor planning and inappropriate for Springwater. The Province in its guiding policies would like to see development in areas that already have complete infrastructure. The only fully serviced community and only complete community is Elmvale. I find it interesting that the general public have put more thought into future development than all the expert staff and previous council members.

This next issue doesn’t need to be regurgitated but is interesting. If you want to really understand how poorly the rates were established and implemented speak to Fred Archer.

I witnessed the mixed messages he received from the previous elected officials during his number of appearances at planning and council meetings earlier this year. I understand that the whole development charge matter will be one of the first things this council will address.

The employment land focus is the Hillsdale Flos Four West/CR 93 area, Snow Valley and Bertram Business Park, which are all good areas for industrial growth.

However, there seems to be little done to promote Elmvale employment lands where there is access to an excellent labour force and a number of support services that could be an incentive for companies that want to locate in Springwater.

When it comes to development, it is the people of Springwater that should decide. There is a misconception that development will mean a new stream of revenue for a municipality. If you read the Hemson report that was prepared for the County prior to their most recent Official Plan, it suggests that there is no proof that new development of any kind provides addition free cash from the actual development charges or the new assessment. The expenses for new and added services that accompany development typically equal or exceed the new revenue stream. At best development is revenue neutral.

Everyone I met during my campaign, except for a few developers and land speculators, believe that Springwater should grow at a slower and more orderly pace then our big neighbor to the south. Springwater is not a designated urban node growth centre and its allocation of another 6,000 people over the next 20 years by the province in its Growth Plan Amendment would allow the township to address the needs of its residents in a well planned fashion without incurring a major debt servicing. That would mean about 150 homes a year on average which would be easily incorporated into the existing services and infrastructure.

Talk to your newly elected officials and emphasize the importance and urgency of the need for the township to develop its own concise plan for future development. It must be our elected officials that create the long term vision and plan for orderly growth, rather than the paid staff or the large developers. They should be viewed and used as advisors. They should not be the decision makers. My experience as a committee of adjustment member for 5 years suggested that some staff have a distorted view of good planning which is not necessarily in the best of the township.

Springwater’s residential, commercial and industrial growth must be complimentary to the rural nature of the township. This allows our settlement areas to live in close harmony with the mainly agricultural landscape of Springwater.

Keep informed and attend the Planning Meetings whenever you can and attend public meetings on Planning issues when they arise.

Everyone on this new council appears to be open and interested in a more transparent approach to government in Springwater. Keep informed and spend the time to talk to this fresh group of individuals. They have the ability to move this township out of its adolescence and be an example of an efficient, visionary municipality.

Bill French


Springwater Council Inauguration

Dec 6, 2010: With rather inclement snowy and windy weather, over 200 people braved the elements and attended the first inauguration of a Township Council at Springwater’s new Administration Centre that opened in the Fall of 2009. The new council includes Mayor Linda Collins, Deputy Mayor Dan McLean, Councilors Dan Clement, Perry Ritchie, Rick Webster, Sandy McConkey and Jack Hanna.

The atmosphere was different this time around. There was a fresh, positive and upbeat expectation from the crowd that gathered. Most of the new council were surrounded by friends, supporters and members of the public that have made Springwater a very special place to live, work and play.

Justice James C. Crawford who officiated the Oath of Office and Oath of Allegiance commented that as a criminal court judge he seldom has the opportunity to conduct such positive and uplifting ceremonies.

Most of the new councilors thanked those that had assisted in their campaign and all acknowledged the support of family in the campaign and in public life.

Mayor Collins in her first address as Mayor repeated her campaign promise of building a team of trust and cooperation. She thanked the previous mayors of Springwater including Coutts, Brown and Guergis for their dedication and different styles of leadership which has brought the township to where it is today. She acknowledged the enthusiasm of the new council and I think there is a general agreement that this new council is different from the councils before it.

It appears that all new members of council want to engage the public and all seem to be easy to talk to. I was told that the council will implement changes that will allow public comment and engagement in the near future. That will be positive for both the residents and will better inform the council of various issues of the electorate.

I am sure it may have been a result of the timetable or a simple oversight, but a number of people that contribute to the well being and orderly operation of the township were not appropriately recognized. It would have been a gesture of goodwill if all those that have applied and been accepted on the 9 boards and committees had been recognized rather than just a call for the newly appointed members to stand. These are the committees and their members. Accessibility Advisory Committee, Denise Calvert, Natalie McCarthy, Marg O’Neill, Peggy Norton-Harris and Deputy Mayor Dan McLean; Committee of Adjustment, Gregory Barker, Cor Kapteyn, Tami Kitay, Gerald Sullivan and Robert McClung; Fenceviewers, Jim Lalonde, Charlie Renaud and Gerald Sullivan; Heritage Committee, Peter Archer, John Beaulieu, Ruth Byers, Greig Stewart, Don Molloy, Philip Saunders, Marlene Hilton Moore and Councillor Sandy McConkey; Library Board, Lisa Buchanan, Margaret Campbell, Helena Howell, Donna Kenwell, Nancy Kuikman, Reet Skelton, Dave Snedden, Brenda Stride, Monique Winter and Councillor McConkey; Livestock Valuers, Reg Cown, Charlie Renaud, and Bernard Terry; Recreation Advisory Committee, Carl Luoma, Jill Robertson, Karen Ritchie, Doug Kirton and Councillors Dan Clement and Jack Hanna; Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority, Councillors Perry Ritchie and Rick Webster; Community Policing Committee, Councillors Webster and Hanna. All these people need our support in these important positions.

During the campaign there were a number of references to the township being young and like an adolescent. I believe this newly elected council will finally bring the township to a level of maturity where self serving interests will be set aside. Having chatted with all the new council members, I do see a focus will be placed on what is good for both the Township as a corporation and the 18,000 residents that call it home.

Congratulations to the new council and those many people that have accepted the positions on the local committees and boards.