Sunday, November 6, 2011

Midhurst Plan appealed-Now what?

Midhurst Growth Plan-With the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing appealing the County of Simcoe’s approval of the Midhurst Secondary Plan, what impact does that have on the rest of Springwater?

The important thing to remember is that a change in one area of Springwater affects everyone especially where it hurts the most, our tax bill.

There are some immediate decisions the County of Simcoe and our Springwater council must make which could result in costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

An OMB appeal is expensive costing at least $10,000 a day in Lawyers and Planning Consultants for a simple appeal which I have experienced personally. This OMB hearing is not simple and could run into multiple days or weeks because it will involve the County of Simcoe, Springwater Township, The Land Owners Group and other parties. The reality is that the County and Springwater will not go into the hearings on a budget, so double the cost. I could see Springwater spending $100,000 to $200,000 as their portion of the cost (the 2012 budget includes $150,000 for OMB legal costs!) The County will spend more than double that but in the end all of the township and county costs come from our tax dollars. Remember the $250,000 that the County wasted in its PR attempt to push Site 41 forward? So don’t be surprised if you see your township/county portion of assessment take a hit because of it.

In the case of Springwater, the reality is that the Township did its job (rightly or wrongly) and passed the Midhurst Secondary Plan in 2008. They did not and could not guarantee that the County or Province would approve the Plan. The first thing we all should do is phone, write or email your councilor not to waste all this money that could go to other needs of the township. It seems ludicrous that on one hand councilors like Ritchie, McConkey, Hanna and Webster fight hard to keep the overall budget at a low level and then possibly turn around and waste $200,000 to fight something that no one seems to want in the township. My guess is that the Mayor and Deputy Mayor are aggressively speaking with the councilors to gain support to fund Springwater’s Party Status at the OMB hearing. Encourage your councilor to think this through. One party line is that Springwater is obligated to support the Midhurst Secondary Plan at the OMB appeal or risk being sued by the Land Owners Group. That is simply not true as Springwater completed its obligation by approving the Midhurst Secondary Plan in 2008. No further action is required by the Township unless approved by a new Council resolution. The argument will be that they spent upwards of $100,000 to develop the Plan and that investment needs protected. A Crock! Taking an expensive position at the OMB is sending good money after bad.

I am glad the Province is appealing the County’s decision, as an individual appealing the Midhurst Plan would have a difficult time finding a Planning Consultant to criticize the Midhurst Secondary Plan. The reason is simple. Planners bill thousands of hours preparing plans for developments and without developments there would be no need for planners. With this in mind it would be difficult to find anyone that would criticize the Midhurst Plan at an appeal since it would jeopardize getting work from developers in the future and that is where Planning Consultants make all their money.

I want to stress that I agree we need development in Springwater, but it must be balanced, orderly and in a fashion that compliments the rural character of the Township. The Midhurst Secondary Plan does not meet those criteria. If you look at the last 20 years, the developments in Springwater for the most part, have been orderly and do not negate the character of the communities where they were built. It is only in the last decade where large land holdings have been locked up by a few mega developers has a problem crept in.

Ironically we have more than enough development land in Hillsdale, Elmvale, Fergusonvale, Apto, Anten Mills, Minesing, Centre Vespra, Snow Valley and other small pockets that meet the needs of the Township for the next 10 years or so based on the building demand we see in Springwater. If no one wants to build on those lands which are available why is the Township developing a further plan for a mega development? Who is going to buy these homes after we destroy over 1,000 acres of prime agricultural land? Let’s build out the existing areas that require no further infrastructure. For example if 500 homes were built on the already approved land in Elmvale there would be no requirements for infrastructure upgrades which ultimately would reduce the user fees for everyone that is on municipal water and sewer services in the township.

I suggest you attend the information session on the Midhurst Secondary Plan that will be held at the Springwater Administration Centre on Nursery Road on the 14th. Ask questions and strongly recommend that your councillors stand back and leave the OMB appeal to the Province and the County of Simcoe to sort out.

In particular lean on the Mayor and Deputy Mayor as they are the County Councillors who approved the plan at the County level. They will be pushing to spend all that money to defend their position at our tax dollar expense.

Since I became a conspiracy theorist in recent years, do some digging and see what long time term residents and former elected officials will benefit from pushing through the Midhurst Secondary Plan approved by the County. It is far reaching. To me that is the real issue.