Monday, October 24, 2011

Midhurst-A Pawn in a Game of Chess with the Province of Ontario and Simcoe County

On Oct 12, the County of Simcoe approved the greatly flawed secondary plan for Midhurst. The official plan amendment passed through the Council of Springwater on Oct 28, 2008 and has lingered at the County since then. Multiple appeals by the land owners group most likely prompted the approval by the County even though it goes against, its own growth document and official plan which has been rejected by the Province as it is contrary to the Provincial Policy Statement 2005 , The Places to Grow Growth Plan 2006, Places to Grow Built Boundaries 2008 and the recent Proposed Amendment 1 to the 2006 Growth Plan.

Building 3,850 homes in the first phases and then adding another 6,200 in future years will do great harm to not only Midhurst but the Township as a whole. How can a small municipality like Springwater effectively control the development in an orderly fashion without sacrificing its unique rural based infrastructure and way of life? The simple answer is, it cannot do it.

About 75% of this new Springater council is under the false impression that the development charges will allow Springwater many more amenities than it has today. The major consulting firm that has provided services to both the County and Springwater admit that at best development charges are revenue neutral and in most cases will not cover the extra services required with the dramatic growth as proposed. Beyond the infrastructure required in the development itself which is paid by the developer, there will be many unforeseen costs associated with rapid development.

If development charges provide all this extra cash as viewed by the Springwater Council why is Barrie’s mill rate increasing each year even with dramatic cuts being undertaken by its current council. The economies of scale that are normally gained with “more is better” does not work with development charges as the amount that is charged must be projected based on best guess estimates and is regulated under the Municipal Act. Think about it, the last report to Springwater Council from the consultant estimated the water and sewer treatment infrastructure to be about $119,000,000 up from $100,000,000 only two years prior. So what will it cost when it is actually built 5 to 10 years from now? Maybe $150,000,000? That alone would be $15,000 in development charges per dwelling going to one service. Now when you add roads, parks, recreation, transportation, libraries that could add another $10,000 per dwelling. That becomes very pricy. Who will move to Midhurst for the lower end planned housing? If you are on the lower end of the economic scale you depend on easy walking or bus transportation. It will be a long time before any of those services will be available, unless Springwater wants to take on debt to fast track the services. Currently for every million in debt, it represents a one percent increase in your tax bill. Talking about debt, let’s review just one issue that has come to the surface. Unfortunately for us the taxpayer, the township councils since amalgamation have neglected our road and bridges and allowed them to fall into disrepair which now requires a thirty to fifty million dollar correction over the next 10 years . That cost alone will increase your tax bill by 4% compounded annually. In other words to correct the road and bridge infrastructure it will increase your tax bill by 50% in the next ten years. That does not include any other normal increases that will occur in that period of time. Add some unforeseen costs with this unprecedented development in Midhurst and every tax payer in Springwater could see their Township tax bill double.

It is time for you as Midhurst individuals and possibly as a group to speak up before it is too late. Take a lesson from the Site 41 protestors. The Mayor mistakenly stated after the Planning Meeting on October 24 to some local Midhurst residents that the Midhurst secondary plan is a done deal and will proceed. That is simply untrue if you want to change it. You can appeal to the OMB based on the fact that the approved plan by the County contravenes the above policies I mentioned at the beginning of this article.

I write this article because I am concerned about the future of Springwater. Even though most of the voters in Springwater did not cast a vote in my favour last October, I am still concerned about the health and well being of every resident and the Township itself.

The County of Simcoe by passing the Springwater Midhurst Official Plan Amendment is playing Russian roulette with your life style and tax dollars. They are challenging the Province to appeal their decision. If the province for political reasons backs off because of their minority status, we will all be in trouble. You have until November 2, 2011 to speak up by appealing the decision to the OMB or prepare to face the consequences.

In closing I am surprised that all the Springwater councillors except for two who favour these huge developments have not properly researched the long term impact on every resident of Springwater. That I find disappointing.

Bill French