Monday, November 21, 2011

Midhurst Residents Must Attend Meeting




“Midhurst Secondary Plan” to develop our

village from 3500 to approx. 30000 people!!!

Almost 10 X the size!!!

Are you concerned?

Want to learn more?

Please attend an informational meeting on:

Monday, November 28th @ 7:00 pm

Midhurst Community Centre, 74 Doran Rd

Hosted by:

Midhurst Ratepayers Association

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Midhurst Residents in Shock with Lack of Answers

Village is to absorb and exceed all Springwater’s projected growth

By Kate Harries AWARE Simcoe November 18 2011

More than 100 people turned out for an information session on a plan that will make Midhurst larger than Gravenhurst in the short term, and the size of Stratford in 20 years.

No one spoke in favour. Some said they were in shock.

“It changes what the community is drastically, when you’re growing a community 10 times in a matter of 15 years,” said Kim Hand, who moved to Midhurst two years ago because of the “small-community atmosphere.”

There was a curious icy calm to the meeting, held Monday in Minesing.

Nervous township staff, although subjected to tough questioning, were treated politely and members of Springwater council, who kept quiet at the back of the room, were not challenged to answer for the plan. Residents questioned why the secondary plan that has been hanging over the community’s head for so many years suddenly gained approval from Simcoe County last month.

(The Ontario government immediately appealed the plan to the Ontario Municipal Board because of provincial policy that directs growth to six urban nodes in Simcoe County - Barrie, Orillia, Collingwood, Midland-Penetanguishene, Alliston and Bradford - and projects a rural character for Springwater.)

At odds with province “Is there any way you can elaborate on why decisions were made to pursue a plan that doesn’t fit within the province of Ontario mandate for healthy appropriate growth of communities?” Hand asked. “Why would we at the local level continue to create a plan that doesn’t match provincial planning guidelines?” “The plan was drafted while considering all the provincial policies that are in place,” planning manager Brent Spagnol replied. “I would never have imagined that something like this would have been planned,” Hand said.

Resident David Strachan asked the meeting for a show of hands in favour of the plan. One person put his hand up. Against? Almost every hand was raised. “This whole thing comes as a bit of a shock to me, because we were trying to get away from congestion,” said Strachan, who moved to Midhurst 18 months ago. “It’s an absolutely charming, beautiful little village… We elected a council – why is the council doing something that’s not in the interest of the public?”

The expansion has been looming since the former Vespra council (building on its delusional Bayfield St. development fiasco, in which it defied the Bill Davis provincial government and lost) first designated a vast settlement area covering prime farmland far beyond the boundaries of Midhurst.

‘Lay down our arms’

But it wasn’t just new residents who felt blindsided. “I’ve lived here since 1986 – 25 years I’ve lived here and I’ve been very interested in growth and development around here,” said Fred Graham. “I did not know this was happening and I pay attention to this type of thing.”

Graham added that back in 2008, when the Midhurst Secondary Plan was finalized by Springwater Council the approval was similarly under the radar. Spagnol explained that if the township had not created a secondary plan, the developers would have produced one. “That is the genesis of the secondary plan – to ensure that that municipal component is there,” he said.

“Okay, so that sounds like we’re scared of fighting the developers, so let’s just lay down our arms and surrender, but maybe get a couple of things on terms,” Graham commented, to applause. “But now instead of fighting the developers, you’re fighting the province of Ontario, correct?” “There’s an appeal,” Spagnol conceded.

“Right, and you’re going to be opposed to the position taken by the province of Ontario which wants to see you conforming to Places to Grow, correct?”

“The basis of the appeal is to argue that, yes,” Spagnol said.

Graham pointed out that the province wants 26,000 people as the 2031 population for Springwater which presently has 18,000 residents. Instead, he said, the secondary plan will bring 31,000 people to Midhurst alone, which means at least 45,000 people in the township, assuming no growth in Elmvale or Hillsdale (the two areas, beside Midhurst, that are designated for growth in Springwater).

Cost of OMB appeal Spagnol was reluctant to say that Springwater is pitting itself against the province.

Graham was insistent. “As it stands, will we be spending taxpayer money to oppose the province of Ontario at the OMB?”

“That decision of council has not been made,” Spagnol replied. “Are you saying that is an open possibility, that council will side with the province at the OMB?” Graham asked. “Ultimately, council’s determination will be what role the municipality will play during the OMB process.”

Graham asked that the township notify those who had signed up of the meeting at which council decides whether it will side with or against the province on the appeal.

The discussion seemed a little surreal as Mayor Linda Collins was a member of the council led by Tony Guergis that approved the plan in 2008, and she spoke in favour of it last month prior to it being approved without debate by the county. Ward 5 Councillor Jack Hanna said a few words at the end of the meeting. “We inherited this issue,” he said, asking residents to send him their concerns and he would “advance them to council.”

Public works and planning director Brad Sokach had served notice at the start of the meeting that the evening might produce “very few answers” because of legal advice. “We’re not able to debate the merits of the plan with you because it’s before the OMB.”

Spagnol stressed that there are front-ending agreements so that developers, not existing taxpayers, will pay for all infrastructure. After two years, however, the township assumes ongoing maintainance and other costs. Graham pointed out that studies of such developments show that they are, at best, revenue-neutral for a municipality but, more likely, the associated costs will drive taxes up.

“How is this in the public interest?” Graham asked. “Who are we trying to help here?”

The answer was left unspoken.

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.