Wednesday, December 11, 2013

My View - Part 4- Springwater Township’s Response to Questions regarding the Mega Developments of the Midhurst Secondary Plan

On May 17th of this year the township held an information meeting and provided documents as an overview for the Midhurst Secondary Plan titled Midhurst 20/20. There was also a public open house on the Midhurst Secondary Plan EA process on May 29th.

In September the township published its response to the questions posed and held a special council meeting on September 17th with a hired lawyer to outline the township’s position. This is the fourth installment of articles on this complex issue. I encourage you to read the document yourself (found on the township website under Governance/Public Consultation/Midhurst Secondary Plan) and form your own opinion. Certain questions and answers are truncated for space consideration.

Question 34: What studies have been done to satisfy the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) (the guiding document for all development in Ontario)?

Township Answer: The Midhurst Settlement Area boundaries were originally established approximately 25 years ago……(they include a number of reference documents you should read.)

My Opinion: Township’s answer is extremely flawed and at the least misleading. There are affidavits on file from former councilors Fleming and Parker that state clearly that the boundaries were a “study area”. It only became a settlement area in 2008. Due to the lack of due diligence on the part of this council and the previous council, an unplanned area to develop a city was unleashed. The intent of the council that established the “study area” was to choose a part of it when the need was evident and then create an area to expand Midhurst. The “study area” presented a number of opportunities, but it was never conceived that the entire area would be developed as a city.

Question 35: The County wrote letters in Sept and Oct 2008 questioning the Midhurst Secondary Plan compliance with the PPS. Why did the County on Oct 2011accept that it was then in compliance with the PPS?

Township Answer: They do not provide a real answer. They refer to the letters that the County sent in Sept, Oct and Dec of 2008 whereby the County expressed concerns that the MSP offended the PPS, lacked servicing details, questioned the boundary (see above answer), questioned the population as it exceeded the County’s Growth Plan that had been signed off by the municipalities and so on. They then refer to the 2011 letter that approved the MSP but the letter does not say how the MSP was in compliance.

My Opinion: The first three letters from the County were spot on in 2008 which explains why there was not a lot of concern by Midhurst residents, as based on the County’s objections, the MSP was dead. That is also why there was very little discussion during the 2010 elections as it was felt that the MSP was a non-starter as it offended so many higher level policies. Unfortunately the developers and planners behind the scenes were pulling the strings at all levels, the township leaders unknown to the residents were lobbying to move the mega growth forward and we as taxpayers all got taken. At one council meeting prior to the 2011 County approval of the MSP, the Deputy Mayor (whom I hear is slated to make a run for mayor next year) stated they were working behind closed doors for the residents. No one imagined that they were working against the best interests of all Springwater ratepayers and specifically against the Midhurst people who asked the question.

Question 36: Why did the Province issue a transition regulation as part of Amendment #1 which permits a portion of the MSP to develop?

Township Answer: The Township was not involved in the development of Amendment #1(read the special rule).

My Opinion: We are not all stupid or idiots, is the short answer, if you think we will swallow that answer. Think about it. The province conducted both public and private meetings under the auspices of the Ontario Growth Secretariat which was established by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and Ministry of Infrastructure prior to the passing of Amendment #1 and the Transition Rule. Without the Transition Rule the MSP would not be permitted as it still offends all the policies that were outlined by the County’s objection in 2008. Township representatives attended both types of meetings (I saw them at the public meeting in Barrie). The only answer I can give is that there answer is less than truthful. If they had objected to the MSP it would never have occurred. Our meeting with the Growth Secretariat revealed that only the citizens group AWARE objected to any of the growth plans for the entire Simcoe County area. All municipalities supported the growth as did the development community. You be the judge. We only have the MSP and a future City of Midhurst because of either incompetence or lack of care of our two senior elected officials who are also our County Councillors.

Question 37: Is the 300 Ha permitted for development within the MSP still held up by and/or under appeal before the OMB?

Township Answer: It is not held up and allowed to move forward through the Planning Process.

My Opinion: I agree but my disappointment with the lack of action and fear of developers by this council is almost unbelievable. Our current council has had numerous opportunities to stop this absurdity since they took office. They have failed to meet the responsibilities they promised to us in the last election. The MSP still can be undone as it is not financially viable. Take the time to read the excellent reports from Barrie about Development Charges (I attended the meeting) and their concern about debt. Our situation will be much worse than that on a relative basis if the MSP proceeds. You and I will pay for it in annual double digit tax rate increases because our elected officials simply “don’t know what they don’t know”.

It is still not too late to slow down and modify this terrible plan for Midhurst. It will affect all of us especially where it hurts, in our pocket books with increased taxes. I am pleased that many more people are coming to Council and Planning meetings in recent months as residents realize that regardless of where they live they will pay the price of the bad decisions and direction of the Midhurst Secondary Plan.

Talk to the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Council and tell them to stop the greatest calamity that Springwater has ever experienced. The Midhurst Plan as planned is a disaster waiting to happen and you and I cannot afford it!