Monday, October 21, 2013

My Opinion-Springwater's Answers to Questions on the Midhurst Mega Development Pt 2

This is Part 2 of a multi part series that will appear every two weeks until I have addressed all the answers to the many questions from the public on the Midhurst mega developments.
In this article we will look at more of the questions and then the somewhat distorted and at times misleading answers.

Question 9: Is the 2004 Growth Management Study the foundation of the Midhurst Secondary Plan?

Township answer: Yes the 2004 Report is the foundation of the Midhurst Secondary Plan (MSP)

Question 11: What were the population forecasts for Springwater and endorsed by Council

Township Answer: They refer to page 40 of the council endorsed report and then mention the Places to Grow and associated regulations

My Opinion: the intent in 2004 was to plan for another 3049 units and about 6,000 to 8,000 new residents to 2031. Page 40 of the report is clear that the number of new residential units would be 3049 (not 10,000). It was only through the lobbying efforts of the heads of both this council and the previous council with pressure from influential landowners that the concept of up to 30,000 more people came into play. They simply took the large amount of land that was in the study area, made it a settlement area and maximized the number of homes per hectare. It was never the intent of the 2004 plan nor was it the intent of the Province to build new cities in rural Ontario. If not for the “special rule” of 2012, the MSP could not continue. That “special rule” only occurred because of the lobbying of our current heads of council. Growth was not mandated by the Province but was to be better planned than in the past 50 years.

Question 12: What are the current taxpayers gaining from the MSP?

Township answer: More of a complete community, broader types of housing and so on. They speak of imaginary jobs but no explanation of where they will come from.

My Opinion: The existing taxpayer will pay more for everything as currently we lack services to address the needs of a small city. We will pay for full time contract policing (not the drive through policing we have today), more full time firefighters, added township staff, higher water and sewage rates just like happens in Barrie, Mississauga and Vaughan. As far as jobs, little will come to Springwater in jobs as we are located next to two designated primary settlement areas; Barrie and Wasaga Beach. Currently our Development Charges are high for the services we provide so why would business come to Springwater? The long answer that the township provides to the question is a work of fiction.

Question 18: Why would businesses locate to Springwater instead of Barrie?

Township answer: The answer includes the normal reasons for considering a location, services, land costs proximity to markets etc. No specific USP (unique selling proposition) is mentioned. They also mention their Economic Development Working Group.

My Opinion: If I were locating a business, Barrie would make more sense as it has transportation, access to main corridors and provides all the amenities anyone needs. It also has a large condensed market for goods and services. Don’t get me wrong there are many types of businesses that could be brought to Springwater but as long as you have a council that thinks in terms of urban and not rural we will never attract new businesses. Their working group and the budgeted expenditure of $82,000 for a development officer has borne very little fruit that I can see.

I am of the opinion that there needs to be more diligence as the township proceeds with the most unwanted and most costly venture it has ever encountered. The Midhurst mega developments have the potential of saddling the next few generations of Springwater-ites with the highest taxes imaginable. As the County CAO stated at their Spring Strategy Review, “Growth doesn’t pay for itself”. I guess McLean and Collins our County Councillors missed this point and they were both there.
These articles will also appear in the Springwater News.

My Opinion-Springwater's Answers to Question about Midhurst Mega Developments Pt 1

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. I am not sure why the mayor, as head of council, did not disseminate the information rather than having a $300 to $400 an hour hired help do it for her. The report and answers and meeting are on-line so check for yourself.

Over the next number of months, I will outline some of the inconsistencies and what I believe was outright misleading information that was provided at that September 17th meeting and some of the distortions the published report contains. There were 84 responses to questions so I will deal with a few in each article. The ones I have no issue with, I will make no comment.

Question 1: Who will pay for the new Highway 400 Interchange?

Township answer: It is the responsibility of the developers.

My Opinion: Nothing has been signed signifying the developer will pay for all of these costs. If you read the ALTUS Report paid for by the Midhurst Landowners Group it suggests roads will be $17M. The Township’s director of public works provided a document in March of this year that the Midhurst Landwowners Group are responsible for $79M of road improvements. There appears to be a $62M minor discrepancy. I have got varied answers on this subject so I encourage you to ask your councilor who is paying for what and when.

Question 3: Will the Township rescind the Midhurst Secondary Plan if the financial analysis shows a significant increases in taxes?

Township Answer: No Infrastructure will be approved that has a detrimental financial impact on the Municipality.

My Opinion: The council at the end of the meeting passed a motion not to revisit or consider modifications to the Midhurst Secondary Plan. If they won’t consider rescinding it how can they make such a comment? I am also curious what is meant by “significant increases in tax”. This suggests they are willing to have you and I pay part of the cost of this council’s thirst for unneeded and unwanted growth.

Question 5 : What will the cost of infrastructure be for the first phase of development? and Question 7: The Altus Report does not seem to indicate that the developers would pay for all the infrastructure upgrades.

Township Answer: Q 5The costs are projected at approximately $100M. These costs will be fully covered by the developers. Q 7 The Statement is not correct.

My Opinion: At a public information session on May 29th when the township consultants were present I asked one of the engineers what the cost for the first phase would be. It was stated the costs could be as much as 70% of the total buildout costs since the main infrastructure must be put in place to service the first phase and has to be designed for the full development. The Hemson Report in 2008 suggested the servicing costs would be about $172M for the full buildout. 70% of that is about $120M. Out of the gate there seems to be a $20M gap. If you read the Altus Report paid for by the Midhurst Landowners Group in 2009 they projected the costs at around $100M for scenario 4 and the report also suggests they will pay about $64M in development fees over the life of the first phase. They will pay $25M for front end costs to get things underway (which to my understanding is part of and not additional to the $64M that will be collected over the life of phase 1). That puts anywhere from a $36M to $56M debt risk on us the taxpayer if the numbers and reports are valid. Our Deputy Mayor says agreements have been signed to pay for all infrastructure. I suggest they produce those documents as I have not seen any signed agreements except for the EA’s which total $300K or .3% of the total cost. The letters that are referred to in the township’s answer to Q7 from the Landowners Group trustee are not signed letters of intent and therefore not binding. To make matters worse all the numbers are from 2008 and 2009 and I would think costs have not declined in that 5 year period.

Even though our council says the Midhurst Plan could result in $100M in lawsuits if cancelled, they must do more than stick their head in the sand and ignore the real plight they are bringing to our wonderful township. They agreed to serve us. If the job is too tough or if they lack the courage, step aside and let someone with some guts move our township in a progressive and well planned manner. The current council is rudderless and we are moving into the storm of the century unlike anything the township has ever experienced. We the electorate need to speak up and put real pressure on 5 of our council members. Only Hanna and Ritchie seem to take their responsibilities seriously and appear to be willing to take the heat to do what is right. The rest seem to like the profile but not the responsibilities that go with the job. As Ritchie said, “if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen”.

I think that is enough for this article and I encourage you to ask questions and get your own answers from our elected representatives. I am of the opinion that there needs to be more diligence as the township proceeds with the most unwanted and most costly venture it has ever encountered. The Midhurst mega developments have the potential of saddling the next few generations of Springwater-ites with the highest taxes imaginable. Most of this council seem to be of the same mindset as the provincial and federal governments who are now faced with the reality that the debt they have accumulated will never be paid.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Midhurst Mega Development Open House

For those both opposed to or in support the Mega Development of up to 10,000 homes in Midhurst, put this on your calendar. All residents in Springwater Township should attend this as it is the beginning of the end for our rural way of living.

Wednesday, October 23rd
Simcoe County Museum
1151 Highway 26, Minesing
6:00 to 9:00 p.m.
The Midhurst Landowners Group invite you to a Community Information Evening.
We are the landowners – Geranium Corporation and RoseAlliance, on whose properties part of the future of Midhurst will be built.
We want to ensure that Midhurst grows in the best interests of those already here and in the best interests of those families and businesses yet to come. We are dedicated to preserving what’s best about Midhurst.
Come out and see the draft plans of subdivision and zoning by-laws, which implement the approved Midhurst Secondary Plan (OPA 38). Ask questions. Get answers.
Come hear about:
• Community design principles guiding the plans, including sustainability and smart growth.
• Planned parks, trails, and schools.
• Plans to protect the natural environment and water quality.
• Housing to meet the needs of all ages.
• New jobs to be created in construction and building supply industries.
• New revenues and development charges to reduce the tax burden on existing households.
• Expanded tax based to fund schools and parks.
The evening will include a short presentation on community design vision and philosophy followed by an open house format, which will provide an opportunity for one-on-one discussions.
All Welcome.