Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My View – Mr. Webster, PLEASE!

I read with interest Councillor Webster’s passionate article in the April 10 edition of Springwater News on his perception on why this council had no control of what is happening with policing costs, development and so on. I am sure he believes what he says is true as I don’t believe he has any deep rooted ulterior motives.
He says this council inherited many existing files for the Midhurst Secondary Plan (MSP). He also says it is the biggest and most complex in Springwater at this time. No disagreement here.
As far as his list of questions that was posed to the high priced Township Lawyer, I will truncate Webster’s answers and then provide comment.
1.      Is it legally Possible for this Council to stop the MSP? Legal answer, “Yes”. I agree and therefore charge that this council has failed in its responsibility to the constituents to take even one step to stop it. As a matter of fact they bailed out last September and passed a resolution not to revisit or even attempt amendments to the MSP. I believe this position borders on negligence on the part of our elected officials. Definitely not practicing due diligence.
2.      What would be the expected result of a yes vote to stop it? Legal answer, “You could expect a substantial lawsuit”. My answer, maybe. Remember the Midhurst Study Area was never planned to be home to a new city of 30,000 as attested to by former councillors that signed affidavits confirming such. The fact remains that until the development community lobbied the province and the province enacted a special rule, the MSP as it currently exists could not proceed. The only reason the lobbyists succeeded in a special rule was that Webster and this council supported the building of this city by sitting on their hands and doing nothing to stop it. If they had objected, the MSP would have been revised to make it fit the new policies that were established in 2005 and 2006, long before the MSP was approved.
3.      What would you predict the size of the lawsuit to be? Legal answer. “In the neighborhood of $100,000,000”. The basis of this rather unsubstantiated response is that the developers plan to spend that much on infrastructure. Well at this point there is nothing built, so I am not sure why such an astronomically number was used except to frighten those in opposition. It worked very well as a resolution was passed to stop further discussion or modifications to the MSP. The resolution was supported by five of the council including Webster. Only Councillors Hanna and Ritchie objected. Hanna and Ritchie in my view are the only ones at that meeting that stood up for the rights of the 18,000 people in Springwater.
4.      What would be the likelihood of the township winning? Legal answer, “I cannot imagine any legal argument which would be a win for Springwater”…”. Not to be flippant, I would get a second opinion. The simple arguments are that prior to the “special rule” the developments would not be permitted. I would start there and ask for the legal opinion. This council simply passed the resolution to close the door on discussion of the MSP and blindly hope everyone will forget about it by Oct 27th , the municipal election date.
5.      What would be the cost to the taxpayers to defend such a suit? Legal answer, “…Legal fees in the millions”. If the rezoning of the land goes through, which is now at the OMB, and the developers start their construction, the answer is correct. But remember we are only in this position because of the lack of control and direction from this council. They are the architects of this very unpleasant situation. They have failed to live up to the expectations of the electorate. They have done much more damage and put us in a much more precarious situation than the previous council. That council was rejected for not following the will of the people.
Webster seems to blame the province for this mess. The province in fact put special policies in place for Simcoe County, as planning and development was being done so poorly. The province’s intent was to protect us from this unwanted intrusion of urban sprawl on our small communities. However they were also cognizant of the fact that the local municipalities should have a say in their future. This council is that “say”.
We have the MSP, not because of provincial policies but, because this council caved into the wishes and pressure from a small group of landowners and developers. Yes it started in the last term, but has been greatly altered in this term. Prior to this council, even the County objected to the development and stated it did not meet the policies. Why did it change? Because this council agreed to advance the concept of a mega city. This council, except for Hanna and Ritchie, did not stand up for the residents that will be negatively impacted by changing what today is a rural agriculture based municipality and small settlement areas  into another urban sprawl city with all it’s social, economic and environmental issues.
Mr. Webster, I had great hopes for you when elected. You showed some bright spots in the first year of your term. Since then it appears that you have fallen into the “same old” trends of the last two councils. You, with your current position, “It is not my fault” is not reassuring to me as a taxpayer in Springwater.

It is time we start studying who will be our elected representatives after Oct 27th. If you are happy with the way things are operating in Springwater and want the “same old”, re-elect those currently on council, but you better be willing to accept the consequences to your pocketbook and the destruction of your rural way of life. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

What are we thinking?

As I observe the jockeying of all the parties that will prosper from the Mega Development plans for Midhurst, it appears that the final decisions are being based on greed not need. The open house by the Midhurst Landowners Group at the County Museum recently was quite impressive, if you like large urban development in a small village.
We all probably know that the Minesing Wetlands is a world renowned extremely sensitive ecosystem. I checked the information posted on the subject. This is what they say:
“Minesing Wetlands, previously known as Minesing Swamp, is a Ramsar boreal wetland in central Ontario, Canada stretching from the western periphery of Barrie to Georgian Bay. It was identified and classified through the International Biological Program. It is "the largest and best example of fen bog in southern Ontario", one of the "most diverse undisturbed wetland tracts in Canada" and is a provincially-significant Area of Natural and Scientific Interest. The term minesing is of Ojibwe origin and means "island", referring to an island located within Lake Edenvale, which encompassed the present-day wetlands and surrounding areas.
The swamp’s hydrology "provides for an interconnected network of swamps, fens, bogs and marshes". It acts as a reservoir that absorbs floodwater during spring thaw, from which a slow and steady flow is released throughout the summer into the Nottawasaga River system. This also prevents spring flooding of Wasaga Beach.
Approximately 39 square kilometres (15 sq mi) of the 60 square kilometres (23 sq mi) is owned or managed by the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority. The remainder is owned by the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Simcoe County, and private landowners. It straddles the three townships of Clearview, Essa and Springwater.
It provides habitat to over 400 plant species, of which 11 are provincially rare. Minesing Wetlands is an important staging area for thousands of migratory waterfowl, and is the largest wintering ground for white-tailed deer. It supports numerous plant species which are at the extremities of their natural range, including those indigenous to the arctic tundra in the north and the Carolinian forests to the south, and is home to the "largest pure stand of silver maple in the province". Provincially-rare birds indigenous to the swamp include the Blue-winged Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler and the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.
Simple question. How can any Environmental Assessment Study (EA) not include the impact on this sensitive system? Currently the Midhurst EA 3 and 4 study is to look only at the effluent discharge impact on Willow Creek. Hello! The Willow Creek drains into the Minesing Wetlands which connects to the Nottawasaga River which discharges at Wasaga Beach and into Georgian Bay. Why do these new EA studies not include everything that ultimately will be negatively affected by the discharge of two million litres a day?
Ask your council why they are not taking a more proactive role in protecting an entire ecosystem. This council could take a lesson from Southgate Township who recently passed a motion to tell the large Greed Energy developers of the unsightly Wind Farms that they are unwelcome.
We need a council that listens to the people and responds to our definition of self-determination. On October 27th this year, you will be able to make a choice on who you want representing your local needs. It is your chance to select a council that will push back the approval of the development of a new city in Midhurst that has a very good chance of destroying a sensitive ecosystem.

The township is at a pivot point. Get involved and protect the natural habitat of the many species found in the Minesing Wetlands. Once it is gone, there will be no turning back. Find out who is running for the various positions on council and ask them the challenging questions. It is not too late to reverse the dangerous course that this and the last council have initiated.