I attended the OMB prehearing for the rezoning of the lands in the Midhurst Mega development on July 3rd. As expected it was a lovefest with the developers, lawyers and planners singing the praises of the new proposed City of Midhurst and its potential 30,000 residents. I estimate the costs for the high paid and extremely well prepared professional talent was about $30,000 for the day, paid for by the landowners and development community. No one was present to protect the interests of Springwater residents except for the Midhurst Ratepayers Association who took the position of a Participant at the hearing. Our high paid Springwater staff were window dressing and did not comment on behalf of you and me. As mentioned in my last article, because of pressure from the NVCA Board, which is comprised of our local elected officials that favour development, the NVCA have now changed their original position that the hearings were premature and opened the door for approval.
Your elected officials will argue that before building will proceed there are a number of conditions that must be met such as Environmental Assessment Studies, Financial Agreements and so forth. On the surface that sounds like reasonable logic. Unfortunately if and when the OMB approves the Mega development zoning, I will bet each of those conditions will be diluted to the extent that the Springwater will be exposed to untold legacy costs. If we had someone leading the Township that understood deal making, you would never do a deal with a party that outguns you until all conditions are approved. There is more than a subtle difference between approving a deal with conditions as opposed to doing a deal where nothing can proceed until all conditions are met. You will quickly see approvals for preliminary infrastructure work and model homes. Once the ball gets rolling, the project becomes more difficult to stop. The good news it can still be stopped if there is a political will.
I almost fell off my chair when I was speaking to one of our councillors about the negative effect that this Midhurst Mega Development will have on all of Springwater. Her reasoning was, “Why should Barrie get all those tax dollars instead of Springwater?” Unfortunately this is the flawed understanding of development charges and new tax dollars. In every fast growing community such as Barrie, Mississauga and Vaughan the DC’s and new tax dollars cover about 75% of actual costs leaving the municipality with increased debt and higher taxes. That is why Barrie has DC’s of about $45,000 per unit and another $4,500 surcharge for development in the annexed lands. Under new leadership, namely Jeff Lehman, they are trying to correct the sins of poor planning over the last 30 years. Currently 10% of your Springwater tax dollars go to debt servicing rather than actual services. I see that quickly growing to the maximum permitted which is 25% if the MSP proceeds. York Region has amassed a 2 billion dollar debt because of this type of reasoning by their elected officials requiring a huge amount of the high taxes going to debt servicing.
The Liberal government set aside all good planning policies by granting the Midhurst Special Rule which allowed the MSP to proceed and only two of our elected officials objected. It will take the same government to reverse the MSP with a new Special Rule which they have full authority to invoke. The MSP contravenes a number of policies in both the Provincial Policy Statement and the Places to Grow legislation. It only approved the Midhurst Special Rule because this council requested the approval and did not provide any objection to the plan. The discussions and maneuvering was all orchestrated behind closed doors.
I would like to correct any misunderstanding about my position on growth in response to a call from one resident that stated I was against progress due to my position on the Midhurst Mega City proposal. As I have said since the 2010 election I fully support needed growth in all of our communities especially jobs. I believe there should be a focus on completion of growth in Elmvale which can support another 400 homes without any significant additional cost for infrastructure. As a matter of fact you would see reduced water and sewage bills as the services would be better utilized. I do not support paving over prime farmland with City sized mega projects such as Midhurst. For the last 25 years we have seen reasonably smart growth in the township before the onslaught of the mega developers. Small developments in Elmvale, Midhurst, Snow Valley, Apto, Minesing, Anten Mills, Fergusonvale, Phelpston and Hillsdale have complimented the community and fit in nicely without destroying the character of the communities. A lot of the labour and services were also provided by local companies. What is proposed for Midhurst is a whole new game. The developer admits they plan to create a model community as they have done elsewhere (whatever that means!)
Oct 27th is quickly approaching. It is your last chance to elect people that will stand up for the majority rather than the well-financed few.
It’s you choice!