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Downtown Hillsburgh residents to consider tapping into town water

by Mike Robinson

ERIN - Residents on Trafalgar Road in downtown Erin may soon get a chance to discuss municipal water hook-ups.

On Oct. 18, planner Sally Stull spoke of the ongoing work at the Exchange Hotel in Hillsburgh. Proponents are moving towards a condominium application. At this point, it appears to be for four commercial units and seven residential units above them.

Stull said they were told the building would need to be connected to municipal water. Since then, the property directly north of the Exchange Hotel was purchased.

The hope is to put four residential units on that site as well. That would mean 16 units, with a commercial and residential mix.

However, Stull cited a situation across the road, where there was a fire several months ago. That home encroached onto the road allowance.

It was an old house, and Stull believes there were issues with the foundation as well. The rubble must be removed before another house is built.

Stull said applicants have a plan for a larger house.

“But as a result of the design work it’s been discovered there are a significant number of problems in the area.”

The old home had a dug well.

If the owners want to drill a well, the property has a soakaway septic bed and they cannot meet current regulations. In addition, anything new built would have to be 100 feet from any existing dug well.

A new septic system would not be allowed at all.

She cited a number of properties in downtown Hillsburgh that face similar situations where there are dug wells and soaker septic pits. Those conditions, Stull said, would affect drilling wells or replacing septic systems.

She said those conditions are common along that stretch of Trafalgar Road.

Stull said 109 Trafalgar (the Exchange Hotel) is willing to install a water main connecting its property with the municipal water systems.

Typically, the fee would be paid by one party to bring in the water main and others would pay for connections to that line.

Stull said with a number of properties encumbered by their current wells, the thought was to go to the public - with council’s direction - to hold a meeting about a local area improvement charge that could connect them to that line.

Stull said the intent is to extend the invitation to Church Street, a natural connection, and to George Street as well.

Councillor Barb Tocher asked if that meant the owners of 112 Trafalgar cannot build because they cannot get a septic system because of the wells on either side.

Stull said the owners could pay to drill a well on a neighboring property, but still would not be allowed to have septic.

With dug wells and soakaway septic systems, “I think the ultimate situation is that most people would want to be on town water - given the situation.”

Stull said councillors may be surprised at the public interest in the proposal. She added if nearby property owners have been considering property improvements, “They are aware they can’t do anything.”

Stull said preliminary estimates indicate if the project proceeds it appears the cost would be less than $10,000 per dwelling.

Tocher said wells on the west side of Trafalgar and heading north are mostly dug, and the water is not very good.

“Many people in the area have not been drinking well water for a long time,” she said.

Council was warned the cost is based on frontage - not per unit.

Tocher said council could enter into an agreement with residents to split costs according to the number of units - if the residents agree.

Director of finance Sharon Marshall warned council to be careful what the fees are called and said there are options available to the town.

Stull said while there may be a perception people do not want town water, there may be a different opinion when specific people are asked that same question - especially those who have long-term plans for a property but are encumbered by the neighbours’ dug wells.

“It may be of interest to find out if they are interested.”

Stull said she wanted to meet with people to describe the initial stage of what is happening. “We’d been trying to determine if this was doable.”

But even if water could be brought in, Stull was asked how the septic issue can be addressed.

She said considering the number of dug wells in the area, soaker septic pits might not be the best way to proceed.

Mayor Lou Maieron asked what is in use by other residents of the area.

Stull said the area is old enough that there are not many good records. “There are some records,” she said.

She added for anyone making a change, the only real option would be the installation of holding tanks for septage.

Maieron asked why a new home would not have to meet new requirements.

Stull said if a new home is built to match the size and number of fixtures, it might be allowed to use what is currently in place.

Councillor John Brennan asked what would happen if hook-ups become mandatory.

The difference, Tocher said, is currently there is no waterline in place.

“But the plan is to put one in,” Brennan said.

He said if a line is installed, “and it does not become mandatory to hook in, people are going to crucify you.”

Maieron asked if the costs are dependant on everyone participating in this.

Tocher said if it is designated as a local improvement, there is no choice but to share the costs.

Stull was hopeful that a meeting could be held. She wants to have one as soon as possible because of the proposals. If enough interest is expressed, council can make a decision, she said.

She thinks it will make a difference to people thinking of selling, renovating or improving their properties.

“Right now everybody’s hands are tied with each other’s right now. You might be surprised at the number of people who would see this as solving a number of problems.”

The resolution before council was that a meeting be held for Hillsburgh residents along Trafalgar Road between Mill and Church Streets to discuss the potential of installing a municipal water supply as a local area improvement or another charge. As a result, there would be an opportunity to extend water services to both sides of the street.

In addition, residents of George Street would be invited since there would be the potential of extending water service to that area as well.

“This is just a scoping out meeting,” Maieron said. “I think its a good idea to have the discussion.”



November 4, 2011


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