ERIN – An Erin resident has started a petition calling for a referendum on the town’s proposed wastewater treatment facility.
Adrian Piccolo launched a petition on change.org in early May and already has 260 signatures.
“I am not for or against [the wastewater treatment facility],” Piccolo said in an interview on May 13.
“I’m against that it appears the mayor and council are not listening to the people of Erin.”
Piccolo moved to Erin two years ago and acknowledged he does not know all the background on the facility.
But he can see from reports on the town’s website that it goes back at least as far as 2014, “and the mayor was elected in 2014. This has been his agenda from Day 1.”
Piccolo said the project seems to be moving forward in secrecy and he asked Mayor Allan Alls in January to form a citizen committee to provide input on the project.
“It could have citizens, councillors, people from the water company… He shut it down,” Piccolo said.
His petition calls for a referendum.
“The residents needs (sic) to make the final decision for this plan as a collective,” the petition reads.
“A small group of secretive counsellors (sic) and the mayor cannot be the only ones to make a decision that will effect (sic) every tax paying person in the Town of Erin. We elected them and deserve to be heard.
“The issue of the Town of Erin’s wastewater plan must be put to a referendum.”
“We don’t rule by referendum,” Alls said in a subsequent interview. “As for being secretive. We have been open and thorough.”
Erin is the largest community in Ontario without a wastewater treatment system.
All homes and businesses have their own septic tanks they have to empty, repair and replace at their own expense.
If the Town of Erin is to grow – as spelled out in provincial Places to Grow legislation – it’s critical to have a wastewater system and to get rid of private septic tanks, said Alls.
“People want to move here. Homes are still selling, even now,” he said.
Eventually there will be a cost to homeowners to hook up to the system and that cost is still unknown.
It could be anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 per home. But right now, the brunt of the expense will be shouldered by developers, who can’t begin to build subdivisions without the wastewater infrastructure.
The plan began in 2005 with changes to the Official Plan, Alls said, where land on the town’s borders was designated for future growth.
Developers were keen to get building, but council of the day dragged its heels on infrastructure, he noted.
“There were committed developers, but council refused to deal with them,” Alls said.
Since 2014, there has been public consultation, he said, the plan has gone through environmental testing and has been approved by Credit Valley Conservation and by the Ministry of the Environment.
On May 5, council awarded a contract to WSP Canada Group Ltd. to design the wastewater treatment facility. The $1.5 million cost will be paid for by the developer.
“It is important to remember that development will be paying for development, including the costs of the wastewater treatment plant and main trunk lines,” reads a statement from the town.
“We will only be moving forward with servicing the existing community when we have secured funding from the provincial and federal governments.”
Alls acknowledged the process has been long and can be difficult for citizens to keep up with.
And parts of the process – those involving legal discussions and the purchase of property, for example – must be handled in closed council sessions.
Alls said negotiations on purchasing property for the wastewater facility are underway.
“We are working on it,” he said.
As for environmental concerns, Alls said releasing treated effluent into the Credit River is far more beneficial to the environment than the current system, with some 5,000 septic tanks in various states of repair or disrepair.
“The septic tanks will eventually pollute the river,” he said.
In the end, the wastewater treatment system will attract new businesses, there will be increased stock of mixed housing, and controlled growth in the town, Alls said.
“This is a long-term project and we’re committed to moving ahead,” he added.
For his part, Piccolo estimates eight out of 10 citizens of Erin are not in favour of the wastewater facility and council needs to hear those voices.
“I’m not necessarily against it, but do it properly and do it with the approval of the people in town,” Piccolo said.
“I hope with enough signatures, council and the mayor will realize this needs to be addressed.”