Council discusses sewage allocation policy

WELLINGTON NORTH – Council here received an update on the township’s sewage allocation policy and authorized the mayor and clerk to sign a bylaw to implement the policy at a future meeting.

A report from director of operations Matt Aston, presented at the March 22 council meeting, explained council reviewed and considered a draft sewage allocation policy in August 2019 in anticipation of the completion of phase one of Arthur Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrade. The upgrade will establish an additional 395 units of sewage allocation for the village.

After review, a bylaw authorizing a new sewage allocation policy was placed in force by council in December 2019. In March 2020, council approved some minor amendments to the sewage allocation policy.

In the latest report, staff recommended some additional revisions to the policy, most significantly changing the scope to apply to in-fill lots from three to 12 units.

Key components of the policy highlighted in the report include:

– requests for sewage allocation units will only be considered by council once a development has achieved draft plan approval, site plan agreement, subdivision agreement, development agreement or similar approvals;

  council will consider all requests received in a given year at a meeting of council before the end of April each year evaluating each project’s merit in light of the sewage allocation available; and

– council will grant up to 15% of the uncommitted sewage allocations per year and the building department will be granted 20 units of the uncommitted sewage allocations, per system, per year for infill lots.

Depending on infill lot activity the building department could request additional allocations from council, the report notes.

“Staff acknowledge that sewage allocation is an important part of the development process which needs to be balanced with council’s vision of controlled future development,” the report states.

Councillor Dan Yake asked if the policy, aimed at keeping development within manageable levels, has resulted in staff coming under pressure from developers.

“With the pressures of development that we’re seeing now and the pressure that we’re going to see in the near future and a little bit further out, how does staff feel? Are staff getting a lot of pressure in regard to this policy and, if so, is it going to continue to be a work in progress issue? Which I’m sure it will be,” said Yake.

“Staff is trying really hard to give pause to council’s direction to staff as it related to kind of controlled development,” said CAO Mike Givens.

He noted developers with large subdivisions planned are not pleased with the policy.

“They’re looking at multiple hundreds of units that they want to develop,” said Givens. “So the idea of 30 units total across Arthur or across Mount Forest … they’re not super excited about the limitation.”

Givens continued, “We’re trying to respect council’s wishes with the policy to give some level of control over how fast both Mount Forest and Arthur grow.

“Is this going to scare off some developers? We don’t know necessarily.”

He also noted local employers are struggling to fill jobs and are pushing for faster development.

“Some of our employers are going to say open the floodgates – what’s the hold up?” he explained.

“We’re paving some new road with the policy and that’s created its own challenges,” Givens told council.

“That means we’ve been back to you guys with some amendments because we want to get it right,” he pointed out.

“If everything that’s on the books … were to go or continue on, we’d be out of sewage allotment almost immediately,” Yake pointed out.

“I think we’re going down the right road. It’s a balancing act, obviously, for staff,” he added.

While agreeing “we would be in a negative position if everything happened tomorrow,” Givens noted,  “We know it’s not going to happen” that fast.

Still said Givens, “There is a lot of potential in terms of growth.”

The CAO said the potential exists for about 1,000 residential units to be built in Arthur “over the next several years. I think it strengthens the case for us to look for ways to control it so we’re not in the position of not issuing any building permits like we were in Arthur for a few years there.”

Councillor Steve McCabe said he agrees development should be controlled.

“I don’t want to run out of allotments in Mount Forest or Arthur and then have 20-plus years where we don’t have any growth at all, as we did in Arthur,” he stated.

“I can’t imagine that development would be scared away” by the limitations, McCabe added, noting the limitations allow the township to keep up with infrastructure improvements to support development.

“We’ve talked a lot of a sewage allocation policy related to infrastructure and our ability to build it to keep ahead of the demand, and that’s important, not trying to minimize that,” said Mayor Andy Lennox.

“I think part of the struggle with this tool is we’re trying to use it for more than just that,” Lennox continued.

“I often get the comment, ‘Well why do we need to grow at all? I love the community the way it is.’”

Lennox added, “Well we do need to take a step back and say, ‘Well, we’ve got some fantastic places to live now and we don’t have to have growth at all to continue to have fantastic places to live and we should all be very proud … of what kind of a community we do have to live in.’

“Growth is not only about the economic side of it. It’s also about the social and cultural side of our community as well. We want our new arriving residents to be able to fit into our community and get involved and be a part of our community,” said Lennox.

“We’ve seen other examples where communities grew too quickly.

“Our first goal has to be to make our community the best it can be because we’ve got a pretty fantastic one to start with.”

The mayor pointed out the pressure staff and council feel from the development community represent only one side of the equation.

“Their economics tell them sometimes that building quicker is better, and that is in conflict with what we’re trying to do, which is make sure the community is, and continues to be, a great place to live,” Lennox stated.

“So if some of the developers have to adjust some of their economics to make it work, then to me that’s completely appropriate because we are doing the things that we believe are right for our community in the long run.”

The mayor said council must be prepared to keep revisiting the topic of growth in order to “make sure we get the right result out of this policy as we go forward.”


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