Tough decisions ahead

For over a decade local councils have been prodded and cajoled by the public about rising taxes.

Increasing residential growth brings in some revenue, but often it is offset by increased costs to service those new homeowners. Sure, development charges help with growth-related capital expenses, but operating expenses inevitably increase with larger demands.

Enter then the notion of industrial and commercial development to drum up revenue without necessarily increasing operating costs. County efforts at economic development and local energies in the same vein have been spent filling up unused industrial parks and green-lighting commercial applications. For the most part it is a win-win, where current development standards have ensured tidy properties that pay double or quadruple that of residential assessment. Jobs for locals are also a major plus.

Now and again though, the goal of attracting new assessment from business comes back to bite councils in the backside. It is without question a no-win scenario sometimes.

Currently, Guelph-Eramosa and Mapleton townships have trouble brewing with applications making their way through the planning process.

For Guelph-Eramosa, Xinyi, a Chinese glass manufacturer, has interest in a parcel of land that has been begging to be developed for decades. Its relative proximity to the 401, access to rail and a well-equipped labour market make it an ideal spot. However, the enormity of the proposition and excessive water-taking needs have raised the ire of local residents.

In Mapleton, a very traditional rural community is now entertaining a proposal for its industrial park to house a marijuana growing facility. Odours and concerns about shifting community values have already been vocalized.

Public meetings are to follow in both cases as the proponents are led through a maze of regulations and applications. The public gets to comment on these things and council will eventually vote to either approve or disallow the projects. Depending on the type of industry, councils can feel like little more than a commenting agency, since the larger picture issues are decided through provincial legislation. It’s an unenviable spot to be in. 

A number of years ago Royal Canin applied to Puslinch Township to build a pet food plant with an office facility. It was billed as a pending disaster by detractors. The township ultimately proceeded in the end and today a prosperous business stands visible from Highways 6 and 401. It employs dozens of people, contributes as it can to community-related activities and pays a significant share of taxes. The experience with Royal Canin has been positive enough to suggest to us that naysayers aren’t always right with gloomy predictions.

Councils, on behalf of residents, must always investigate and study any proposals that will help curb rising taxes and offer employment opportunities for locals. Along with that decision making body, there are many organizations, including the Ministry of Environment, with very stringent standards designed to protect air, noise and water quality. The experts need time to do their job and politicians need to give both sides fair and equal consideration for projects that have community impacts.

Tough decisions lay ahead.