October 17, 2012

Solmar buys 10th Line farm for sewage treatment

As published in The Erin Advocate

Solmar Development Corp has purchased land in Erin for a sewage treatment plant to service its new subdivision, even before submitting a development proposal to the Town.

The land is on the west side of the 10th Line, north of the intersection with Wellington Road 52 (Bush Street). The West Credit River runs through the land, crossing the 10th Line at a point 1.6 km south of the proposed subdivision.

"This site has long been cited as the best and most central location for a WWTP (Waste Water Treatment Plant)," said Solmar Planner Maurizio Rogato. "Several town and CVC (Credit Valley Conservation) reports have confirmed its preferred location."

Solmar is pressing ahead with plans for commercial, industrial and residential growth on 300 acres in the north part of Erin village, between Dundas Street and County Road 124. The company was planning to officially submit its development proposal on Tuesday this week (after The Advocate went to press). It was widely expected to request approval for construction of more than 800 homes.

Town Planner Sally Stull considers the application "premature", since no new subdivisions can be built until the Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (SSMP) is done. Solmar wants to have the extensive approval process run concurrently with the SSMP.

Provincial policy requires that new subdivisions have sanitary sewers. Solmar is prepared to build a small modular plant to service its project, and has also offered to allocate some sewage capacity for downtown businesses and enable it to handle septage (septic tank pumpings). The Town would take over the plant and could add capacity to eventually service most of Erin village and Hillsburgh.

"Solmar had the option of installing a modular facility on its development lands (north of Dundas Street), but this was a short sighted approach and did not account for a long term vision and/or public interest of the Town," said Rogato. "Therefore, with proper consultation at the CVC, the best candidate site was chosen."

The river crossing near the proposed plant is less than 500 metres from homes on the 10th Line near Pine Ridge Road and on Bush Street, and about 700 metres from homes on Aspen Court.

There is also a home nearby on the purchased property, which includes both farmland and wooded areas, but the actual location of the plant on the land has not been determined. Belfountain is about 4 km downstream. The sewage plant would have its own Environmental Assessment, with extensive input from the public and CVC.

"The process for obtaining approval of the WWTP will need to study alternatives," said Rogato. "We are very respectful of the process and for this reason, we have not communicated this site loudly, but we will instead engage in the proper process."

The 10th Line area had been identified in the 1990s as a possible plant site, when Erin village and CVC studied the sewage issue. Solmar has said it will treat the wastewater to whatever level of purity is required, but CVC has still not determined the river's capacity to handle the flow from a plant.

Treated discharge would enter the river where it has maximum water flow, since two tributaries join the river just east of the downtown area. Unlike Orangeville, however, Erin has no reservoir on the river to help maintain water flow during low periods.

"They are being smart in securing this spot," said Mayor Lou Maieron, though he remains frustrated that the SSMP is taking much longer than expected.

"It is the ideal location," said former mayor Rod Finnie, who has researched various treatment options. "Solmar is trying to push the Town. We need to make sure the technologies are proven."

The recently purchased land is outside the village's urban boundary and is protected from housing development by the province's Green Belt legislation, said Finnie, and so was not likely of interest to other developers.

"The purchase is actually a good thing, in my opinion, if the SSMP and Council determine that a sewage treatment plant is the way to go forward," said Stull.

"Having a preferred location already purchased for that purpose, by the developer, moves things ahead quickly," she said.

"With the physical location issues out of the way the financial issues for the Town would be how all the 'offsite/in road' infrastructure gets connected and paid for, to service the existing urban areas in the most affordable manner for existing residents."

Town Council has made no decisions on the subdivision, treatment plant or general sewage system. Recommendations from the SSMP are expected this winter.

Maieron said the challenge for town council is how to make sure that the Solmar development fits well with the existing community. He doubts that there would be the political will to force existing residents to hook up to an expanded sewage system.