October 23, 2013

Councillors won't answer SSMP questions

As published in The Erin Advocate

Erin Town Councillors were willing to discuss the SSMP and the prospect of new housing development last week, but not to answer tough questions about the confusion surrounding the process and exactly how it will proceed in the coming months.

Shelley Foord from the Wastewater Solutions Working Group of Transition Erin appeared as a delegation, with questions about the Servicing and Settlement Master Plan that were outlined in a Letter to the Editor in last week’s Advocate.

Council authorized SSMP Project Manager Dale Murray to work with the Town lawyer to come up with a written response to the questions, which will later be posted on the Town website.

“Our first question is, ‘Who is in charge of this process?’” said Foord. “This is not meant in any way to be antagonistic, but from a citizen’s perspective, it is hard to tell.”

Transition Erin wants to know why planned work was not done by consultant BM Ross, and whose responsibility it was to monitor the work. They are concerned that the SSMP is proceeding so slowly that the Town may be vulnerable to an Ontario Municipal Board appeal that could “take the options out of our hands”.

They agree with Mayor Lou Maieron, who wants the SSMP done well before the October 2014 municipal election. Murray has been authorized to get additional work done on sewage options, ground and surface water and financial analysis as soon as possible.

Foord also asked whether the action plan suggested last May by Water Superintendent Frank Smedley would be pursued.

The Town and its consultants are waiting for new data from Credit Valley Conservation about the flow of the West Credit River, which will enable calculation of its Assimilative Capacity – how much treated sewage effluent the river can handle. There are other issues, however, which are being discussed now for the first time.

Murray has told council that they should decide the location of future development before the SSMP is complete, not afterwards, even if the exact numbers are not set.

“There’s more land in the urban boundary than assimilative capacity of the river, so everyone can’t build out at the new [provincial] densities, so it’s going to be a difficult decision,” said Maieron.

Councillor Barb Tocher said, “I wouldn’t want any council to make any decisions with less than as complete and accurate information as possible. We would love to see this done during this term, but I wouldn’t want to see this done just to rush it through. I want to see it done properly.”

Councillor John Brennan wants a timeline laid out at the next meeting.

“The scope of whatever growth we might have depends on the assimilative capacity. The location is different. I think we can get the location without necessarily knowing the scope. No matter how you decide, there’s going to be some degree of arbitrariness,” he said.

“Do we exclude Hillsburgh, do we split it evenly between the two urban areas, does Erin get more because it is bigger, does Hillsburgh get more to achieve some kind of parity? I think we should go ahead and work on that.”

He noted that a sewer system would make it practical to subdivide urban properties. He said sewage capacity needs to be reserved for existing homes, then for the infill growth that is required by provincial growth guidelines.

“Whatever is left over is what you have for the developmental growth that we’re looking at,” he said.
Mayor Maieron said it is important to consider the needs of the existing population.

“I don’t think that dialogue with the existing has been carried out that far to say, do you want a plant? What sort of a plant do you want? Who needs it? Who doesn’t need it? Why don’t you want it? What if you got it 15 years from now, would you be more receptive?” he said.

Foord was assured by councillors that the final SSMP report would include a range of practical options, and that the new format of the Liaison Committee would enable its members to put forward their suggestions to council, instead of primarily just receiving information from the consultant.