June 18, 2014

Limits leave Erin with few growth options

Mayor Lou Maieron continues to heap scorn on Erin’s Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (SSMP), arguing for more housing development that he says would reduce the cost of a sewage system.

Maieron says that after spending $1 million taxpayer dollars (Town and CVC) on the SSMP, residents still do not have “great choices”. Apart from the options of remaining on septic systems or piping sewage elsewhere, the Town is left with building a sewage system, but allowing only about 500 new homes in Erin and Hillsburgh.

In letters to consultant Consultant BM Ross and Credit Valley Conservation (CVC), Maieron says the SSMP’s urban population limit of 6,000 people (4,500 existing, plus 1,500 new), based on the river’s capacity to handle sewage effluent, does not meet Erin’s needs.

The mayor estimates there could end up being only 200 new subdivision homes, after allowance for existing lots, other new “in-fill” construction in existing neighbourhoods, and allowance for treating septage from rural septic tanks. Solmar Developments has applied to eventually build 1,200 homes in Erin village, while Manuel Tavares hopes to build 1,000 in Hillsburgh.

He describes the situation as “virtually no new growth”, resulting in a waste of money and “a number of investors in the Town not very pleased when they realize what this all means, nor will residents be when they realize this means the continuation of high property taxes, water rates and eventually sewer rates.”

A response to his concerns from CVC Chief Administrative Officer Deborah Martin-Downs and Matt Pearson of BM Ross points out that adding 1,500 people to an urban population of 4,500 is 33% growth, regardless of whether the homes are in new subdivisions or existing neighbourhoods.

Maieron prefers the preliminary estimate of the Assimilative Capacity (AC) of the river by BM Ross, which predicted an urban population range of 6,500 to 13,500. At the June 3 council meeting, he said the number had been changed “at the 11th hour and the 58th minute”.

The number was never actually set until this year. John Kinkead of CVC warned at a public meeting in May last year that the final number would be near the low end of the estimated range, and that it could be lowered further to account for climate change. CVC and the Ministry of the Environment demanded more stream monitoring, and after negotiation over the calculation methods, the number was set at 6,000.

The mayor continues to focus on the preliminary range. “A median of 10,000 provided a balanced approach of 50:50, about 4,500 existing and 5,500 new residents which would provide some commercial opportunities and new needed jobs, so creating that live, work and play community that is the vision of good planning. An AC of 6,000 does not do this. Nor does it split the cost of a Sewage Treatment Plant and servicing with a new development. So we are where we started off from – a small bedroom community.”

Martin-Downs and Pearson said the “conservative” limit of 6,000 is a calculation based on MOE effluent criteria, stream flows, and current water quality and usage, and is “not an arbitrary target”.

Maieron asks why an AC study was not done at the beginning of the process, which he says could have been done before 300 acres (now Solmar lands) were added to the urban area ten years ago. He continues to criticize the council decision to add that land, saying there was no planning justification study. He says there was already plenty of land for development, and blames the addition of the 300 acres for triggering the SSMP.

CVC and BM Ross say: “The SSMP is a far more encompassing study that concentrates on issues beyond the servicing of 300 acres. It was to address existing issues, community planning, the environmental situation, and was to look to the 25 year planning horizon in terms of deficiencies and needs identified through the process. The SSMP Study Team has been unable to ascertain the conditions that transpired to allow the inclusion of the 300 acres into the urban boundary without a preliminary ASC study or a planning justification study or a municipal comprehensive review study.”