November 16, 2016

Erin to remain small despite nearby growth

The Wellington County population is expected to rise by 38% and hit 132,000 within 20 years – an increase of 36,195 residents. The Town of Erin, however, will only have to absorb a small share of the influx.
Figures in a report from Wellington County about proposed changes to the Official Plan (contained in the agenda of the April 5 agenda of Erin Town Council) show that the Town population is currently estimated at 12,365.
Even with possible wastewater servicing, the Erin population is expected to rise by only 2,995 residents (up 24%) by 2036. Total households would increase by 1,070 to a total of 5,185 (up 26%) and total local jobs would rise by 1,450 (up 38%)
Projections for rural growth have been scaled back in recent years, and now only 910 new residents are expected outside of Erin village and Hillsburgh, up 11% by 2036. Rural residents would still be the majority at 8,860.
The urban areas will have higher growth, with 2,850 new residents, up 47% to a total of 6,500. This is in spite of an Assimilative Capacity Study (ACS) on the West Credit River that currently limits the number of urban residents on sewers to 6,000.
 “We’re not talking about a massive amount of growth,” said Councillor Jeff Duncan at the April 19 Council meeting.
“Erin is still going to be a small municipality, surrounded by larger municipalities. It is more or less the same sort of community that we have now, that is growing, but the surrounding municipalities are growing at a much larger rate. We’re still going to be a smaller, rural service centre.”
Milton provides the most extreme comparison, with a population that has tripled in 15 years to over 100,000, and is expected to hit 230,000 in the next 15 years (up 130%). Halton Hills could go from 59,000 in 2011 to over 92,000 (up 56%) in the same period.
In Wellington, by 2036, Rockwood is expected to grow by only 1,125 (up 22%), but Fergus is expected to add 13,805 residents (up 92%) and Elora to add 4,515 residents (up 60%).
“We don’t want to grow like a Milton or a Caledon, but those numbers might be light, so I’m hoping these things can be reassessed every five years,” said Councillor Matt Sammut.
“We may get some [wastewater] technology that says all of a sudden our growth can actually double, so we could go up five or six thousand, which is potentially good – we have a lot of land mass, plus we can have a lot of severances. Obviously it helps our tax base over time. So as long as the flexibility is there, hopefully we’ll find the right mix for the community.”
Mayor Al Alls said, “These are numbers they throw against the wall. They are sort of fixed, but it doesn’t take a whole lot to modify them.”
Erin’s growth is partially limited by the ability of the West Credit River to absorb treated effluent from a proposed wastewater treatment plant. The current Environmental Assessment is studying treatment technologies.
The County will not provide separate population projections for Erin Village and Hillsburgh “until the Town of Erin Council determines how much growth will go to each community and how much growth will be serviced by municipal water and wastewater and/or partial services [Town water with private septics].”