• Protecting Water and Farmland in Simcoe County

My view: Midhurst Secondary Plan

In Agriculture
Jun 26th, 2020
Bill and Lorraine French

By Bill French June 25 2012

I was surprised, like many, that Springwater Council has now cleared the way for the mega Midhurst Secondary Plan (MSP) to proceed. ]

It appears that any resistance has now gone by the wayside and the plan to grow Midhurst and area to the size of the City of Orillia while destroying 2,000 acres of the best farmland in the Township is in play.

It would appear that over the next 20 years the entire area around Midhurst from Wilson Road in the West to The Old Second in the East (borders 400) will be in constant construction and turmoil. It is interesting that Ontario’s Growth Plan policy of 2006 discouraged urban sprawl of this magnitude on unserviced land with no existing infrastructure.

The Provincial Plan had merit, as the desire was to protect agricultural land and natural heritage such as forests and streams. It would also reduce the need for more infrastructure in a world of huge Infrastructure deficits. The County of Simcoe objected when Springwater Council passed the MSP in 2008 as did the Ontario Government both stating that it offended the 2006 policy.

However with the stroke of a pen by then Minister Chairelli, in 2011 and 2012 the Midhurst Special Rule was passed that allowed for the development on 400 (about 7800 homes) of the 750 hectares. The County approved the Plan in 2011. Then with another clever provincial move called Population Allocation another 3,000 people (approx. 1,000 homes) was permitted in the Midhurst area.

There is supposed to be a sanity check when there is a build out to 3,850 homes or 11,000 people and am curious when the developers will apply for that to be lifted or rescinded. If they apply, I predict that neither the existing Springwater Council nor the County Council will object, making it a done deal.

To be frank, the landowners and developers, that some perceive as the bad guys, did not create this problem. They, like good business people, in the interests of their shareholders took a risk (Explanation: when they bought the land, there was no opportunity for development because of the 2006 Plan, but they did recognize there was a settlement boundary drawn for long term growth over the next 75 years. With some good salesmanship the policy and interpretation could be blurred).

Certain parties lobbied the province appropriately and succeeded. There is nothing sinister about that. The fault is and has always been with both the Township and County Councils from 2006 to 2012. If you speak to any of them, they all argue that it is progress and you can’t stop progress.

There was a slight pause in the speed of development of the MSP during the 2014 to 2018 Council as the Council asked many questions and expressed many concerns about the development in a constructive manner and as a result some conditions were clarified. I will be curious to see the final Development Agreement and whether this Council included strong language to protect the best interests of us the taxpayer as this mega venture unfolds. Stay tuned.

Delegation of Authority     

I applaud Councillor Anita Moore for tabling a motion that rescinded the “Delegation Authority” bylaw passed in March whereby the CAO was given some legislative power normally restricted to Council for events surrounding COVID-19.

There was also an Emergency Control Group put in play made up of senior staff, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor. At the time, Ms. Moore asked for an example of what that power might entail. Surprisingly, the CAO could not provide an example, but those were trying times so let’s not concern ourselves with that decision.

However during the discussion to rescind the “Delegation of Authority” last week, the CAO made it clear that he made no such decisions under the bylaw and since Council Meetings were conducted by way of the internet, Council was able to engage, debate and make any required decisions.

So my question is, “Why was the Deputy Mayor in a rather superficial argument so adamant about retaining the delegation in place, even though the power had never been used?” You should also ask the Mayor and Ward 3 Councillor why they voted against the motion to rescind.

The good news is that the motion to rescind was passed by a 4 to 3 vote and control is where it is supposed to be. It is back with Council whom we elected to make such decisions. The motion to rescind was supported by Councillors Moore, Cabral , Hanna and Ritchie. They appear to have a better understanding of what leadership is and take their responsibilities seriously.

As residents and taxpayers, it is important to stay vigilant and put pressure on our leaders to think long term and resist the easy route and big money influence.

Bill served as Mayor of Springwater and a County of Simcoe Councillor from 2014 to 2018 and has taught business at the college level for over 15 years.

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