A dark day for Springwater
Springwater Council Advances Final Steps of Midhurst Secondary Plan
by Bill French
My View – On June 25th of last week there were some special meetings held by the Planning Committee of Springwater Township. As many people know the committee is comprised of the elected officials.
The first meeting at 5:30 was a closed session to discuss the issues and conditions for the zoning of the first 5,000 homes of phase 1 of the Midhurst Secondary Plan.
The second session was an open house scheduled for 6:30 where the revised subdivision plans for the Midhurst Mega Development were presented. There were some minor revisions that had been requested by the township in April and the plans were revised accordingly. There was a minor reduction in the number of homes of about 5%.
A Special Planning Committee Meeting was scheduled for 7:00 p.m. but it was delayed by about 35 minutes as it took longer in the closed session than expected. I guess some councillors were not clicking their heels in tune with the mayor’s wishes. This public meeting, which has put a further spike in the coffin of Springwater’s enviable rural lifestyle, lasted about 20 minutes. There was no question period as is the normal case at Planning Meetings and we all know why. Four members of this council want this project to proceed and have ignored all pleas and reasoning by many in our community. The motion to accept the report was unanimous. Put in a nutshell the report says that the developers have satisfied the concerns of the Township and that they will support the OMB approving the zoning of the lands as applied for. Few people seemed to realize that this was more than receiving a report. It was a final stamp of approval by this council for the Mega Development to proceed. That in my estimation is a dark day for Springwater residents and will be one of the dates we refer back to in years to come where this council approved the destruction of the rural nature of Springwater.
Now for some reality checks. At the present time we have 5 ward councillors that, if evenly spread, represent about 3000 voters each. If Midhurst proceeds, as this council has approved, that will mean there will be about 4 more councillors representing the new population in Midhurst at the completion of the first phase. It could mean another 4 if phase 2 proceeds. Even if we keep the same number of councillors that would mean most councillors will be representing the Midhurst population. How successful will be the pleas be for improvements in the likes of Hillsdale, Elmvale, Minesing, Phelpston and Anten Mills. If you think you are being ignored now, just wait until this Midhurst development proceeds.
One of the last hopes for delaying or revisiting the entire negative environmental impacts of the Midhurst Mega Development I think got scuttled by the Board at a meeting on Friday at the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority. There was another long closed session meeting with some 26 items. A number of councillors, prior to approving the agenda to go into “closed session”, objected and said only 2 to 4 items would meet the requirements of the Municipal Act. But again the Board of the NVCA are the elected officials from the municipalities and many support these large plans. The NVCA had pleaded at the OMB prehearing for the Midhurst zoning that the hearings were premature and should be delayed. The outcome I expect after Friday’s NVCA will be a withdrawal of the objection and “voila”, the OMB will approve the zoning request.
Our elected officials are pawns in the big business of land development and speculators. As we have seen at the various OMB hearings on development issues the landowners and developers spend millions to get approval of “their” interpretation of the laws and policies. It is pretty easy when the local County and municipalities within it lack the experience or wherewithal to challenge these issues.
If you look around the County of Simcoe we see sprawl being permitted, which is contrary to the policies that govern it. And that is simply sad. What is sadder is that few of the elected officials have the courage to take a stand. It is like the school yard bully. Until someone stands up to him, everyone is in fear. But when one person says “enough is enough” the problem quickly resolves itself. We succeeded by challenging the bully responsible for the Site 41 mega-dump, so now we must do the same for Midhurst, Everett and Baxter.
We all need to decide what we want in our local municipalities and elect people that will stand up for the majority rather than the well-financed few.
It’s your choice!
Bill French is a candidate for Mayor of Springwater Township