My View: Midhurst Secondary Plan (MSP) Additional Studies
By Bill French Springwater News
Mayor Allen in the last SN edition noted the feedback from the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) in regard to the Part II bump up orders requested by a number of parties that were concerned about the negative impact of the Midhurst Secondary Plan Mega Project.
It is unfortunate that the requests fell on deaf ears but that is not surprising as the development community spends more time lobbying at Queen’s Park than some of the politicians. Springwater was informed by the Ministry that additional individual environmental assessments would not be required for all of the projects proposed in the Midhurst Water, Wastewater & Transportation Class Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Midhurst Secondary Plan (MSP).
That is disappointing.
The MECP however did impose eight conditions on the municipality with respect to the projects planned in the Environmental Assessment. The MECP does require the Municipality to prepare a plan to identify any species at risk that may be adversely affected by the work related to the undertakings in the EA. This plan is to be approved by the Director of Ministry’s Species at Risk Branch and is to be implemented by the Township prior to any work or construction activities.
The Ministry requires an update on the Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly Habitat in the Minesing Wetland and Midhurst Development area. The Township must inform and consult with landowners that may be impacted by source water protection policies, as a result of new municipal wells. These discussions may include potential Risk Management Plans related to source water protection.
The Township must also prepare an Odour Mitigation Plan for the design and operation of any proposed wastewater facilities, which will be part of the Environmental Compliance Approval application. Prior to any construction, including site preparation works, all the conditions listed in the Ministry correspondence must be met. During my term as Mayor, there was discussion on the potential of redoing all the studies for the MSP as the long term environmental, economic and social impacts will simply be devastating to the well being of Springwater.
However since the 2008 Springwater Council and the 2011 County Council gave the go ahead, all the legal advice at the time suggested such an endeavour would meet with expensive resistance and litigation. It seems logical that a current Council should be able to correct the sins of previous Councils but that is not the case unless you have a lot of money to spend to reverse bad decisions of the past. And make no mistake about it, the MSP approval was a bad decision.
However, I see the MCEP order as a positive move and opens the door to a more wholesome look at the matters the MCEP identified in its correspondence. To date all the consultant work for the Midhurst Plan Mega Project (30,000 residents) since 2009 has been undertaken or coordinated by the firm Ainley Group on behalf of the Township as its consulting engineer of record. I don’t question their competence. Since some people express concerns that the lines are blurred between the Township and Developers best interest in these studies, now is the time to bring in some third party independent advice. I would highly recommend that Council request staff to seek other parties to provide the additional reports ordered by the MCEP, so as to eliminate the real or perceived bias by the firm of record.
The reality is that new studies, when conducted by the existing Consultant, have a tendency to ensure new reports either support or compliment existing studies. It is unfortunate that sometimes objectivity and subjectivity get confused in these long and voluminous reports. So for the first time in many years the Township has the opportunity of regaining some control of the future of the Midhurst Secondary Plan without fear of legal wrangling (there will be lots of threats of course) and must do all in its power to try to correct a great wrong that started many years ago.
I for one thank the Ministry for at least taking over a year to review the Environmental Status Report (ESR) that was submitted and acknowledging that there are some major areas of concern that must be addressed before the bulldozers destroy 2,000 acres of the best farmland in Ontario and create more unsustainable urban sprawl.
If you are a resident anywhere in Springwater and if you enjoy our unique and enviable mix of small settlement areas and rolling rural country side, speak out now or the Springwater that might develop in the next ten years will not be a very pretty picture or nice place to live. Speak to your friends in Innisfil and see what they think of the shift from rural landscape to urban sprawl. That’s what Springwater will be if the MSP proceeds.
Bill French served as Mayor of Springwater and Simcoe County Councillor from 2014 to 2018.