Despite making an announcement on Monday that has caused deep concern and stress for some residents and politicians in neighbouring Oro-Medonte and Springwater townships, Barrie Mayor Alex Nuttall is doing what he thinks is best for city residents, according to one township official.
“Am I appalled or upset with Mayor Nuttall’s actions? No,” Oro-Medonte Mayor Randy Greenlaw said following the township's regular council meeting on Wednesday, where Nuttall laid out his ‘Proposed Servicing Land Options Oro-Medonte/Barrie’ presentation for council and residents.
“He did what he felt he needed to do as he’s trying to move through the process to get to the end of his objectives," Greenlaw added.
Greenlaw said he would have handled the situation differently, but that’s neither here nor there, and it wasn’t his decision to make.
“I can’t control anyone else’s actions,” he said. “The only thing that matters is does it make sense for our township to enter into a partnership agreement that has been presented. That’s my No. 1 focus.”
Earlier this week, Nuttall announced the city’s plan for a ‘boundary expansion’ at the provincial standing committee on heritage, infrastructure and cultural policy, regional governance and Bill 234. He didn’t specify where those lands were located at the time.
A map showing the city's "study area" has since come to light highlighting some of the land Barrie is interested in for industrial development in Oro-Medonte.
Nuttall's comments on Monday, however, created a flurry of activity in Oro-Medonte and Springwater townships. Officials in both municipalities say they were inundated with calls from residents wanting more information.
Township officials had a difficult time responding as they were basically gagged from commenting because the information they had was received during a closed session of council. Conversations and comments made during closed sessions cannot be discussed publicly.
At yesterday's Oro-Medonte council meeting, Nuttall explained why he made the announcement when he did.
“I’ve communicated since early 2023 pretty well exactly what is on your agenda,” Nuttall told Oro-Medonte council members. “In terms of discussion inside the City of Barrie, we had a confidential motion to discuss this ourselves. Our council voted to make this public. As the chair of council, I did that on Monday.”
As Greenlaw has noted, he says Nuttall did what he thought was best for Barrie, which is his job.
Springwater Township Mayor Jennifer Coughlin has said she was "disappointed” with the approach Nuttall took, but also wants to look past it so her council can fulfil its mandate to its own residents.
“Township of Springwater staff and council will continue to perform a rigorous evaluation on the proposal to ensure that the interests of Springwater residents are considered and remain the highest priority,” she said in a prepared statement issued Tuesday evening.
In her statement, Coughlin confirmed the township has been approached by the City of Barrie regarding its desire for a boundary adjustment in various locations along the Barrie-Springwater border, as well as shared servicing. What land that includes, specifically, has not been made public.
“As of now, no commitments have been made and no agreements have been established,” she said.
According to Nuttall, the City of Barrie is in dire need of land that would be suitable for large-scale manufacturing.
“As we’ve been going around Barrie, walking through different manufacturers, learning about what they do and how they do it and what they need to become more competitive, we constantly hear two things back,” Nuttall said in an interview with BradfordToday and InnisfilToday following his presentation to Oro-Medonte.
“One is we don’t have enough land to expand and grow, and number two (is) we don’t have enough workforce to fill the jobs we need," he added.
Nuttall says Barrie needs space to grow as a community and it needs space to bring in jobs from outside the region.
Greenlaw, meanwhile, agrees the area needs more jobs, but he doesn’t think the location Barrie is considering is the right one.
“Barrie could simply amend its official plan, reallocating its industrial development to those undeveloped lands to the south,” he said.
More than a decade ago, the Barrie-Innisfil Boundary Adjustment Act handed over 5,600 acres of Innisfil land to Barrie along the city's southern border. That provincial legislation took effect on Jan. 1, 2010. Much of that land still remains undeveloped to this day, although several projects continue to move along in various stages.
Springwater council is expected to discuss Barrie’s boundary expansion proposal at its meeting on Nov. 15. That meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Springwater Township Administration Centre, located in Midhurst at 2231 Nursery Rd.