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Springwater council says it's time to 'drive the bus' on boundary talks

Special meeting of township council scheduled for next week to discuss City of Barrie's proposed boundary expansion
2018-07-27 Springwater Township admin RB
The Springwater Township administration building in Midhurst. Raymond Bowe/BarrieToday

It wasn’t the most idyllic route to take, but in the end all seven members of Springwater Township council voted to “drive the bus.”

The ride Wednesday night started out rough when Coun. Brad Thompson threw cold water on a recommendation from the township’s director of planning and development to issue a request for proposal (RFP) to “seek input from qualified professions, including, but not limited to, demographers, economists, engineers and planners, to provide a locally focused growth management model to determine opportunities for expansion beyond established ‘settlement area’ boundaries.”

The recommendation came out of a report that was requested by council at its May 1 meeting. 

At that meeting, Springwater council voted against participating in any meeting with a provincial land facilitator regarding the City of Barrie’s boundary expansion proposal until it received a staff report that gave them the information they thought they needed to make an informed decision.

“It’s time for us to stop wasting taxpayer money, stop spending time on these things and get in the room with a provincial land facilitator and work out something that’s reasonable and beneficial to all parties,” Thompson said.

Sensing fireworks on the horizon, Springwater Mayor Jennifer Coughlin tried a conciliatory approach.

“I’m still going to try, for myself anyway, to separate what’s being asked here from the negotiations with the City of Barrie,” she said. “I think the request, growth and economic viability within the township, is something I think is simply a responsibility of us.”

Coughlin said now that the Midhurst Secondary Plan, which was the township's focus for many years, has come to fruition, what’s next?

She didn’t wait for anyone else to respond.

“While I agree that there are opportunities that are continually brought forward to us, I find us to be almost reactionary to those,” the mayor said. “I think that it is absolutely the responsibility of this municipality to come up with and design and lead.

“Drive the bus, not get run over by it.”

As for the negotiations with Barrie, she acknowledged they are moving ahead, but she doesn’t want the RFP and the negotiations with Barrie to be tied together.

“I don’t think that us going out and defining our future is in reaction to what’s happening from Barrie and the province,” Coughlin said. “Regardless of whether that was happening or not, this is the responsible path forward.”

The mayor asked Deputy Mayor George Cabral if the special meeting he was proposing was specific to negotiations with the City of Barrie.

“That would be specific to what our position is going to be and hopefully at that meeting we will be able to come to some consensus,” Cabral answered. “I don’t see us bartering with the City of Barrie, to be quite honest with you, and I’m looking at Coun. Thompson.

“I see us reaching out to the province and showing the province that Springwater Township is not only capable but willing to address every need the province pushes our way,” the deputy mayor added.

For 90 minutes, council debated — sometimes hotly — the merits of the recommendation to issue an RFP, which staff estimated would cost between $100,000 and $150,000, based on a similar one being done in New Tecumseth.

“Going forth with such a study, what we would be looking at is, we have our settlement area boundaries, but are there areas within the boundaries, and maybe just outside the boundaries, that could be developed sooner, in a more responsible and sequential manner,” Doug Herron, Springwater’s director of planning and development, told council.

“I think the underlying tone of the entire report is this is a good thing. It allows us to sit down and look at our own future and devise policies for growth for our own future," he added. 

Herron said the study would help the township devise its own internal structure and how it would build the township organization itself to meet that growth so it's ready for it and not simply try to respond to it all the time.

“That’s the benefit,” he said. 

Herron included the recommendation in the report ‘Potential Future Options and Areas for Growth and Economic Viability within the Township’.

His direction from council was to:

  1. Identify potential areas for increased residential and industrial development beyond current settlement area boundaries  
  2. Explore potential locations for ‘special economic zones’ where collaboration with neighbouring municipalities may be realized
  3. Evaluate current municipal cross-border servicing agreements across Ontario
  4. Consider collaboration with the County of Simcoe regarding a regional water and wastewater infrastructure model that would support further development of employment land.

At the end of the night, council voted unanimously to issue the RFP.

The special meeting of council has been scheduled for Thursday, May 23 beginning at 4:30 p.m. at the township's administration centre on Nursery Road.

Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Wayne Doyle covers the townships of Springwater, Oro-Medonte and Essa for BarrieToday under the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI), which is funded by the Government of Canada
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