Springwater council sent a direct message to the City of Barrie and its planned boundary expansion into the township. Not interested.
Springwater council voted unanimously Wednesday night to “terminate discussions" with Barrie "regarding the city’s proposal for boundary adjustments and cross-border servicing.”
Council also approved that a letter be sent to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing advising it of the termination.
Under a gag order for the past week and a half, Springwater councillors finally had the opportunity to share what they think of Barrie’s boundary expansion plan, which would see more than 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) of Springwater land change hands.
“I can firmly say Barrie’s proposition presents no benefits to us as a municipality and our citizens,” said Coun. Phil Fisher.
Coun. Anita Moore said any relationship with Barrie would be “a one-sided arrangement that threatens the future of our township as a complete entity.”
Coun. Danielle Alexander said what’s been proposed isn’t the partnership some would make it appear.
“(Barrie) Mayor (Alex) Nuttall has spoken about a partnership. Let’s be clear, this isn't a partnership. This is the City of Barrie wanting our land,” Alexander said. “I do not support Mayor Nuttall and I do not support moving forward with any type of further discussion with the City of Barrie.”
Deputy Mayor George Cabral agreed.
“I would move that the Township of Springwater withdraw completely from any further discussions or negotiations with the City of Barrie regarding the proposal presented by Mayor Alex Nuttall regarding a proposal of a boundary adjustment change as presented to Springwater council,” he said.
On Nov. 6, Nuttall presented to the standing committee on heritage, infrastructure and cultural policy during a meeting in Barrie. He provided the committee with an update on Barrie’s housing targets and highlighted why the city requires additional employment land so more residents can have jobs closer to home.
According to Nuttall, the City of Barrie is in dire need of land that would be suitable for large-scale manufacturing and industrial development. He said Barrie needs space to grow as a community and it needs space to bring in jobs from outside the region.
Nuttall said the city was eyeing industrial land outside its municipal borders for the purpose of job creation.
It soon came to light that Barrie was looking at a large tract of land to the northeast in neighbouring Oro-Medonte, near Highway 400 and Highway 11, as well as three parcels of land in Springwater along the city's western border, near Midhurst and around Little Lake.
The township mayors were initially unable to respond. Both cited confidentiality because the information they had was received during a closed session of council and they said they were prohibited from discussing those matters.
Oro-Medonte council has since said it is "not comfortable" with the boundary request from the City of Barrie.
Wednesday night’s meeting was Springwater council’s first opportunity to address Nuttall’s comments publicly.
“When you have one person in a partnership who is looking to present things individually and not as a team, it’s difficult to move forward,” said Springwater Township Mayor Jennifer Coughlin.
Alexander had similar concerns.
“If we are going to enter into a partnership, it has to be a mutually beneficial one that has a long-term vision of how the Township of Springwater can continue to grow our tax base to service our infrastructure without turning over our land,” she said.
“Let’s be clear, the term 'boundary adjustment' is just a more palatable way of saying we’re giving our land to Barrie," Alexander added.