Housing studies reviewed by South Bruce CLC

·5 min read

TEESWATER – Dave Rushton, project manager for the South Bruce Nuclear Exploration Team, and Allen Webster, director of regulatory affairs and environmental assessment at the NWMO, were back at the South Bruce Community Liaison Committee (CLC) meeting on June 2 to present the recently released studies on housing and land use, “with or without the project.”

Also discussed was the emergency planning zone.

While the studies estimate a “relatively modest” need for increased housing with the addition of the DGR project, they also reveal what is already a well-known fact in the region – there aren’t enough houses to go around.

A press release from South Bruce said, “The studies show that natural population growth will increase the demand for housing even without the project.”

The settlement boundary in South Bruce “may need to be expanded about five years sooner if the project were to be built. That would move the timeline forward to 2041 instead of 2046.”

The consultants spoke about the need for rental housing, saying approximately 82 per cent of the current homes in the core study area – which focuses on municipalities of South Bruce, Huron-Kinloss, Brockton, Morris-Turnberry and North Huron – are owner-occupied dwellings.

The need for more high-density housing was discussed.

Regarding a timeline, the consultants spoke about the first wave of workers, if the NWMO chose South Bruce for the project, and how the municipality could provide temporary housing for them. Hopefully, they would love living in the region, bringing their families, and building a permanent home.

Webster said, “This is part of that multifaceted strategy that goes along with workforce development… it’s a strategy that makes sense, we would have to do a lot of work to work out the details, but it’s got some legs to it.”

Rushton spoke about how the municipality could attract people to the area, saying a good social media campaign advertising jobs could provide good results.

“I think that’s a big part of it, that we’re going to have those jobs… offering people both a community to work in, as well as a community to live in, and a great community to raise your family.”

Rushton spoke about the lack of housing, saying Bruce County would revisit this, but “really the preferred approach is that we want to have people from the community come and work in the community.”

Calling it growth within the community, he said, “I know it may not sound like growth, but when a person wants to retire from a four-bedroom home, and they only want to downsize, that creates growth because you have to build a two-bedroom house for them to downsize to. “

Rushton again stated that folks retiring from the workforce or farming would move into urban areas and be willing to give up their larger homes to make way for younger families.

This “also creates opportunity for the families that are moving into the community to fill those houses and it gives the people that are retiring somebody to come in and buy their house as well.”

Rushton said this is a common practice in Bruce County to see people moving away from their farms, “as we’ve seen for many generations.”

Rushton said that both direct and indirect jobs are expected to impact the housing market.

“Indirect jobs will be throughout the community; often in existing areas where we have empty stores, we have empty businesses, we can fill those up. And we can add more staff to our existing businesses to help their business flourish,” he said.

“The Land Use Study showed that there is sufficient space for the project’s above ground facilities. Amendments to the County Official Plan and South Bruce’s zoning bylaw will likely be needed to permit it as a land use,”

Additionally, “No changes to land use would be required for an emergency planning zone, which would be established to guide emergency response planning.”

Watson spoke about the preparations for the nuclear emergency planning zone.

He explained that the emergency planning zone is a standard procedure of the provincial government for activities.

“If you have a natural gas plant or a chemical plant, you might have an emergency planning zone… people in that area might need to be evacuated,” Watson said.

“For the purposes of the studies, we created an emergency planning zone based on the definition that the CDC has given,” added Watson, referring to his prepared slides that show a large “zone.”

“It won’t be this big at the end of the day because once we get into our safety analysis, in the future, and we understand exactly how far, you know, if we should have an event at the site, how far the radiation can go, you know it’ll become much smaller. So, we went to the max.”

One of the questions from the audience asked about the five-kilometre evacuation zone and how the planning is looking at helping the livestock.

Watson referred to other evacuation plans that consider livestock when creating these evacuation plans.

The press release concluded, “The consultants stressed that planning is critical in the coming years to ensure that municipal infrastructure can support the housing supply and demand. A more detailed housing plan was recommended to consider affordable, accessible, and temporary housing.”

The entire presentation is available in the CLC’s June 2 agenda package, and copies of the studies and peer reviews can be found at www.southbruce.ca/Studies. A summary document has been mailed to community members, which will be the practice following each of the upcoming meetings to help inform the public about the studies.

The CLC’s next meeting will be held on Thursday, June 16. The presentation will discuss the Aggregate Resources Study, as well as the deep geological repository conceptual design, and an introduction to the NWMO’s Confidence in Safety Report.

Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times

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