After members of council questioned how much growth is good for Southgate at the last regular council, they heard more background at a special meeting held last Wednesday.
But there was not to be much debate to follow.
CAO Dave Milliner led off by saying, “I believe we’re not sustainable with a population of less than 12,000.”
He said municipalities with that population can do administration and regulatory compliance and policy.
He told council that “if we turned off growth tomorrow,” the township would be facing four to six percent or more tax increase each year; staff would have to be re-organized; there would be a lack of capacity and the Inventory Gap would widen rather than decrease.
When Statistics Canada listed almost 300 population centres after the 2016 census, Dundalk was Number 200 on the list.
Its population was 2,046, up from 1,988 in 2011 – a three percent growth.
On last Wednesday’s meeting, in answer to a question not about building permits but actual new houses, Mr. Milliner gave in round figures, the number of 375 new houses in three years, which at 2.5 people per unit means 937 people.
If that population estimate is added to the 2016 census number it means Dundalk is already about 3,000.
At the last census, it was Shelburne that drew attention, having the highest growth rate since 2011 – about 2,285 more people or a 40 percent growth rate.
Dundalk is the next town north on the Hwy. 10 corridor, and about an hour’s drive from Brampton, Guelph and Barrie.
In answer to a question from Coun. Jason Rice, the CAO sad that where annual population growth used to be about one or two percent it’s now five to six percent.
Some of the regulatory demands that have happened in the past, and the CAO expects to continue are Asset Management Plan, Climate Change Action Plan, Roads & Bridges Study and Environmental Action Plan. They make “no contribution to capital,” he said.
Costs are going up – it’s not just the consumer prices, the residential construction index annual increase is about seven percent.
POSITIONED FOR GROWTH
Location is not Southgate’s only appeal. Mr. Milliner said that real estate is still relatively more affordable here, the township is prepared with standard subdivision agreements and staff try to provide a path to complete projects providing good customer service.
A recent step the municipality has taken to protect itself is to require developers to put in a temporary curb while building. It’s strong enough to direct the water and serve as an edge when the road is to be built.
After everything is in place, the final curb is put in so when it’s assumed by the municipality it’s in good shape. Otherwise, curbs often are damaged by heavy equipment during the construction phase, Mr. Milliner said.
An environmental assessment study is going on now to find short and long-term options for treating sewage. The GRCA has questioned how much discharge from the treatment facility should be released into the Foley stream. (This is a separate issue from the Foley as a stormwater drain.)
Coun. Barbara Dobreen mentioned that there may be effects in Dundalk from the moratorium on development in the Haldimand Tract.
Flato and White Rose have ongoing projects in Dundalk, and a third developer has a project in the works behind the old Metal Systems, adjacent to the industrial development on Ida Street, Mr. Milliner said. He added that Flato was closing a deal to purchase a 30-acre property in Dundalk. More development is foreseen north of the fair grounds, west of Ida Street north of Main and south of Dundalk on the west side as well as on Hwy. 10 between the township property and Flato East. There are other projects moving forward as well.
PLACES FOR PEOPLE
Coun. Martin Shipston said that he hoped that developers could do more rental units while Mr. Milliner said that the need for that would have to be assessed.
The planner said that measures to encourage affordable housing can be part of the official plan review, such as getting rid of the 1,100 sq. ft. minimum house size. The township can also set density – the number of people per acre in certain locations.
Coun. Michael Sherson asked about the need for another plow truck for Dundalk, with fewer snow events.
The CAO responded that because of liability, no matter how many storms come, the township has to be prepared to clear roads.
FINANCIAL BENEFITS OF GROWTH
Mr. Milliner said that it was the $285,000 increase from new assessment that allowed the township to keep its tax increase to 1.5 percent in 2021, while increasing the capital budget and staff.
“It softens the blow, and let’s us do more things,” he said.
Regarding staff, planner Clint Stredwick pointed out that the new assessment isn’t just for one year, but continues every year going forward.
“That growth in assessment is a permanent thing.”
Coun. Rice said that with the number of staff added, “that gets pretty close to the $285,000.”
Mr. Milliner said that at amalgamation there was talk of savings, but when the municipality was larger, it got more attention from regulating ministries.
“We’re very fortunate we have the growth… or we’d be taking five percent or more tax increases,” he said.
Mayor Woodbury offered another example of the staff and reports required now, after the Walkerton water incident. He alos remembered the time when, because of regulation changes, Dundalk Hydro would have had to triple its prices, so it was sold.
“A lot of external forces that most people don’t realize have resulted in this.”
Coun. Dobreen said that people’s expectations have risen as well. “It’s going to cost more to run the township with more people and more resources going forward.”
Commented Coun. Martin Shipston, “That’s the double-edged sword of growth.”
New services that were put in for Dundalk have also allowed upgrades that benefit existing users.
Mr. Milliner mentioned that the cost to upgrade Glenelg Street in Dundalk would have been shared by the whole township, if it weren’t for Flato doing its subdivision in on the road.
LOOKING AT SHELBURNE
Shelburne hit headlines across the province after the last census with a percentage growth rate of just under 40 percent. How is it dealing with issues that accompany that growth?
Shelburne has a consultant looking into its own options for wastewater and water. The town is near capacity, and forecasts are for another 6,000 people in the next 20 years.
According to a report given to council in March, the cost could be between $26 and $33 million. There isn’t enough capacity now, for all the development that’s on the books.
The peak usage number for 2020 is only a few hundred cubic metres below the peak capacity of the treatment plant.
There are 540 new residential units committed, with another 572 in the proposal process, along with commercial, industrial and institutional.
M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Dundalk Herald