There’s no question there is growth “coming at us” in Southgate, as CAO Dave Milliner put it during a discussion last week. The question is: how much?
And while no one can predict the future, planning actually requires prediction.
Staff set a problem before council last week. A county growth plan, they say, is predicting much slower growth than what is already foreseeable in approved developments.
Those developments, of course, depend on servicing. And getting the environmental approvals and possible grants for servicing depends in part on what growth is forecasted.
Staff asked for direction on these discussions, and CAO Dave Milliner confirmed later that there was no decision to change the direction of Southgate development, which would be part of a much larger, future conversation.
For now, the council has already approved certain subdivisions and staff will be trying to get that approved growth recognized in the Hemson numbers.
The conversation at council last week went a little deeper than whose numbers were right: staff or the county consultant working on future population projections.
Growth studies are required for planning, and right now Grey is in the middle of the update which is mandated every five years.
The consultant’s numbers are much lower than those based on recent builds and approved developments. These were presented to Council recently.
Hemson forecasts the township population will grow about 3,000 in the next 25 years.
But Southgate staff foresees township population going up about 3,000 in five years.
Hemson did stress in its May 12 presentation to Southgate that the highest population growth in decades is now occurring at edges of the Greater Golden Horseshoe. So Southgate growth will outpace that of Grey as a whole.
The price Southgate could pay for being unprepared would be not having needed infrastructure in place – water tower, wells, wastewater treatment and having development stall because of it.
The town of Collingwood in April put a virtual moratorium on building out of development because of lack of capacity for water treatment.
And under-building services could lead to a waste of money in the end, Mr. Milliner wrote in his report, if new infrastructure was too small and almost immediately had to be upgraded.
That’s why Southgate staff has had several meetings on the projections, including one with the county and its consultant as well as a representative of Flato Developments at the table, to argue that Southgate’s projections made sense.
Mr. Milliner explained last Wednesday to council that in order to get provincial support in EA studies (environmental) and also to get grants for some large capital projects, the sizing of those project needs to be supported by growth studies.
The Environmental Assessment process for a new water tower is at hand, with the build included in capital projections, as well as upgrades to the sewage lagoons.
In the short-term, improving the lagoon system should provide extra units, but a water treatment plant could be needed down the road as well.
M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Dundalk Herald