After conducting an informal survey, the Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM) Mayor Alar Soever says the shifting population caused by COVID-19 needs to be examined.
“I have some real concerns and I think we really need to consider the effects COVID is having on our population base,” Soever said during a county committee of the whole meeting held yesterday. “COVID has caused people to consider and change where they live, and how they go about their daily lives.”
He explained that due to COVID-19, many, if not all, companies are allowing employees to work from home, which is causing the population of permanent residents in TBM and Grey County to swell.
According to the 2016 Census, Grey County had 7,991 dwellings that were not occupied on a permanent basis.
Soever says COVID-19 is changing that and in dramatic fashion.
“We need to get an idea through doing a more exhaustive survey, what is the future likely to look like?” Soever said.
In an effort to gain a better understanding of the population shift that has been taking place in the past six months, TBM independently released an informal survey through a tax bill mail-out.
Preliminary results from the survey demonstrate a potential tidal wave of incoming residents.
Of the survey respondents who are not currently permanent residents, 43 per cent say they are planning to make TBM their primary residence within the next year, and, of those, 73 per cent say COVID is the reason for the change.
Soever points out that the survey was very informal and only included a small sample of TBM’s population, with roughly 100 respondents.
However, he says, it does shed some light on how people are adjusting their lives and locations due to the pandemic.
“The 2016 census data shows 3,206 secondary residents in TBM. So, based on the survey findings of showing a 43 per cent potential increase, TBM is looking at an increase of almost 1,400 households, and a population increase of 3,206 in the next year,” Soever said.
Due to this projected population increase, Soever is requesting that a detailed analysis of the effects of COVID-19 on growth in Grey County be included in the county’s Growth Management Study Update.
“We're not in a normal state of affairs and I think we need to take that into account,” Soever said.
The motion was well-supported by fellow county council members.
“I think all of us can conclude that there is a shift taking place, and it's taking place rapidly,” added Brian Milne, deputy mayor of the township of Southgate.
The county’s growth management plan update was approved by county council in early July.
Randy Scherzer, director of planning and development for Grey County says the RP for the project was prepared and has since been awarded to Hemson Consulting.
“Hemson has been involved in the recent updates to the county's growth matters study and has worked with other municipalities in Grey County on growth projects specifically, development charge reviews,” said Scherzer.
He adds that, as part of their submission, Hemson indicated that they have experienced analyzing the short- and long-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on population and employment forecasts.
Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca