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Council gives green light for new merit-based water policy

‘We need these tools moving forward to make sure we are creating a community our residents want,’ says Collingwood mayor
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A new merit-based point system to score new development proposals has been given the stamp of approval by Collingwood council.

During Monday’s (March 28) regular meeting, councillors voted in favour of passing a bylaw to implement a new servicing capacity allocation policy, which is a points system that will assist town staff in allocating the town’s limited water and wastewater capacity to new developments.

“This has been an intense exercise for our community, our staff and this council. It has been a sprint,” said Mayor Brian Saunderson. “We’re looking at ways that we can try to collaborate and co-create with our developers the type of community we need.”

“This framework is a necessary step in that process,” he added.

Town council passed an interim control bylaw in April 2021 after staff announced the current water treatment plant could not produce enough water to meet the expected demand caused by growth over the next five years leading up to the planned expansion of the water treatment plant.

At the time of the vote, the town indicated it was a one-year moratorium with the possibility of another year's extension while the town worked on new policies for allocating water to development.

Among those new policies is a three-part framework for allocating town services to new development as part of the application process. The new servicing capacity allocation policy (also called the water and wastewater allocation policy) is one of the three parts that needed to be approved if the development freeze is to be lifted in April 2022 as originally planned.

The policy is a merit-based system that allocates points to a development applying for a building permit based on the inclusion of elements in their proposal such as green technology, affordable housing, mixed uses, water conservation measures, employment generation, natural heritage protection, walkability, active transportation and intensification.

Up to 100 points are available under the merit-based system, and the system has gone through two rounds of consultation with the public and the local development community over the past few months before coming before the council table this week.

During Monday’s meeting, Coun. Yvonne Hamlin noted that 20 per cent of the points that can be allotted through the new system are for affordable housing components.

“I feel that’s a real achievement through this exercise,” she said.

Coun. Deb Doherty asked for clarity regarding questions received by resident Bob Tyssen concerning adding a tree-canopy requirement to the policy; adding points if a developer works to maintain a certain tree canopy coverage within a development.

“There’s been some suggestion that perhaps the direction within this policy should be a little bit more specific,” said Doherty.

Director of Planning, Building and Economic Development Summer Valentine noted the town is already looking at the protection of tree canopy in 2022 through the urban design manual, the Official Plan review and a review of the tree preservation bylaw.

“It is our intent to continue on with those processes and keep an eye on how they can work together with the servicing capacity allocation policy to achieve those important community visions and benefits,” said Valentine.

Valentine added that staff will be reporting to council on the progression of the policy every six months, with a more fulsome review coming back within 18 months of implementation. Should staff or council determine changes are needed, there will be an opportunity for them to be made at those points.

“This policy has been designed to be a living document,” she said. “We’ll be looking at how it can be improved over time. It’s not static.”

Coun. Chris Carrier asked for clarification on timing, and whether the new policy expires when the water plant expansion comes online, which is expected by 2026.

“The bylaw and policy before you tonight does not have an expiry date,” said Valentine. “We do hope the document will evolve over time. When we move toward a point where capacity will not be as limited, we can certainly look at any adjustments that would be required.”

“Overall, the study team does feel that this is a prudent document, in some form, to keep in place. There will always be a next limit that will be hit in the future. This tool will serve the municipality well,” she said.

Carrier said he would be voting against the passing of the policy, noting he wrote a letter opposing the interim control bylaw as a private citizen last year as he believes it’s more of a political issue than a water crisis.

“I don’t support the policy as I don’t support the premise. I think it was built on a rocky foundation,” said Carrier.

Saunderson disagreed.

“I think this was an issue that was waiting to happen. We need these tools moving forward to make sure we are creating a community our residents want,” said Saunderson.

Council voted 6-1 in favour of approving and passing the bylaw for the servicing capacity allocation policy, with Coun. Chris Carrier opposed. Deputy Mayor Keith Hull and Coun. Bob Madigan were absent from the meeting.

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 14 years of experience to her role as reporter for Village Media, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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