Consultants are asking for more time, more public consultation, and more funding to complete their work on a new merit-based water servicing framework for Collingwood.
During Monday night’s regular meeting of council, Meridian Planning Consultants provided an update to councillors on their work to complete a new Servicing Capacity Allocation Framework, which has now been altered from its first draft based on feedback from council, developers and the general public.
As many changes have been made to the policy since its original draft presented to council in November, the consultant and town staff are recommending the policy be put out again for public consultations in the new year, at an additional cost of about $8,000.
“There have been several meaningful changes since the draft was released,” Director of planning, engineering and environment Summer Valentine told council. “There is significant community interest in this product as well as a desire to get it right.”
The Servicing Capacity Allocation Framework seeks to outline a path forward for the town in regards to how new developments could be approved after the interim control bylaw (ICBL) is lifted, while keeping water allocations under control.
As part of the first draft report, the study team completed a jurisdictional review of comparable municipalities for the land-use planning study, obtaining best practices in water capacity allocation to create a draft Water and Wastewater Allocation Policy. The consultants concluded that the town should pivot away from servicing capacity allocation on a first-come-first-serve basis and move to a merit-based approach based on a points system.
The merit-based system would allocate points based on the inclusion of elements in a development 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.
Major changes to the policy presented on Monday from the first draft include adding definitions, adjusting the points system, extending the framework to apply indefinitely and not just when water capacity is limited and reducing the minimum standard to 50 points from 75 points out of a possible 100. The new draft also introduces an annual maximum capacity allocation threshold when capacity is limited.
As part of the public consultations on the project, developers raised questions about the point system and how the system as originally proposed would make it difficult for any development outside of the downtown to be successful.
During Monday’s meeting, Coun. Kathy Jeffery asked why the point minimum had been reduced to 50 points from 75.
“To me, it needs to be aspirational to more than 50 points. I found that disconcerting, but maybe that’s because I was raised that 50 per cent wasn’t good enough,” said Jeffery.
Nick McDonald, president of Meridian Planning Consultants, said that 75 points was still aspirational, but perhaps was out of reach for many developments as the minimum.
Valentine added that staff had looked at many developments the town currently has in-progress, and noted that most wouldn’t pass through the merit-based system as-is.
“It was difficult if you didn’t have the magic combination of being a heritage property on a brownfield in the built-up area,” said Valentine. “It was really tough to get above that 75 per cent, but these were developments that would certainly have provided a number of community benefits and shouldn’t be overlooked.”
“We do want to collectively raise the bar...but we also didn’t want to make it too difficult that no developments could achieve that threshold,” she said.
McDonald noted that higher scoring projects will still have an advantage.
“High scoring projects will catch your attention,” he told council. “Ones that don’t, won’t.”
Coun. Mariane McLeod asked why the framework would still be needed once the water treatment plant expansion comes online in 2025/26.
“It’s always good planning to make decisions that take into account servicing and other land-use planning considerations,” said McDonald. “Making decisions based on where the pipes are in the ground and how much capacity there is, in our view, isn’t good enough.”
“There needs to be a much better relationship between servicing and land-use planning going forward,” he said.
As part of their work, Meridian is also recommending changes to the Official Plan and zoning bylaws.
Council voted unanimously in favour of receiving the report, as well as preparing for a second round of public consultations. Coun. Tina Comi and Coun. Bob Madigan were absent.
A second round of public consultations is planned to take place in January/February 2022 on the Servicing Capacity Allocation Framework, which will include two virtual public sessions and a window for written comments.