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Oro-Medonte 'not comfortable' with Barrie's boundary request

Oro-Medonte Deputy Mayor Peter Lavoie expresses concern for residents who live in the area the city is looking to acquire for industrial development
Barrie Mayor Alex Nuttall presented a 'boundary adjustment' plan to Oro-Medonte Township council on Wednesday.

Barrie Mayor Alex Nuttall knew the plan he was pitching to Oro-Medonte Township council Wednesday afternoon wasn’t going to be an easy sell.

“It’s not lost on me that this morning was the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast in the City of Barrie and I was prayed for for an hour and a half,” Nuttall said as he began his deputation to Oro-Medonte council. “I think they knew I was coming here to make this presentation today.”

Nuttall was before the near-capacity council chambers in Oro-Medonte explaining why the township should give Barrie some of its land for industrial growth. He said the city needs more vacant and serviced "employment lands" beyond its existing boundary to the northeast.

“We are asking for a boundary adjustment,” he told the township's council members. “As part of that boundary adjustment, we are asking that the municipalities around us allow us to bring on some more industrial land within our boundary, from yours.”

Barrie is looking at about 880 hectares (almost 2,200 acres) of Oro-Medonte’s land on the city’s eastern border, including near Crown Hill in the area of Highway 400 and Highway 11.

In exchange, the city says it would provide servicing back in order for the township to develop some of its own employment land in its municipality.

Nuttall said this could lead to the creation of up to “20,000 new industrial manufacturing and warehousing jobs” over the next 20 years.

This map shows a "study area" identified by the City of Barrie for land in Oro-Medonte, near Highway 11 and Penetanguishene Road. The city wants to move the municipal boundary in order to use this land for industrial development. | Image supplied

Oro-Medonte Coun. Richard Schell said the land is still there either way, so he wanted to know why they needed to move the municipal boundary. Schell said it’s like moving the fence, but you’re still going to build in the same spot.

“From the city’s standpoint, in terms of the financials, we will have invested almost three-quarters of a billion dollars by the time our system’s up and running,” Nuttall said. “The payback isn’t through the provision of a monthly bill.”

Nuttall said those services are brought online through development charges and taxation.

Development charges, he added, make up only about 70 per cent. He said Barrie taxpayers are contributing about 30 per cent. 

“It (services) being shipped next door is not something we could do in terms of the City of Barrie’s finances,” Nuttall said.

Oro-Medonte Deputy Mayor Peter Lavoie expressed concern for the residents who live in the area the city is looking to acquire. He said having residential areas in very close vicinity to industrial manufacturers may not work.

“You get nothing but complaints and I don’t know what it will do to their property values and I don’t know what it will do to their satisfaction or quality of life in the future,” Lavoie said.

Lavoie also noted the land being eyed by Barrie is a “large chunk of prime agricultural land.”

Oro-Medonte Mayor Randy Greenlaw said that while it makes sense to develop where there is water and wastewater services, this type of development presents numerous challenges.

Greenlaw said agricultural, environmental and residential concerns are priorities. He's also concerned with traffic and taxation issues.

“The development of industrial and employment lands in this area do not align with the future of the County of Simcoe or the Township of Oro-Medonte,” Greenlaw said in a written statement following council.

“We are not comfortable with the planning aspects being suggested by our municipal neighbour at this time, as this does not align with the established residential developments of the area," he added.

Following the Oro-Medonte council meeting, Nuttall said township residents who are currently living in the area being proposed by the city would experience a tax increase.

“There are very few residents who will be affected,” Nuttall said. “It will be phased in over a period of time.”

The City of Barrie is also looking at land in Springwater Township as part of its plans for industrial development. 

Springwater Mayor Jennifer Coughlin has said she was "surprised and disappointed" with how news of the boundary talks came to light earlier this week. 

Springwater says it is going to make public the entire process at its next regular council meeting on Nov. 15.