Does growth pay for growth? Even when it is in Arva?
Yesterday, the Built and Natural Environment Committee (BNEC) voted 3-2 to work on giving Arva an increase in the sewage capacity that London currently provides to the community to our north.
In 2000, Arva was experiencing some problems with sewage. At that time, “faulty septic systems and illegal storm sewer connections” in the hamlet were creating an unacceptable discharge of pollutants into the Medway Creek, according to an environmental assessment.
To deal with the issue, the environmental assessment identified a connection to the London sewer system as the preferred solution, an approach endorsed by the Ministry of the Environment.
Given that the creek was threatened and London had sufficient capacity, an agreement was drawn up between the City and Middlesex Centre to provide the access to the City’s sewage system subject to a number of conditions, including that Arva would pay the full cost of the service and that the added capacity would be to service the existing community with strict (no more than 10 units per year) limits on new development, both residential and commercial.
The agreement is currently in the 11th year of a 20 year term. During that time, growth has not exceeded the negotiated conditions.
But now, Arva is back again. According to Middlesex Centre Mayor Al Edmondson, there has been “development interest” in their community “with the resultant need for increased wastewater treatment capacity”.
Staff has not made a recommendation on this issue, recognizing that the decision is a political one.
This request goes well beyond being a good neighbour or helping out with an environmental crisis. Despite Mayor Al Edmondson’s claim before BNEC “We don’t want to expand necessarily”, this is about expansion. Arva doesn’t need the additional capacity for its current residents nor the modest growth projections which are contemplated in the existing agreement.
This request came before the former Planning Committee last September. At that time, we chose to receive the report but took no action.
And why would we? As long I was on council, we heard constant complaints from the proponents of growth, both councillors and developers, that we were losing assessment growth to outlying adjacent communities which have lower taxes and development charges. This loss of assessment growth to communities whose residents nonetheless take advantage of the facilities that our taxes support further necessitates higher taxes.
This was certainly the concern expressed by Ward 5 Councillor Joni Baechler who along with Ward 3 Councillor Joe Swan voted against the request. Noting that there is a number of development applications along the City’s north edge, Baechler pointed out that “developers building in that area would be absolutely livid for Middlesex Centre to scoop up their market.”
Why give a boost to your competitor?
Nevertheless, it seems that this Council is perceived as offering new opportunities for the competition, whether for a product like bottled water or for assessment growth.
This Council seems to be determined to be “open to business” even if that business is at odds with the City’s interests. It also appears to want to promote growth, even if that growth occurs outside of our urban growth boundary or outside of our city boundaries.
The request was endorsed by the other three members of the committee, Councillors Denise Brown and Sandy White, and Committee Chair Bud Polhill.
If recommendations like this are supported by the Council, the Mayor may soon have the increased assessment growth he promised.
Unfortunately it will be for Arva, not London.