The NG Times Newspaper

As Council consider the 2017 Municipal Budget, there are a number of interesting items that are being examined. Some of these are certainly non-controversial, such as the Oxford Mills Fire Station expansion, which will cost $98,056.16. All of the money for this will come out of the Reserves funds. The station came out of the Fire Master Plan and Fire Underwriters Accreditation, which made the installation of a fire station in Oxford Mills essential in order “to maintain the best possible fire insurance ratings for rural residents”.
Other line items are designed to increase transparency and communication between Council and the public. To that end, the Budget includes the sum of $2,500 to cover Webcasting of Council and Committee of the Whole meetings. The money will cover the installation of a camera and software to allow live webcasting and archiving of meetings held in Council Chambers. The Project justification provided in budget documents states that the webcasting would “ allow the public to watch meetings in real time. Will allow unlimited viewing of past meetings”. Council, it says, “has expressed interest in using webcasting to continue to enhance communications”.
Council wants to keep us fit and healthy, and, to that end, will be spending $716,556 on the new County Road 44 Multi-Use Pathway. This may seem a bit steep, but the pathway will also include installation of underground infrastructure to supply services to the new developments in the North West Quadrant. Of that amount, $197,316 will be taken from Municipal Reserves, and the remainder from the Province. This is in the form of a grant from the Ontario Municipal Cycling Infrastructure Program. Work is expected to be completed this year. The budget documents state that “The pedestrian link was identified in the 2011 Integrated Trails Strategy. Will allow Settlers Grant and eQuinelle residential developments to use Active Transportation links to connect to the NGMC [Municipal Centre] and businesses north of County Road 43.”
More controversially, $45,000 is to be spent on what is being called a NW Quadrant Special Area Charge Levy Study. This will be opened for tenders, so the actual cost is not really known yet. The reason for the study, the Municipality says, is to deal with the fact that the “current Development Charge By-law is not up for review until 2018-19, but the NW Quadrant is under extreme development pressure and a scoped study to review the Development Charges for that area would provide a more accurate picture of the future financial needs”.
Plans for the development of the NW Quadrant have been before Council for quite a few years, but the nature of those developments has changed a great deal in that time. Wetlands, which were originally part of the attraction strategy for residential development in the area, have been drained and tree cover has been removed completely.
There is a great deal of confusion, a lack of transparency, about what is happening in that area, and why the municipality required a tract of the land before approving zoning changes for the new Public School. The budget documents admit that “the estimated infrastructure costs the NW Quadrant identified in the current DC study do not appear to accurately reflect current construction costs”. Development Charges are now considered insufficient to cover infrastructure demands in the Quadrant, possibly because housing density appears to be significantly higher than originally approved by previous Councils. The documents note that: “The results of the study and any additional Special Area Levy that might result from it would only affect properties in the NW Quadrant”. Why this study needs to contracted out by the municipality is unclear, as are the possible results on both the municipal budget and residential taxes in the future.


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