South Dundas - September 17, 2013 - Recently at SDG County Council, Township of South Stormont Mayor Bryan McGillis has pushed for an expansion of development lands in that municipality. There is opportunity for that township to increase development there, which at first blush sounds great. However that expansion comes at a detrimental cost to another municipality, making South Dundas the lesser of six equals.
This is the issue, as this writer understands it. Each of the six townships/municipalities that make up the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, have a set amount of Urban (residential) and Employment (commercial/industrial) development land available. This was set out by an official plan, which the county is responsible for as the Planning Authority. Lands were mapped out and designated for expansion should opportunity arise. Each municipality has their own inventory of what is allowed and available. This is all done in accordance with the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH). Once the plan is done, that's it, all areas for each township/municipality are capped until the next time a review of the plan is done, usually at the five year intervals.
Due to South Stormont's proximity to Cornwall, it is garnering more development on it's lands than outlying municipalities such as South Dundas. South Stormont is now close to being maxed-out on it's industrial land that it's allowed to develop, so in order for it to continue to grow, they need more cap space. Sounds like the NHL. Meanwhile other companies want to set up shop in South Stormont. Unless the MMAH decides to allow South Stormont to exceed what is in the official plan, they have get the space from another municipality in the county.
Enter South Dundas. South Dundas has plenty of space for industrial and residential development according to the official plan. The municipality, despite its best efforts, has not yet been able to attract larger companies to set up shop here. There is also a fair amount of vacant existing space available such as the former Caldwell Linens plant in Iroquois or the Illamar Logistics facility between Iroquois and Morrisburg. One argument that can be made is, what does South Dundas need all that extra allocated land for, when they haven't filled what's vacant? Thus McGillis' argument for South Dundas to give up some of it's allocation to benefit South Stormont sounds valid.
Unfortunately for McGillis, South Dundas should absolutely NOT give up any of it's allocations, period. The whole premise of six municipalities working together as a county, with sharing resources in planning and development, is to help the entire county grow. Not just South Stormont. If South Stormont is at the point where its development cup runneth over, why is that not spilling into neighbouring townships? That is the whole point of this shared planning.
The Cornwall City Council has already told South Glengarry it wasn't going to help it develop their neighbouring lands, by connecting to Cornwall's water services, until Cornwall was filled up. Cornwall isn't bound to help South Glengarry out though, as they are not part of the county. So why are the surplus opportunities for South Stormont not going to South Glengarry? Or why are those opportunities not being encouraged to locate in South Dundas, which is less than 20 minutes away from South Stormont?
South Dundas Mayor Steven Byvelds has said he's willing to work with the counties, but whatever happens has to be fair to South Dundas and to the other townships. That is good to hear, but it needs to go one more step further. Municipalities within the county structure cannot be allowed to cannibalize each other in order to develop. If it is allowed for South Dundas to lose Employment Lands to benefit South Stormont, where does it end? What stops North Dundas for asking for Urban Lands to build a subdivision or two with their proximity to the City of Ottawa? Or for South Stormont to come back and ask for Urban Lands as they need a place to build homes for all those people who are coming to work for the new developments?
South Dundas will become hamstrung by its county partners, the lesser of the six equals at the county table. That is not right. If the county truly is six equal partners then it's time that all of the partners play fair and work together to grow together. If not, maybe it's time for South Dundas to start taking a page from the City of Cornwall's book.