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Council approves creating a special policy area for waterworks extension

by Mike Robinson

ERIN - It looks like council is considering a water main extension in downtown Hillsburgh.

The move would see water services along Trafalgar Road from Mill Street northerly to 114 and 115 Trafalgar Road.

Planner Sally Stull’s report included a number of comments from property owners along Trafalgar Road - some looking forward to such an action, and others dead set against such a move.

Stull said the resolution for council was recommended as a solution to the issue of servicing in that area. Fourteen properties would be affected.

She asked council if it supported a special area designation and a later bylaw that would allow extension of the water main using a special area charge and also sought council’s support to service the area by providing financing for the project over a five year period.

Stull said five years was suggested because the overall cost is relatively low. She explained the need for the extension was made clear at previous council meetings.

One building along that stretch was subject to a fire and because of new regulations, cannot be rebuilt with using a holding tank for septage. The property is affected by its neighbours in terms of dug wells.

She said under the Ontario Building Code, the owner would not be allowed to build a septic bed, and the problem with holding tanks is they are a long term liability to the owner and the municipality.

As a permanent solution, Stull said, holding tanks are “considered less than desirable - it is a case of last resort.”

She noted part of the project was spurred by work at 109 Trafalgar - the Exchange Hotel property, which is being converted into business and residential space. The owner is creating seven residential units and four commercial units and keeping the existing street  facade.

Upon completion, the building will be made into condominiums, and as a result, Stull said those multiple users should be serviced by municipal water. She added that at 111 Trafalgar, the same owners intend to build an additional structure of one-bedroom condominium units.

If successful, that would mean the construction of 13 residential condominium units in Hillsburgh.

She has heard many times, Hillsburgh is deficient in small affordable housing.

She cited the town’s official plan, which addresses water service in urban areas. It states “It is the intention of the town, over time, and where practical to provide municipal water service from the town’s central system to all lands within designated urban centres.”

Stull said there is capacity in the water system to supply that part of the village. She added all the properties are designated as commercial use, although residential use is allowed.

She said the predominant use of the land is for businesses on very small lots.

She was not sure where some of the septic systems are located.

Councillor Josie Wintersinger asked what sort of septic system the Exchange condos will have.

Stull said it will be a newly engineered system behind what will be the parking lot.

“It will comply with all building codes,” Stull added.

Triton Engineering had drafted estimates to proceed with a water main extension of about $100,000. Additional costs of about $13,000 would be incurred to decommission existing wells - resulting in costs of nearly $5,000 per landowner - and the Exchange Hotel cost of $44,217.

Stull said the issue is nearby wells negate the opportunity  to install new septic systems.

“The impact of your neighbour’s well is huge on your ability to replace your septic system,” she said.

That is the other reason she would like to see the existing private wells decommissioned, so people have the option to replace septic systems or maybe build additions to their homes.

Stull said when the issue first arose, the estimated cost to bring a water pipe from Mills Street to 109 Trafalgar was $78,000. The argument then, was if the water line was being brought in, it made sense to connect other properties along the path rather than dig up the street again to make any connections in the future.

Stull attempted to show the economies of scale when all properties participate in the area service charge and if the town waives connection fees -  there would be an opportunity to decommission wells “that we know through hydrogeology are generally shallow wells. It was pretty clear that most people recognize there is a problem.”

She said there was really no argument that current water quality is not particularly good.

Some residents have put in drilled wells, but those are generally north of the area being examined.

“I believe this is a fair and efficient initiative,” she said.

If council were to proceed, the next step would be work towards tendering, drafting a bylaw and communicating directly with the property owners to make them aware of what is happening.

She noted the area that is the most affordable to service is the downtown properties with the small frontages, which need the service.

She said if the overall issue is not addressed by council, “then you are asking for holes in your downtown.”

Councillor Barb Tocher asked what would happen if a homeowner did not wish to hook up immediately - but agreed to the charge.

Stull said the intent would be to have to hookup happen.

Tocher asked what would happen if the property owner disconnected all piping from a dug well - but kept the well for other purposes, rather than decommission it.

“Would that be appropriate? And would it be jumping the gun if someone wanted to use it for geothermal [heating]?” Tocher asked.

Stull said those are shallow wells, and that approach would not work.

Councillor John Brennan asked about a special area bylaw, with costs of $113,000.

He referred to other options that had other costs attached. His question was if all the costs would be added together.

Stull explained her intent was to show savings that would be generated by going to a special area charge to bring in the water line for all the properties.

She said the long term policy of the official plan is to have those properties serviced eventually.

Of the 14 affected properties, Brennan wanted to know how many owners are in favour.

Stull said four are in favour, two are opposed and the remainder had not responded.

Brennan asked what are the requirements to have a septic system.

Stull said it includes a five metre buffer from the edge of the property line and five meters from any building.

Brennan asked what happens if someone does not have a septic system.

Stull said that at this time, that would only come to the town’s attention as part of a building permit application.

Tocher said times have changed over the years. She suspected when the properties were built, soaker pits were in use, and that situation likely has not changed. And that will create problems if the individuals ever intend to do anything with the properties in the future.

“If they were to come in to do anything, under the Building Code, they would have to show us where their septic system was located,” Tocher said.

Brennan asked, beyond the public information meeting,

“Have we made everybody affected aware?”

Wintersinger said while she might be confused on the issue, she believes council had decided earlier not to force people to hook up to municipal services.

“Now they are going to be forced to hook up.”

Stull said that is the essence of her recommendation.

After considerably more discussion, council considered the resolution, which stated “council is considering proceeding in the first quarter of 2012 with a special area improvement project as regulated by the Municipal Act, Section 391 and notify the affected property owners.

Tocher said council was either moving ahead with the planner’s recommendation - or doing nothing.

Stull said if council does not deal with the special policy area, properties owners can deal with the matter on their own by either bringing in a water line, or drilling deep wells and using holding tanks.

Council eventually supported the provision of municipal water service from Mill Street to 114 and 115 Trafalgar Road because the area is currently unserviced. Staff was directed to proceed with the engineering process.

Council will also consider proceeding with a special area improvement project and notify the affected property owners.

Stull asked that consideration be early in the year, meaning in the first quarter.

Mayor Lou Maeiron agreed people are waiting for a decision.

In a recorded vote, council passed the resolution unanimously.


January 6, 2012


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