Jeff Green | May 22, 2019
Joe Gallivan, Manager for Planning and Economic Development for Frontenac County, briefed Frontenac County Council last week on a communal services report that will be coming their way next month. This is a file that Gallivan has been working on for years, but he wanted some of the newer members of the council to be more familiar with the issues in the report in advance of its release.
The Province of Ontario encourages rural municipalities to focus on development within hamlets. Since there are no hamlets in Frontenac County that have municipal water systems except for Sydenham, and there are no municipal waste water systems in the county at all, development potential within and near hamlets is limited.
“The potential for communal services within subdivisions has been around since 1995, but municipalities have not taken it up within their jurisdictions, because of fears over the potential liability coming back to the public if a communal water or waste system fails,” said Gallivan. “Over the years, the technology for septic systems has progressed substantially, and that cuts the risk.”
Communal services would mean there is one large septic system to cover an entire development instead of separate systems for each building. In some case, one of more communal wells could be included as well.
Municipalities in Ontario have two options for creating multiple building lots on a single piece of property, ‘vacant land condominium’ development, and ‘plan of subdivision’ development. Under a ‘plan of subdivision’, the municipality assumes ownership, and the associated costs, for the public infrastructure (roads, ditches, sidewalks, etc.) within a development, after the developer pays to build them to a municipal standard, whereas within a ‘plan of condominium’ the infrastructure remains the responsibility of the property owners after construction is complete.
Plans of Condominium, Gallivan said, could include responsibility for upkeep and maintenance of communal services in addition to roads and ditches, keeping municipal liability to a minimum.
“As well, if there are a number these systems within Frontenac County, there may also be an opportunity to put together a single municipal fund to cover potential liability from all of them. Individual projects would not have to cover as much liability on their own.”
In making his presentation, Gallivan used an existing development on the southwest edge of Inverary as an illustration of how much more density can be achieved using communal services. The Mathias subdivision is a 27 - acre block of land with 16 lots. The minimum lot size in the development is 1.5 acres, and each lot includes space for a well and individual septic system.
If a communal septic system were in place, the same block of land would be able to contain 42 detached lots as well as 9 townhouse lots and a small apartment complex with 12 units, plus a commercial lot. Gallivan said that once the study is released, he will be proposing that Council authorise him to go to the township councils to see if they are interested in pursuing the type of development that communal systems will make possible within their townships.
“It really comes down to what the local townships envision for their future,” he said, “the timing is good for South Frontenac, which is facing a lot of development pressure right now. The council is starting to review their Official Plan, and they will have the opportunity to accept communal services in their new plan”.
Gallivan said that one of the key elements for developers would be a consistent process and cost structure for communal water systems across the county.
“That would put Frontenac County ahead of other municipalities,” he said.
While South Frontenac is the jurisdiction that would be the most likely to see developments using the communal system model, Gallivan said he could see applications in Marysville on Wolfe Island, as well as in Central and North Frontenac.