North Huron proposes cross-border agreement with Morris-Turnberry
BY DENNY SCOTT
North Huron Township Council has, pending approval by Morris-Turnberry, presented and approved a cross-border servicing agreement and disbanded its cross-border servicing committee.
During North Huron Council’s April 19 meeting, it approved a document years in the making meant to replace a similar document that was not renewed by the previous session of council, leading to years of debate between the two municipal councils.
North Huron Chief Administrative Officer Dwayne Evans told council, through his report, that council could approve the document that evening and send it to Morris-Turnberry for consideration at its council’s next meeting on May 3. Also, part of his recommendation was to dissolve the ad hoc cross-border servicing committee.
After years of effort from the councils and staff of both municipalities, only one issue remains outstanding: a parcel of land in Morris-Turnberry that is currently farmed called the Willis Farm. North Huron wants a portion of the land, according to Evans, to make servicing the rest of the lands easier.
After a closed-to-the-public session on March 7, council directed staff to include the lands, known as the Willis Farm lands, in the agreement and forward it to the township’s solicitor for review, then present the document to council for approval.
“If Morris-Turnberry [Council] authorizes the signing of the agreement, it will come into force and effect and new connections to North Huron’s water and sanitary services will be permitted,” Evans reported. “If Morris-Turnberry does not authorize the signing of the agreement, the status quo will continue and there will be no new Morris-Turnberry connection to North Huron’s services.”
The document includes 15 noteworthy terms, according to Evans, including how the municipality will charge for water, how water will be allocated to users, how new connections can be made, how Morris-Turnberry will contribute to the growing water and wastewater infrastructure and that the document will remain in effect until Dec. 31, 2041.
If the agreement goes forward, North Huron will gain land at the Willis Farm from Morris-Turnberry, however North Huron will pay the equivalent taxes on the land to Morris-Turnberry until the lands are developed from their current agricultural use. In return, Morris-Turnberry will be able to reserve capacity of 10 cubic metres of service per day for the remaining Willis Farm property, which is developable as highway commercial, but not pay for it until the lands are developed. This agreement is independent of other clauses in the bylaw.
The plan also proposes that Morris-Turnberry ratepayers will not be charged for capital reserves as North Huron users are Instead, Morris-Turnberry will be billed, based on the terms of the agreement, for both minor (less than $100,000) and major ($100,000 or greater) repairs.
Councillor Chris Palmer was the first member of council to address the proposal, saying he “liked the meat of it” but that the 10 cubic metres of water for the highway commercial portion of the Willis property is “on the low side.”
He said he would prefer 15 cubic metres, saying it might be “more palatable” for his Morris-Turnberry counterparts.
Councillor Kevin Falconer was against that, however, saying the 10 cubic metres of capacity was “essentially free” and wondered how much “free stuff” Palmer wanted to give away without compensation. Palmer didn’t see it as free, however, saying it was all part of the agreement that would see North Huron get 110 acres to develop some day, as well as the taxable income that will be received from it.
“It’s a deal. We get this, we give this,” he said.
Councillor Paul Heffer also felt the 10 cubic metres of water wouldn’t be sufficient.
After more debate on the issue, council agreed to approve the document as it was presented, sending it to Morris-Turnberry as the next step towards potentially putting the three-year-long debate to rest.