A request to purchase a section of Sideroad 22 east of Lakeshore Road North filled the council chamber on Monday, April 17 with neighbouring residents who opposed the proposal.
Longfield Farms, an apple grower with property to the north of Highway 26 and west of the 7th Line, first approached the municipality in 2021 with hopes of building a water pump-house on municipal property in order to take water from Georgian Bay, and pipe it to their apple orchards.
“At the time, two locations for the pump-house were considered – the use of the easterly end of Sideroad 22 or part of St. Vincent Park. The use of Sideroad 22 was discounted as it was the access point for the private portion of Georgian Beach Road South, north of Sideroad 22. It was determined that the parts of the road allowance not used for access were not big enough for the pump-house, and were currently used for snow storage in winter,” municipal staff advised in a report to council. “Due to this, the proposal focused on the use of St. Vincent Park, with the proponent suggesting a building that contained the pump-house and public washrooms. This was seen as an option as the St. Vincent Park Concept plan, adopted in 2020 through report COR2020-33, included a new washroom facility, to replace the existing seasonal port-a-potties.”
Municipal staff told council that through further conversations with the Parks Advisory Committee, it became clear that there were “significant issues to be overcome for the pump-house to be situated at St. Vincent Park, such as size, location, lease terms, responsibility for maintenance of facilities, and long-term protections for the Municipality should the business no longer exist or require the pump-house.”
The proponent instead turned their attention to obtaining a section of Sideroad 22 for their pump-house, an option that neighbouring property owners fear would restrict access to their properties.
Those property owners attended Monday’s council meeting to express their opposition to the request to purchase the property, suggesting that an industrial pump-house built in a residential neighbourhood was not ideal, and the loss of access to their properties from Sideroad 22 would hamper the ability of those property owners to conduct maintenance on their wells and septic systems.
The report to council offered four options for council to consider including approval of the sale as presented, leasing a section of property to the orchard instead of selling the property, leasing part of St. Vincent Park, or to decline the offer to purchase.
“Council is under no obligation to accept the request from Longfield Farms, and could decline the offer. As mentioned above, staff believe that there is an economic development benefit to allowing the pump-house construction,” staff noted in their report.
Members of council were not eager to offer approval of any of the options at Monday’s meeting, noting a number of concerns with the proposal and indicating that much more information would be required before council could make a decision.
“I have no issue with water being taken out of Georgian Bay for agriculture, I have zero issue with that,” Councillor Steve Bartley told council. “I (do) have an issue shutting access down on these roads, especially the shore road, I know you (neighbouring property owners) need it to get there, to get to your septic systems, you need it to get to your wells, and I have no intentions of shutting that off. If there’s a way to take water from Georgian Bay and still have access to it, I’d like to hear it.”
Councillor Harley Greenfield moved for a deferral of the agenda item until more information could be provided to council. Greenfield’s motion to defer passed in a narrow 3-2 vote (Deputy Mayor Shirley Keaveney was absent from the meeting, and Councillor Brandon Forder, a resident of the area, declared a pecuniary interest and sat out of council discussions of the issue).
With council’s deferral, no decision will be made until municipal staff can provide more information, along with potential solutions to the concerns expressed by residents at Monday’s meeting.