Population projections are too low, developer says

Section: 
News

 

By Barb McKay

 

Growth projections for the municipality are likely underestimated, Kincardine councillors say.

 

A senior planner with MHBC, a planning, design and landscape architecture firm hired by the Municipality of Kincardine to undertake its 10-year Official Plan review, attended last Wednesday’s council meeting to present the firm’s latest work on the plan.

 

Nick Bogaert told council that MHBC will be working with municipal staff over the winter to prepare the draft Official Plan and will hold a public open house on Jan. 22 so residents can view findings and recommendations and provide feedback.

 

Planners have completed a background report which includes updated mapping, recent development activity, growth and population projections and a review of the municipality’s natural heritage system, including significant woodlands.

 

The review of significant woodlands and Kincardine’s current natural environment designation is of particular interest to residents looking to develop properties, particularly along the lakeshore. The municipality’s revised Official Plan needs to remove some of the red tape that hinders development, some council members say.

 

“I live in the lakeshore area and it is very hard to get a permit and there are multiple layers,” said Councillor Bill Stewart. “Whereas, if I lived in Kincardine I could walk in and get a permit.”

 

Stewart said that people along the lakeshore have owned properties for years and now that they want to development have found that they need to pay for costly environmental studies.

 

“Each area has issues that require different types of studies,” said Councillor Maureen Couture.

 

She said planners working on the Official Plan review have been told to develop policies that are reasonable and not overly burdening.

 

“We are trying to have policies that make things easier, and we are working with council and staff to do that,” Bogaert noted.

 

Another focus of the Official Plan review is on land available for development and on projected employment and population growth. The municipality’s current population is 11,563 (2017 figure) and is expected to grow to 13,529 by 2039, according to studies recently completed by the municipality. Most of that growth is expected to occur in the town of Kincardine with the addition of 739 new households, as well as 185 in the lakeshore area and 88 in the village of Tiverton.

 

Bogaert said the municipality currently has a surplus of development land, with enough land to accommodate 2,127 units in Kincardine, 1,385 units in the lakeshore area and 336 units in Tiverton.

 

Mayor Anne Eadie asked if the population projections account for the growing number of retirees who are moving to the area. Bogaert said MHBC referred to the municipalities development charges study, which looks at demographics including seasonal residents, but he was unsure if it specifically accounted for retirees.

 

Eadie said people from cities are selling their homes for $1 million and moving to Kincardine where they think they are getting a bargain for a $400,000 or $500,000 home.

 

“I think it’s a trend in Ontario and we are getting information from the county that we are being discovered.”

 

Stewart agreed, adding that cottages along the lakeshore are becoming full-time residences.

 

Local developer Helmut Sieber attended last week’s council meeting and said he believes the population projections are low. He said Lake Huron is being advertised as Ontario’s best coast.

 

“I think we need to adjust, and it’s too simple to say it’s provincial policy,” he said. “We have to wake up and look at what has changed in Canada. I believe if Kincardine goes with (the projections) I just heard, it will miss out.”