Utility Shortage Constraints for Approved Development Projects

Over the past six years, Cavan Monaghan has been a significant contributor to the inventory for new homes in the region, particularly in and around the village of Millbrook. This is not breaking news.  Some of this development was anticipated in the 2015 Official Plan and three Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZO’s) approved in the last two years have fast-tracked additional residential development plans in the township.  The township has been taking steps to facilitate these new build to respond to provincial pressure for new homes.

According to a report presented by Executive Director, Planning and Development and the Director of Public Works, the township has recently learned that there will likely be delays to some of the approved projects due to a lack of electricity and natural gas to service these homes.  Both Enbridge and Hydro One are kept apprised of all new development projects throughout the extensive planning stages.  “No comment” was the response to those circulated reports.

The issue only recently came to light.  While preparing to grade the area for Towerhill North, an approved subdivision of 718 units, the developer learned through direct discussions with the Enbridge and Hydro One that not only was there inadequate service capacity available for this project, but also there would be a delay in providing those services.  This gap threatens the timing and success of bringing this housing to market during the current provincial housing crisis.

Both utility providers have received ongoing notifications about the pending project since 2018 and neither had indicated a problem until 2023.  Ongoing discussions with township staff and the developer have tried to coordinate of the utilities and the development, but at the most recent meeting it was revealed that there is only enough hydro capacity for the first stage of the development.  The installation of natural gas services will also create a significant delay.

According to the staff report, Cavan Monaghan is slated to absorb approximately 40% of all residential growth in Peterborough County over the next thirty years.  At the township level, planning efforts have focused on advancing residential projects that conformed to the municipal Growth Management Strategy.  Other projects that are potentially threatened or significantly delayed by the utility delivery delay include provincially expedited development plans representing an additional 1400 homes, a new commercial plaza, the extension of the entertainment facilities at Kawartha Downs and the establishment of a the industrial property on Syer Line.

In an effort to garner political support to find ways to address these critical infrastructure shortfalls, the report suggested a meeting with our local MPP Laurie Scott and the Ministers of Infrastructure and of Energy with the Mayor and township staff.

After cutting municipal development charge revenue potential, last week, the province offered a carrot to municipalities that made significant contributions towards the provincial target of 1.5 million new homes.  Fifty municipalities with provincial new housing targets would be eligible to receive extra funding from a new $1.2 billion fund.  Annual payments would be based on the municipality’s progress towards these targets.  The City of Peterborough is one of the eligible municipalities and has a target of 4,700 new homes.  Ten percent of the funding pool is reserved for small, rural and northern communities which have not yet received targets to support their growth efforts.

It’s unlikely that Cavan Monaghan is the only community facing looming utility limits; we are probably just hitting them more quickly because of the pace of our growth.  Municipalities have been the easy targets to blame for lacklustre growth so far, but clearly there are many factors affecting the feasibility of meeting the provincial housing target set by the Ford government.  To do so requires all players working together to achieve them.  KG

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