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Water challenges place Toyotetsu expansion on hold

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Water problems in Simcoe are complicating expansion plans for one of Norfolk County’s largest employers.

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Norfolk council has heard that Toyotetsu has immediate plans to expand its auto-parts manufacturing facility on Park Road. The expansion will accommodate 100 new workers while increasing the plant’s capacity to supply Toyota assembly plants in Woodstock and Cambridge.

But those plans have collided with Norfolk’s moratorium on new development in Simcoe. The suspension is in place due to water-capacity issues.

John Vallee of G. Douglas Vallee Ltd. in Simcoe – agent for Toyotetsu – told Norfolk council on June 15 that his client is ready to proceed. Vallee said the expansion requires servicing capacity equal to six households.

“They can’t wait till September,” Vallee said. “We have a lot of clients who are concerned.”

Vallee said “panic” has set in among the local development community given that no solution is imminent for water-capacity problems in Port Dover, Simcoe, Waterford and Port Rowan.

Earlier in the month, Norfolk council settled on near-term solutions to shortages in Port Dover and Simcoe. Council heard June 15 that developers with signed agreements are allowed to proceed. Others will have to be patient before they can tap into the municipal system.

County staff would not specify which developments qualify for immediate servicing and are not prepared to provide a list at this time. Developers are being advised on a case-by-case basis, CAO Jason Burgess said, but staff will not have further details for council until September.

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Developer Tom O’Hara is sponsor of The Villages of Waterford subdivision in Waterford. O’Hara proposed a major increase in development charges — $5,000 “per door” – to create a fund for the immediate construction of new water and sewer capacity in Norfolk. This, O’Hara said, would raise the per-door development charge in Norfolk from $20,000 to $25,000.

O’Hara said Norfolk is poised to add 6,000 homes over the next 20 years. By his calculation, the $5,000 premium would generate $30 million for new servicing capacity.

“We’re firm believers that developers should pay their own way,” O’Hara said.

In astonishment, Mayor Kristal Chopp asked Waterford Coun. Kim Huffman if there was something special she should know about in Waterford’s drinking water.

“I’m going to hold you to those statements in due course,” Chopp told O’Hara, referring to Norfolk’s ongoing review of development charges.

Sam Bunting, spokesperson for the Haldimand-Norfolk Home Builders Association, said construction activity in Norfolk has remained strong over the past year despite pandemic constraints. He warned, however, that this could change. Bunting said Norfolk’s capacity issues are undermining confidence in the municipality as a good place to do business.

Burgess said the water allocation issue is under legal review. Another reason staff is reluctant to commit to a list of water-eligible projects, he added, is an ongoing examination of servicing capacity in Simcoe.

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Come September, Burgess said public works will know more about Simcoe’s pending connection to the North East Well Field in Bloomsburg, which has the capacity to supply 5.8 million litres of raw water a day.

As well, staff will know by the end of the summer if engineering is available to boost the output of other well fields in Simcoe.

Burgess said political considerations are not a factor in who gets connected to the municipal system and who doesn’t. He pointed out that the county’s chief building official only grants building permits to developments that meet provincial health and safety standards. Council’s preferences do not figure into that calculation, Burgess said.

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