The development outlook got a little brighter in St. Jacobs this week, as the township freed up sewage capacity. With the move, 16 property owners in the south end of the village no longer face the prospect of paying up to $37,000 for hookups to municipal water and sewer systems. Instead, the affected homeowners will remain on private wells and septic systems.
Most of the sewage capacity being held for the area will be released, increasing the very limited stock, which has constrained growth in the village for years.
The decision comes after more than a year and half of study, including a public meeting and the circulation of a questionnaire. The survey asked the 16 property owners if they would prefer to see the extension of water and sanitary sewers at a cost of $36,500 per household, the extension of municipal water only ($13,500) or stick with the status quo. Of the 13 who responded to the survey, the majority (nine) opted for the do-nothing approach. Three were in favour of water and sanitary sewers; one chose the water-only option.
The issue arose when water and sanitary sewers were extended to the south part of the village in 2003 with the development of the Valleyview Heights subdivision.
While the township prefers to get people off of private services, the engineering department recommended simply dropping any plans for the remaining unserviced properties, staff member Randy Miller told councillors meeting Tuesday night.
The decision was welcomed by residents, including Bob Schaus.
“We feel we’re quite capable of looking after our own systems,” he said.
For Ward 2 councillor Mark Bauman, scrapping the idea provides property owners with some peace of mind, knowing the township won’t be forcing them to pay for hooking up to services. This week’s vote should also put to rest the regular inquiries from residents looking for updates.
“Last year, I was getting phone calls all the time from being asked, ‘are you going to force us to do this.’”
Now, as there’s no need to force the issue, for health reasons for instance, the debate can be laid to rest. The fact that the majority of the affected property owners aren’t interested “made our decision as a council easy,” he added.
The drawn-out process for what was ultimately a quick and simple decision prompted Bauman to suggest the township look at defining timelines for such studies rather than letting them drag on indefinitely.
“Something like this should be dealt with … much more quickly.”
While the township will hold hookups for two of the properties immediately adjacent to existing pipes, the remaining 16 units go back into the pool.
Under a new formula adopted by Waterloo Region, the servicing allocations on hold for the 16 properties represent 53 “people.” Overall, the wastewater treatment plant in St. Jacobs has capacity for an additional 289 people.
The new calculating method in effect clears the way for more hookups and potentially more projects in the village. Instead of calculating how much extra sewage the treatment plant can handle based on units, the region now uses the number of people as its basis. That means there’s a sliding scale to determine development’s impact on capacity – a single-family home, for example, represents 3.34 people, while an apartment just 1.83 people.
By freeing up capacity, the township should make life somewhat easier for developers looking to add new housing units in the village. That includes an expansion in the Valleyview Heights area and a proposal by Mercedes Corp. to build condos or townhomes at Front and King streets in the downtown core.