WINCHESTER – The North Dundas Council discussed ways to move development forward without necessarily having the water and sewer capacity to deal with new growth at their Dec. 6 council meeting.

The municipality has basically used up all of its water allocations and is in the process of deciding how to bring more water to Winchester and Chesterville.

While the search for a way to increase the available water capacity of the municipality continues, staff has identified an issue with individuals or companies who have been granted a water allocation in the past but have not used it or may not be using it in the foreseeable future.

Allocations currently have a two-year life span, after which, if they are not used by a builder the council can be asked to extend them.

Consequently, someone who is ready to build a home for example but cannot get a water and sewer allocation because other builders are sitting on their own allocation is left out in the cold. North Dundas staff has been receiving questions and requests by builders and other organizations, whether they should be applying for water allocations even though there are none to be had.

The council is working on a process where they consider extensions to existing water allocations, and if they should be breaking down the different categories of allocations they have to deal with.

Mayor Fraser said, it is not as simple as extending an allocation permit for one house. Sometimes there will be complicated projects that will need some leeway given to them because of the shear size of their particular project.

A suggestion from the CAO was for council to make some decisions about what kind of growth they would like to see and if possible:

“Council may wish to consider establishing a guideline for allocating available capacity. This requires consideration of how council wants Winchester and Chesterville to grow and whether council wants to retain capacity for commercial/industrial growth and infill lots, as opposed to the first come, first served approach that was used in the initial allocations,” she said.

For example: new residential development (subdivisions) not currently serviced: 60 per cent, residential intensification (infill) already serviced: 15 per cent, commercial/industrial: 20 per cent, and other, 5 per cent.

“No one ever expected we would have this deluge of requests two years ago. This caught us somewhat off guard. We anticipated two years ago that we had 20 years. Now we have to rethink and plan in a better fashion. Where will we want these allocations to go,” said Fraser.

“It is an opportunity to refine our process.”

At the meeting, CAO Angela Rutley had some suggestions about what the council should do about incoming allocation requests. Rutley explained that effective October 2022, all available water capacity was allocated.

She said, “Most of the capacity was allocated in early 2021, which means that as per section 7.0 of the bylaw, those allocations will expire in early 2023. As per section 7.4 of the bylaw, council may, in its sole discretion, grant a temporary exemption to the expiry where council deems appropriate, by resolution. Applicants must submit a request for a temporary exemption and the $200 fee.”

Water capacity allocations expire two years after the date they are granted but there are exceptions; if a building permit has been issued that is connected to the water allocation or some kind of agreement has been made between the municipality and whoever is planning to build something, and they have already begun construction but have not finished by the time the allocation expiry date arrives, the allocation can be extended.

“If a building permit has been issued, the allocation shall expire in conjunction with the expiry of the building permit, which is a year after the building permit is granted, or longer if the building permit is renewed,” said Rutley.

Council was presented with two options regarding how to move forward regarding expiring capacity.

The first one would be to have applicants that already have allocations that are about to expire, to apply for a temporary exception to the expiry. The council would approve or refuse each expiry request.

Currently applicants who have obtained an allocation have two years to get a building permit.

“The time limit for the exemption is not defined in the bylaw, but given the current demand for capacity, the desire to create more housing and that applicants were already given two years to meet the requirement of obtaining a building permit, council might want to consider limiting the exemption to six months,” said Rutley.

The second option is to not allow requests to extend past the expiry date. Instead applicants would have to re-apply for a new water allocation. If a new allocation is granted, then the applicant would have two years to get the ball rolling.

She suggested that the public be made aware of water capacity becoming available soon, as existing but not used allocations expire.

Now the timeline for applying for water allocations is from Dec. 12, with the first intake closing on Jan. 9, 2023.