Understanding Growth and Water / Wastewater Infrastructure
The desire to live in Prince Edward County has been steadily building over the past several years. The County has become an attractive destination for a multitude of people, everyone from retirees to young families, from mid-career professionals to aspiring entrepreneurs.
Many people interested in living in The County have struggled to find a place to live within their budget. To meet that pent-up demand for a mix of different housing in the County, developers have expressed a strong interest in building new homes across all of the municipality’s settlement areas.
With thousands of new home starts planned over the next five years, the municipality is developing a plan to ensure the water and wastewater infrastructure is available to satisfy that demand.
The municipality is guided by several principles as it considers and plans for growth.
Meet the provincial regulatory framework
The County must follow the obligations set out in the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS). The PPS requires the municipality to consider growth and accommodate when it is financially viable. Where that growth should take place is a municipal decision, informed by the County’s Official Plan and various Secondary Plans.
Specifically, the municipality must ensure sufficient land is made available to accommodate an appropriate range and mix of land uses to meet projected needs for a time horizon of up to 20 years. Furthermore, provincial policy requires the municipality to maintain at all times the ability to accommodate residential growth for a minimum of 10 years while also ensuring the municipality maintains land with servicing capacity sufficient to provide at least a three-year supply of residential units available through lands suitably zoned to facilitate residential intensification and redevelopment, and land in draft approved and registered plans.
Maintain infrastructure in good condition
The County’s water treatment and distribution systems as well as the wastewater treatment plants are maintained according to provincial legislation and industry standards. The Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002 provides a legislative framework for the County and all municipal drinking water systems across the province. The Act provides a consistent set of provincewide standards and rules to help ensure access to safe, high quality, reliable drinking water.
Invest in a wide range of infrastructure to support the needs of businesses and residents
The County is responsible for a variety of core infrastructure that are essential to the community’s economic prosperity, health and quality of life. Growth is directed to the various settlement areas to help preserve the natural landscape and to minimize conflicts with and preserve agricultural lands. The County has invested heavily in the existing infrastructure in Picton and Wellington, and is able and willing to expand the infrastructure to support more expansive and denser developments, including residential. In addition to water and wastewater infrastructure, the municipality is responsible for roads and bridges, parks and recreational facilities, social housing, public transit.
Ensure that infrastructure is spread fairly across the County
The municipality has distributed systems for providing safe drinking water and collecting and treating wastewater. Six drinking water treatment and distribution systems under the operational authority of the municipality, while the County operates two wastewater treatment plants. Investments need to be made across all of these systems so that they stay in good working order.
Growth should pay for growth
Development charges are fees collected from developers at the time a building permit is issued. The fees help pay for the cost of infrastructure required to provide municipal services to the new development, such as water and wastewater infrastructure as well as roads, transit, community centres and fire and police facilities. The idea is that while existing water and wastewater customers can expect their rates will go to the continued maintenance of the service, they should not have to pay for costs that serve growth.
The municipality is projecting 3,208 housing starts across The County in the next five years to catch up with real estate demand. Of these, 1,418 are predicted in Wellington.
This represents a 333% projected increase in housing starts across The County in this six-year period compared the previous six years (963).
Required Infrastructure Investments
Regardless of growth, significant investments are needed over the next 20 years to maintain water and wastewater infrastructure across Prince Edward County. According to information collected for the County’s 20-year capital plan for water and wastewater infrastructure, an estimated $76-million investment is required to keep the County’s current assets in good repair.
The municipality draws on a combination of financial tools to fund the capital costs related to maintaining and expanding water and wastewater infrastructure. It’s that mix that informs the water and wastewater budgets each year as well as the new rates, which the municipality will consult the public about in 2021.
The financial tools include:
Save now. Pay later: The municipality maintains reserves and reserve funds to pay for future water and wastewater infrastructure work. The reserves are raised through water and wastewater rates. The funds in those reserves earn interest.
Current users: Capital infrastructure costs in any given year can be covered by fees and charges levied by the County under the authority of the Municipal Act. Costs associated with water and wastewater infrastructure projects are covered by the rates charged to users and connection charges.
Growth: The growth-related costs of water and wastewater infrastructure to service development of the urban serviced areas are recovered through development charges.
Future generations: The municipality can take on long-term debt in the form of loans through the province to cover water and wastewater infrastructure capital costs.
Focus on Wellington
Even without growth, the municipality faces significant capital costs to maintain and upgrade existing water and wastewater infrastructure in Wellington. Additional capital costs are required to meet the development demand. See chart below:
The municipality is currently negotiating upfront financing agreements with developers, which is permitted under the Development Charges Act. These agreements would allow the municipality to collect development charges before costs to expand water and wastewater infrastructure are incurred. Furthermore, the agreements would allow municipal staff to better understand when developments are projected to come online and plan infrastructure expansion accordingly. That way, the municipality limits its risk of expanding water and wastewater capacity and the development not occurring to help pay for that growth.
The County hosted an online information session on Tuesday, April 20. Staff discussed development growth and the impact on water and wastewater infrastructure in Prince Edward County. Watch the recording of the information above.
The information session focused on the ways in which the municipality will maintain existing water and wastewater infrastructure and expand services to keep pace with development demand.
The Official Plan describes policies on how land in the community should be used. It is prepared with input from the public and helps to ensure that planning and development meets the community’s needs now and in the future.
Council has adopted a new Official Plan, which is currently being reviewed by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. View the Official Plan adopted by Council
Secondary Plans set out detailed land use policies to guide growth and development for specific communities. The County has revitalized its Secondary Plans for Picton-Hallowell, Rossmore, and Wellington.
Area-Specific Development Charges for the Wellington Urban Serviced Area
The County is considering to recover the growth-related costs of service in Wellington by imposing an area-specific development charge (ASDC) by-law in the Wellington Urban Serviced Area. If adopted by Council, this ASDC by-law would replace the imposition of the Municipal Act water and wastewater capital charges in this area. Council is expected to discuss the by-law at the Committee of the Whole meeting on Thursday, April 29.
View the background study for the Area-Specific Development Charges for the Wellington Urban Serviced Area
Wellington Master Servicing Plan
The Wellington Master Servicing Plan identifies, evaluates and prioritizes infrastructure upgrades for water, wastewater and stormwater management services. The plan looks at immediate and long-term growth opportunities. This was done to satisfy the provincial Class Environmental Assessment requirements.
Consultants RVA have completed the final version of the master servicing plan report. Learn more here
Water and Wastewater Rate Study
The County adopted a rate study in 2017 that informs the current rates that exist today. This rates structure is in place for five years and expires in December 2021. The County is currently completing a comprehensive rate study. Public consultation will take place in summer 2021. Council is expected to consider new rates in fall 2021.
View the Water and Wastewater Rate Study