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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Innisfil-Barrie talks to start up again

Provincial development facilitator Alan Wells will meet on Friday with Barrie, Innisfil and Simcoe County chief administrative officers to work out the process of new negotiations.
“Yes, we are going back (to the negotiating table), provided the technical issues are addressed,” said Barrie’s CAO Jon Babulic.
“We’ll settle the technical issues first, without the politicians there, then start to renegotiate. I’m meeting with Alan Wells and the CAOs from the county and Innisfil this week … just to set the process.”
Talks with Innisfil broke down two weeks ago. Wells said the talks were progressing and the two municipalities were not far apart.
However, since then, the Ministry of the Environment study on the impact of phosphorous on Lake Simcoe has been released, which could impact the capacity of Barrie’s sewage treatment plant – and therefore, the amount of land the city could service.
Innisfil requires servicing for some of its employment lands, while Barrie requires additional land for both employment and residential uses.
Coun. Mike Ramsay, the chairman of Barrie’s negotiating team, said until the MOE decides how to handle phosphorous loading on Lake Simcoe – possibly through a Kyoto Protocol type of plan – Barrie cannot determine its servicing capacity.
“Barrie cannot negotiate in the dark. It’s not fair to Innisfil or Barrie or the province. We’d start down a road only to say ‘whoops’. We can’t do that,” said Ramsay, adding protecting the health of Lake Simcoe is a key Barrie priority.
Phosphorous sources include sewage treatment plant discharge, urban and agricultural runoff, as well as the atmosphere. Ramsay noted that the Holland Marsh – a major agricultural producer, has a lot of runoff into the lake, and the MOE may decide to limit other sources of phosphorous.
Phosphorous encourages plant growth, and as water plant life decomposes, the oxygen in the water drops, which can adversely impact fish and other aquatic life. Kempenfelt Bay’s water quality has been improving over the past 20 years and juvenile lake trout are sustaining themselves, noted Barrie’s acting community services commissioner Richard Forward.
“It’s important to balance growth with environmental stewardship,” he added.
Barrie council’s resolution states that Barrie cannot enter into negotiations until the MOE examines how to handle the phosphorous loading into Lake Simcoe.
“Until we have that information, we’d be negotiating with a blindfold on,” said Ramsay, adding the study could also impact growth in Innisfil.

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