Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Tewin’s $590M infrastructure bill locks in ‘forever sprawl,’ councillor says | CBC News

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The steep cost of building water and sewer infrastructure for the planned Tewin community has one councillor worried the city is locking in “forever sprawl” in southeast Ottawa.

“We’re looking at $600 million just on the water costs alone. That does not include transit. It does not include roads. It’s a huge expense,” said Capital ward Coun. Shawn Menard, who chairs council’s environment and climate change committee. 

While developers are supposed to be on the hook for growth-related costs, Menard said the city could be left carrying a chunk of debt as it overbuilds infrastructure for more than 100,000 residents.

His committee is set to consider a draft infrastructure master plan on Thursday. It foresees $1.5 billion in costs, not including $494 million more for water purification and treatment. The estimates are preliminary, but the pipes, pumps and reservoir related to Tewin are among the priciest items, at a combined total of $590 million.

The city will look to recover most of that money through development charges on new homes. But the financing for nearly $170 million in costs is still under negotiation, and Menard said city staff have told him the funding could come from municipal debt.

Tewin is planned for within the 800-hectare area on the left, south of Leitrim Road and north of Thunder Road near Highway 417, but only 445 hectares will ultimately be developed. (CBC)

That’s because the city plans to build more than what Tewin alone would require. It projects that about 16,500 people will live in Tewin by 2046, but it wants to plan for the 93,000 more who could move into the surrounding area by the dawn of the 22nd century.

It says “oversizing” infrastructure now would be far cheaper than building new infrastructure later, when those new residents finally arrive.

As just one example, the master plan calls for doubling the diameter of an 8.5-kilometre trunk sewer from 750 millimetres to 1.5 metres.

‘You’re going to see that area grow much, much larger’

Menard said that’s a risk, since it assumes the community will grow enough to recoup that sum through development charges outside the Tewin boundary. In his view, that creates an incentive to make sure it does.

“That would be forever sprawl in that area,” he said. “You’re going to see that area grow much, much larger if we allow that to occur in the first place. And that’s my concern. That sprawl is very expensive.”

But Jason Burggraaf, CEO of the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association, said oversizing infrastructure is normal and prudent.

“It gives you flexibility to increase housing, whether that’s through density on the plots you already have or if you end up having to add more land,” he said.

“It’s the most cost-effective way of ensuring that you have capacity in the system, whether you end up using it or not.”

Tewin won’t fund ’75-plus years of growth’

The 445-hectare Tewin project is a partnership between the Algonquins of Ontario, which did not respond to a request for comment, and the Taggart Group of Companies.

Taggart said it’s proposing “alternative, lower-cost servicing options that need to be explored in collaboration with the City.” It expects Tewin will be home to about 35,000 to 45,000 people within 20 years.

“We have always said, ‘Tewin pays for Tewin.’ We stand by that statement,” said an email response attributed to Michelle Taggart, vice-president of land development.

“It means that Tewin will fund the infrastructure that benefits it directly. However, this commitment does not extend to financing 75-plus years of growth across south and southeast Ottawa.”

She added that Taggart supports reviewing the funding split later in the process, as recommended in the infrastructure master plan.

But Menard said his worries go beyond debt. Whoever picks up the capital costs, he said it will still fall on the city to pay the operating costs for servicing the new community. He figures those, too, will be steep. 

“How much are we willing to pay to expand, and very inefficiently?” he asked. “It costs us every single time we expand into that greenfield instead of doing intensity in already developed areas.”

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