Political leaders from Frontenac County present communal services concept to Minister of Municipal Affairs

During the 2022 Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) Conference, two political leaders from Frontenac County took the opportunity to present a plan some four years in the making to the MPP in charge of the Ministry that could see that plan take shape.

Both Denis Doyle, Warden of Frontenac County and Mayor of Frontenac Islands Township, and Ron Vandewal, Mayor of South Frontenac Township, attended the AMO Conference, held the week of August 14 to 17, 2022, in Ottawa. There, the two Frontenac leaders met with Minister Steve Clark, the Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs. Clark is also not a stranger to Doyle or Vandewal, as he represents the nearby riding of Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.

Frontenac County Warden Denis Doyle (left) and South Frontenac Mayor Ron Vandewal (right) met with MPP Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs (centre), during the Association of Municipalities of Ontario’s 2022 Conference from August 14 to 17, to discuss the plan for communal services Frontenac County and South Frontenac Township have been working on since 2019. Vandewal and Doyle feel the plan could act as a model for similar arrangments in rural communities across Ontario. Photo via Frontenac County.

According to a press release from Frontenac County, the three politicians met on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, to discuss a plan directed at relieving the housing crisis, which centred around communal services in Frontenac County. This plan, they said, could help make housing more affordable in Frontenac County, and in other rural areas across the province which are not currently served by municipal infrastructure – primarily water and sewer system.

Communal services are made up of shared drinking water and wastewater systems, which service groups of residences and business that are clustered together. Currently, residences must either be on municipal services, or on private septic and well systems. Municipally-based services are cost prohibitive for most rural municipalities, Doyle and Vandewal explained, while private septic and well systems are prohibitive to development.

“We laid it all out for Minister Clark, who said he is impressed with the range of our proposed projects in Marysville, Verona, and Sharbot Lake,” Warden Doyle shared in a statement.

“We’ve been working on this idea for four years now and we’re confident that it is a game-changer for new development in Frontenac and across rural Ontario. We’re hopeful that Minister Clark and the Government of Ontario will support the idea in Frontenac and champion it at Queen’s Park for other rural municipalities.”

As Doyle mentioned, Frontenac County and South Frontenac Township have “taken a leadership role in eastern Ontario to promote the use of communal services to support broader, more affordable housing choices in rural regions,” Frontenac County said in the release. Using communal services will help to meet “critical needs, such as seniors’ housing.

As part of the discussion, Doyle and Vandewal requested funding “establish a municipally-owned regional utilities corporation,” which would then oversee communal water and sewage systems.

“With the government’s support, the communal services approach could quickly make way for more than 300 mixed-use and affordable housing units in Sharbot Lake, Verona, and Marysville,” said Mayor Vandewal.

“Only a fraction of that number of homes could be built without communal services and government support. We are confident that this initiative will change our ability to meet the need for affordable housing in South Frontenac and the Frontenacs.”

To learn more about the communal water and wastewater services plan laid out for Minister Clark by Doyle and Vandewal, visit the Frontenac County webpage devoted to exploring, developing, and engaging the community in that plan. The full report on the communal services study, which was approved by County Council in July 2019, is available here.

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