Township of Springwater, Ontario
“A Community of Communities”
Business View Magazine interviews Township of Springwater Mayor, Don Allen, and CAO Jeff Schmidt, for our focus on Building Ontario Stronger
In 1994, the Township of Springwater, Ontario was born, bringing together the communities of Anten Mills, Centre Vespra, Elmvale, Hillsdale, Midhurst, Minesing, Phelpston, Orr Lake, and Snow Valley. Nestled between the City of Barrie and the Town of Wasaga Beach, and one hour north of Toronto, Springwater is an ideal location for those looking for a unique mixed rural/urban experience with proximity to the amenities of a larger metropolitan area.
One of 16 municipalities in the County of Simcoe, the township is comprised of small urban centers and rural farming communities. Springwater Mayor, Don Allen, shares, “We are strategically positioned in the center of Simcoe County with convenient access to urban, rural, and recreational areas through regional and provincial highways. Springwater’s uniqueness combines small town charm with urban access, close proximity to schools and post-secondary education, four season recreational opportunities, and excellent supporting infrastructure. We also have access to one of the largest tracts of forest through the Simcoe County forests, offering many trails and activities throughout the year.”
Midhurst and Elmvale are home to the majority of Springwater’s 22,700 residents, with the township expecting an estimated 67% growth over the next 10 years. “Growing development continues to be a major factor in Springwater and dealing with managing the growth is an ongoing challenge,” Mayor Allen explains. “Development is coming fast and furious. It is estimated that the township will reach a population base of 37,800 by 2031, an increase of 15,100 people.” The population of Springwater covers a broad spectrum – from young families, to retirees, and everyone in between. Farming employs a significant portion of the workforce, while others commute to work in the larger cities south of the municipality. As GO Transit services from Barrie to Toronto are continuously improved, Springwater is becoming a more attractive location for commuters, especially in the area of the township on the northern edge of the City of Barrie.
Broadband is an ongoing challenge for the community and a committee has been put together to try to address the issue. The group is made up of members of council and township staff. Jeff Schmidt, Springwater CAO, explains, “The intent of the committee is to advocate as much as we can to have the private industries come and provide for that infrastructure, and also to try to support them through any potential funding applications they may want to apply for through federal or provincial funds. We are pushing to ensure that each one of our new developments have broadband or fiber within the communities.”
Schmidt shares that a resident recently came before council, seeking support to establish his own broadband infrastructure, something his neighborhood was on board with. “People have moved up here with the expectation that they would have broadband,” says Schmidt. “In some cases, maybe that expectation hasn’t been quite met.” SWIFT (Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology), a key municipally-led broadband expansion project in Ontario, has announced plans to begin projects in the communities of Anten Mills, Hillsdale, Phelpston, and Snow Valley. In addition, the Township has recently been advised of a Federal/Provincial announcement whereby Springwater and a number of other smaller communities in Ontario could see an investment of up to $140M which would benefit over 43,000 households and businesses.
In 2003, the Midhurst Secondary Plan was initiated to guide development in Midhurst. After years of planning approvals, , phase 1A of the Midhurst Valley plan finally broke ground in 2020. This first phase of development, called the Micks Subdivision, will include 342 detached and semi-detached housing units. Allen reports, “The tree clearing, and groundworks occurred in the latter half of 2020. And the internal infrastructure works for the subdivision are continuing into 2021. Work has commenced on the water and wastewater treatment plants which is ongoing.” Overall, the Midhurst Secondary Plan provides room for the development of 10,000 residential units, or approximately 30,000 people within the next 20 years. Although the model homes are just starting to be built, Allen shares the popularity of the project, “The sales center for Midhurst Valley was built and just opened in October to the public. Within 10 days of opening, all 270 of the initially released homes were sold, and the remaining 72 of the 342 single detached homes in phase 1A will be sold by the end of this year.”
Development company Geranium is one of four builders approved to begin working on the first phase which is expected to begin in early 2022. Mayor Allen shares, “Springwater has worked with Geranium since the Midhurst Secondary Plan was initiated in 2003. Over the years Geranium has worked hard with Springwater Staff and Council to bring to fruition this year the start of building this significant development. We take pride in the professional productive business relationship we have with Geranium and look forward to the evolution of this project and the positive contribution it will make to our municipality.” Brookfield Residential, Countrywide Homes, and Sundance Homes are the other builders involved in the development of the Micks Subdivision.
Commercial development is also on the agenda, with plans for the Snow Valley Road and Bayfield Street Corridor. Schmidt reports, “Servicing is not yet available on that corridor, however once the construction of the water and wastewater treatment plants have been completed, that whole area will start to change, and servicing will be available. So, we will likely see lots of commercial and or industrial type development commence in that location, it’s just a matter of time.” Currently, there is a study underway called the Bayfield Street Corridor Study that is looking into what future development might look like in that area of the township, including possible retail and commercial opportunities.
The Township of Springwater has also been working with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to negotiate the purchase of a 50-acre parcel of land called the Hasty Tract. This purchase was finalized in 2020, at a cost of $3,884,846. Mayor Allen recounts, “The municipal services proposed for this land include a new fire station, fire service training area, sports recreation complex, library, creative space, and other potential municipal facilities.” Simcoe County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) are also working with the township to add a facility beside the new fire station, both of which are now in the planning stages. “This will be a very significant development for us over the next five to ten years and will serve as a southern gateway to Midhurst and Springwater,” adds Allen. The township will be undertaking a Master Plan, which will include significant public consultation in an effort to determine the exact amenities that are to be constructed on the remaining portion of this property.
On the environmental side, Springwater is partnering with local indigenous communities for the removal of trees on the Hasty Tract site. “They have an interest in utilizing some of those trees and also partnering with us for possible community gardens and such on the property,” says Schmidt. “We don’t want to go in there and just clear cut. We will do what we can to ensure we preserve as much of the natural footprint as possible. In order to do so, the township has engaged the services of a professional arborist to prepare a tree preservation plan.”
The township is also home to several solar farms and has worked with the county to install EV charging stations in nine locations throughout Springwater. The Township Administration Centre, constructed in 2008, is a silver LEED certified building, and all future building in the municipality is planned with sustainability in mind. Schmidt describes, “All of our new development, whether it be Midhurst or Centre Vespra, or other areas, will be smart development. This includes LID (low impact development) systems, making sure we are sustainable, and this will also carry over to our new fire station and potentially our new recreation complex where we will also be looking to ensure that they are built with long-term sustainably in mind.”
The handling of COVID-19 in the early days is something Mayor Allen believes is a point of pride for Springwater. He shares, “We, as a municipality, through the leadership of Jeff Schmidt, handled the COVID-19 situation very well. We kept Council and staff informed, our communication with residents and businesses was very good, and our numbers stayed down. We are very proud of that.”
As the township moves forward, there has been a turnover in management, which has offered an opportunity for restructuring and review – a positive step for the community. According to Mayor Allen, “We are restructuring our corporate organization, we are updating our official plan, we’re reviewing our long range financial plan. A lot has gone on notwithstanding COVID over the last two years, and we are very proud of that. As a result, we are in a very good position financially and making a lot of progress on many different fronts.”
Springwater is an idyllic collection of communities, with the charm of small town Ontario, close to the advantages of big city life. It is no wonder so many people are choosing the Township of Springwater as a place to call home.
AT A GLANCE
Township of Springwater, Ontario
What: A rapidly growing municipality; population 22,700
Where: Simcoe County, Ontario, one hour north of Toronto
Geranium – www.geranium.com
MIDHURST VALLEY – A NATURAL COMMUNITY TAKES SHAPE NORTH OF TORONTO
A group of renowned new home builders – Brookfield Residential, CountryWide Homes, Geranium, and Sundance Homes are partnering to deliver the visionary masterplan for the Midhurst community in the Township of Springwater. The partnership, known as Midhurst Valley has recently launched the first phase of its multi-phase development in the master planned community.
Comprising a secondary plan of approximately 10,000 new households, this community represents a new chapter in the Township of Springwater’s history. The builders applaud the municipality on its desire to preserve and protect the natural environment, welcome new residents, and provide enhanced amenities for all of Springwater, including a new recreation hub situated in the heart of the community.
Midhurst Valley masterplan includes parks, a network of trails, open greenspace, and acres of protected area. The community borders Minesing Wetlands Conservation Area a popular destination for canoeing, kayaking, hiking, cross-country skiing and bird watching. Spanning some 15,000 acres it is one of the largest wetlands in southern Ontario and often referred to as the “Everglades of the North” as it is designated a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, a distinction shared with Florida.
The master planned development includes new state-of-the-art wastewater and water treatment facilities, which will allow the community to be able to attract a broader range of employers, thereby expanding the range of employment opportunities for local residents.
Nestled within a natural landscape, this all-seasons location, just minutes from the City of Barrie, and the recreational areas of Georgian Bay and Horseshoe Valley, Midhurst is ideal for families of all sizes. The first release of homes includes 25-foot semi-detached, 36- and 44-foot singles in a mix of traditional and transitional architecture. Future development includes neighbourhood hubs with medium density housing, schools, shops, and services. Bayfield Street, planned as a mixed-use main street, running north-to-south through the centre of the community, will become a destination for residents and visitors alike.
In fall 2021 the first release of homes offered for sale generated great excitement from homebuyers resulting in a near sellout after just two weeks! Home construction is expected to commence in early 2022, alongside further product offerings in a phased program ensuring building and sales progress remain coordinated. The exciting evolution of Midhurst Valley will take shape over the next five to ten years.
Barriston Law – www.barristonlaw.com
Barriston Law was the first law firm in Ontario and the third in Canada to become B Corp Certified back in 2019. Certified B Corporations® (B Corps™) are for-profit companies that use the power of business to build a more inclusive and sustainable economy. They meet the highest verified standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. At Barriston we are committed to redefining the law firm experience; making retaining a lawyer an easier, more positive and comprehensive process while also increasing employee engagement and satisfaction. Our goal is to better the communities in which we live and work by setting a higher standard for workplaces and the ways in which we treat our clients and the world around us. We believe that when businesses consider the impact they’re having on their community, staff, clients, customers and environment it allows them to strategically plan how to use business as a force for good, and a force for change. It is our hope that we can take this energy and transfer it across the businesses in our local community, improving the quality of life for everyone.
Snow Valley Ski Resort – www.SkiSnowValley.com
Beginning in 1987, the Snow Valley Group of Companies has developed an amazing community surrounding Ontario’s best winter resort for families to learn to ski and snowboard. Snow Valley Resort also features 17km of snowshoe trails and Ontario’s best Snow Tubing facility, rounding out a fantastic destination winter recreational facility for those in Springwater Township and beyond.