CORNWALL, Ontario - In a stunning reversal, city councillors shelved a plan Monday night to share municipal water services with South Glengarry.
For months it appeared as though the city was headed to a water-sharing agreement with its rural neighbours to the east, but a majority of councillors said Monday night the city stood to lose too much when it comes to development potential.
South Glengarry has plans to increase its water works division, with an aim to attracting more development.
City councillors want to keep as much development as they can within city limits.
“By giving this we are directly giving them the tools to compete against us,” said Coun. Glen Grant. “It doesn’t make sense. If you were a business, you wouldn’t even look at that.”
Grant found plenty of allies at the council table.
“You’re going to help your competition be on an even keel with you? (Maybe) if your business park was full…but it isn’t,” said Coun. David Murphy. “We’ve also just started to develop and discuss the potential expansion of Tollgate, which would grow that area as well.”
Initially many councillors were supportive of the share agreement, though as time has marched on, more information came to light that suggested the city could be cutting its own throat.
“When we look at who we’re here to represent…they have been very clear to see as to what they would like to see happen,” said Coun. Maurice Dupelle. “I was hoping to see a lot more pros for the City of Cornwall.”
Coun. Elaine MacDonald said it was her hope that development east of Boundary Road would augment more development in the city’s industrial park – not hamper it.
Others agreed, suggesting taxes are lower in South Glengarry, yet businesses would be able to enjoy the equivalent of urban services.
“As a city councillor every year at budget time we get our butts kicked,” said Coun. Denis Thibault. “In approving (the plan) what we would be doing would be opening the door to direct competition from surrounding municipalities. I can’t logically stand up and defend that position.”
Mayor Bob Kilger was disappointed with the move.
“I’ve always believed that what’s good for our neighbour is good for us," he said. "But on the terms of the basis on the amount of land we are being asked to consider to service…I see an opportunity more than anything else.
“We are the commercial centre of eastern Ontario. Where are the people of South Glengarry and South Stormont buying their products?”
Representatives from South Glengarry were visibly perturbed with council’s decision, but had some warning that such a decision was possible.
"We were aware of lobbying going on behind the scenes," said South Glengarry CAO Derik Brandt following council's vote, suggesting "special interests" were to blame.
But Brandt would not identify just who the "special interests" are. He further added studies suggested the city stood to gain $11 million in increased assessment, while South Glengarry would reecive $14 million.
"This is a win-win for both," he said. "But in the end special interests won."
A development in South Glengarry that is scheduled to open in December will now have to connect itself with a private water system.
South Glengarry Mayor Ian MacLeod would not comment when asked what the city's decision would mean when it comes to future inter-municipal agreements.