The Peterborough Examiner
Rural suburbs with urban headaches
Allowing rural subdivisions to spring up on the border of urban municipalities isn’t always a good idea — something like cultivating dandelions next to a flower garden.
Eventually, converting the dandelion patch into part of the garden plot could require a more work and expense than anyone wants to commit.
That’s the case with the Simons subdivision, 64 homes on streets running off Simons Avenue, west of Chemong Road in the northwest corner of Peterborough.
Built 50 years ago, they were annexed from what was then Smith-Ennismore-Lakefield township in 2008. The homes became part of the city but had the most basic rural level of services — septic tanks instead of sewers, wells instead of water lines and narrow streets without curbs, sidewalks or storm drainage.
It didn’t take long for homeowners to feel like second-class citizens.
The sticking point was, and is, the cost to homeowners of those services.
But while it is better for townships not to promote growth right up against the city boundary, there is a better way to do it.
That was the case with the Burnham Meadows subdivision in Douro-Dummer Township. It sits on the east side of Television Road, just south of Old Norwood Road on the city’s east boundary.
When the city annexed a parcel of township land in the southeast corner of Peterborough, the township negotiated an agreement for servicing of the subdivision.
The 40 homes and 18 townhouses built in 2014 remain in DouroDummer but are connected to the city sewer and water network. The enclave looks like any other city suburban development with narrow lots, curbed streets and sidewalks.
The township collects all property taxes and has a cost-sharing arrangement on the services. When that area is also annexed — likely decades into the future — it would fold seamlessly into the city.
Burnham Meadows will be much larger by then. Plans call for 230 homes, 50 townhouses and a 190 “retirement suites.” Not all those residents will be happy about shifting from township to city living, which will make a future annexation more of a headache than it needs to be.
But nothing like the continuing Simons saga. Septic systems and wells require lots of space, so lots in the subdivision are large. The 64 homes are on a parcel five times the size of the current Burnham Meadows subdivision. Homes on standard city lots flank them to the south and west, and development to the north is on the way.
The first phase of that development is a nursing home, to be followed by a housing subdivision. Part of the Simons subdivision will get upgraded streets and sewers when the nursing home is built.
That’s where the cost issue jumps up. The city does not pay to build streets and sewers in new subdivisions, developers do. They build those costs into the price of houses.
Simons homeowners never paid that price, and now they will have to. Costs are based on frontage, so large lots jack up the total. One homeowner says sewer service alone would cost $100,000.
The homeowners paid less for their properties because they aren’t serviced, and can’t expect to avoid a cost that every other homeowner paid. However, the city can, and should, offer to extend payments out over time at an attractive interest rate.
More importantly, no more rural subdivisions should be allowed to spring up along the city border. They can’t be weeded out, and remaking them is a real headache.
While it is better for townships not to promote growth right up against the city boundary, there is a better way to do it. That was the case with the Burnham Meadows subdivision in DouroDummer Township