I was at a Council meeting recently where a number of people took the opportunity to address Council about the proposed development planned for the area directly north of the No Frills store in Alcona. Some spoke earnestly about the desire to retain some green space, preserve a rural atmosphere and build a sense of community, the importance of preserving agricultural lands, and even a dire assessment of the US economy.
Councillors listened politely without mentioning that it was probably too far along the process for these types of generalities to have much effect. The Town’s current Official Plan is the document that defines in broad terms what urban development will take place, and where, over the next 20 years. The Official Plan delineates existing “settlement areas”, “greenfield” areas for future expansion, agricultural and environmental lands, and commercial and industrial areas, both present and future. Innisfil’s Official Plan also forms part of a larger Official Plan for Simcoe County as a whole.
- Places to Grow directs Ontario’s population growth to designated growth areas and existing urban centres through ‘intensification’ or higher building densities and infill of urban spaces.
- The Lake Simcoe Protection Act is aimed at protecting the Lake Simcoe watershed by introducing new development controls around rivers, streams and the lake itself.
- Greenbelt legislation has had a significant effect too since developers began to ‘leapfrog’ projects beyond this protected area into Simcoe County.
In the past, municipalities competed with each other for population growth and the tax revenues and various provincial population-based funding that comes with it. There was, and still is, a built-in incentive for more growth. But Places to Grow has forced a province-wide growth planning strategy. Municipal plans have to conform with the Places to Grow policy and be approved by the provincial government. In the end, downtown Barrie was designated as a growth centre, other urban areas such as Bradford and Collingwood became “urban nodes” while Innisfil was left out altogether. Innisfil’s Official Plan provided for a total population of
65,000 by 2031. Under review, the Ontario government scaled that back to 56,000 and Official Plans for both the Town of Innisfil and Simcoe County were referred to the Ontario Municipal Board. A mediator’s report is expected in the fall – after a provincial election. I don’t think anyone is willing to predict what the report will recommend or what will happen. Until then, Innisfil’s Official Plan is in limbo.
While provincial legislation and Official Plans set guidelines and limits, municipal Secondary Plans define more details of a specific area, what is preserved, what types of development can be built, where, at what density and how it will all fit and connect with the existing urban landscape. At the final stage of planning, a developer can apply for changes to zoning on a specific property.
In Innisfil, we have an opportunity to participate now at all of these planning stages. Official Plans for both Innisfil and Simcoe County have yet to be approved by the province and should be up for discussion late this year. Meanwhile Secondary Plans for Alcona North and Alcona South were the subject of a public meeting last week. Public comment is invited. Depending on what happens with provincial approval of the Official Plan, both may have to be revised. It’s important for Innisfil residents to acquaint themselves with these plans. It’s the blueprint that developers are using now to design how your community will look and function in the near future.
So what about the development around the Alcona No Frills store? A total of 282 units are proposed for the site composed of 86 single detached, 116 semi-detached, and 80 townhouses accommodating about 700 new residents. The 15 hectare site will include a public park and some open space. It is within the Alcona settlement area, consistent with the existing Official Plan. Further north, Pratt expects to build some light industrial units on land it owns.
Innisfil continues to grow, with Alcona evolving as an urban centre within the larger rural context. The Innisfil of 2020 and 2030 is being sketched out now. If we’re going to add 20,000 or more residents to Innisfil in the coming decades, it’s time for everyone to keep informed, get involved and make sure we do it right.
Concerns raised over subdivision plans, Innisfil Journal
Alcona growth depends on Innisfil’s success with OMB, Innisfil Examiner