Focusing on Place – Innisfil Heights

I left off discussing Our Place, the official plan process, by quoting the Project for Pubic Spaces: “When you focus on place, you do everything differently”. That doesn’t mean that previous plans aren’t rolling right along. One of them is the long-standing plan to extend water and sewer utilities to Innisfil Heights, the area east and west of Highway 400, which is designated as ‘employment lands’. The rationale has always been that businesses attracted to this area will reduce the need for many residents to commute to jobs beyond Innisfil.


Water & Wastewater – Presentation to Town of Innisfil Council

It becomes obvious from a map that relentless development from Barrie in the north and Bradford in the south is also a major factor driving this project. Since Barrie successfully annexed a portion of Innisfil on the pretext of ‘running out of land’, (in spite of Places to Grow policy) the fear of future annexations has only increased. It appears inevitable that lands running parallel to the highway will resemble the sprawl created in South Barrie although “major retail and residential uses are not permitted” according to the latest provincial planning amendment. I’ve heard that any agricultural land in the area has been sold and is currently only leased back.

Meanwhile, neighbouring development is drawing existing manufacturing businesses away from Innisfil. Lately, they include Streit Industries (armoured vehicles) and Munroe Furniture (household furnishings), which have both moved to Barrie. The Smart Centre proposal (adjacent to Hwy 400) for a gas bar, hotel and some retail is on hold because, at present, it would require construction of an enormous and uneconomic septic system.

Everyone Else is Doing It

Former Mayor Jackson was quoted in 2009 saying, “We get calls almost weekly from people wanting to locate on the highway. We’ve got to provide that service.” Few people question the ‘need’ for this development. One who did is Victor Doyle (an architect of the Greenbelt) who said in 2009 the proposed developments on Highway 400 in Bradford and Innisfil could result in a “cumulative effect, which will open up a new linear pattern of urban sprawl along Highway 400 running virtually from the Holland Marsh to north of Barrie.”

Big Cash Needed …

The stumbling block here has always been the huge investment required. The capital investment needed for Innisfil’s projected growth was estimated to be $183 million in 2012. Some of the cost is recovered through Development Charges (DC), which are eventually passed on to property buyers by developers. Legislation limits the amount that the Town can borrow for capital projects. Meanwhile, the province has announced a Working Group to review development charges legislation, probably driven by developers lobbying for lower charges.

… And a Way to Borrow It

Innisfil’s current CAO recently proposed a new approach to Council in a presentation titled, “Water and Wastewater – addressing our infrastructure needs”. He proposed forming a Municipal Services Corporation (MSC) owned by the Town. It would finance and build water utility infrastructure while providing:

  • “additional leverage with access to capital”
  • transparency (Council retains oversight and “rate setting responsibility”)
  • financial self sufficiency (debt exists separately under a corporate umbrella)
  • competitive advantage in attracting development

Next Steps?

Council was sufficiently captivated by this presentation to want to move to the next step, the development of a Business Case for the MSC (coming back to Council on May 6). It raises some basic questions:

  • Is Innisfil Heights the best option for ‘employment lands’?
  • How many Innisfil residents might it employ?
  • Do we have any options to “do things differently”?
  • Would the MSC debt create pressure for more or faster growth?
  • How does the Innisfil Heights concept impact the Our Place official plan consultations?

Powerpoint presentation to CouncilWater & Wastewater


Innisfil Heights – Innisfil’s Next Development Frontier (Nov. 2012)
Mayors say Grow the Greenbelt (Aug. 2014)

8 thoughts on “Focusing on Place – Innisfil Heights

  1. Wow it seems that I have hit a nerve…..oh well moving on as I think this fine blog should not be a “Soapbox” for people like Doug.

    • Dear Anonymous, People who remain anonymous usually have something to hide???? The taxpayers and voters of Innisfil deserve full transparency let the “sunshine” show the excessive $$$ spending plans of town officials. I will see you May 6th at our Delegation at Innisfil Council on our recommendations for “Code of Conduct” for council members during elections. (the same evening Council hears more about this “Water and Waste-ful” plan from the 3 Deputy CAOs.

      PS- I will recognize YOU because you may be wearing dark sun glasses hiding in the back of the room anonymously….

  2. For the Anonymous comment- I’m not running in the next municipal election! But B_ _ _ Anonymous of Cookstown is. If I was running here is some of my agenda….Christmas trees at Town Hall, no $45000 new town logos, no changing town name, no wrong designs for $125000 Sculptures, less photo ops for self promotion for mayors, no use of town logos by candidates, if you promise not to take contributions from developers or corporations do not take their contributions and if you do get booted out of office by the voters in the municipal elections do not be delusional and pretend you are still mayor in exile. Plus less sunshine list and do not get a 3rd Deputy CAO or more over paid $$$$$ con-sultants$$$$$.

  3. Douglas seems to have an agenda….I know he wont get my vote with all the negativity!

  4. Economic watch dogs would strongly caution voters and taxpayers of Innisfil of this plan to create more debt under another new faux municipal corporate umbrella. That’s just like max-ing out one over taxed credit card and applying for and getting another credit card to start max-ing out the 2nd and 3rd credit card.

    Don’t forget this Innisfil CAO sits on the Inn Power board -(formerly Innisfil Hydro) and that organization purchased a $125,000 sculpture art work which wasn’t even the design the ARTS council ordered. That sculpture was paid for on the tax burden of taxpayers and voters of Innisfil.
    While everyone wants the “motherhood” issue of local employment this town has yet to motivate and bring “soft” home based, tourism or any “new technology” jobs to Innisfil, often letting them go elsewhere. The Innisfil Connex candidates who ran to council in the last municipal election constantly remind the voters of Innisfil’s poor cell phone connections and high speed internet availability.

    As we debate this a tourism resort organization, Skyline Resorts (which control Deerhurst in Muskoka, Horseshoe Valley and Port McNicol) as well as many other tourism facilities is setting up a sales presentation center to sell condos and time shares and recreational and tourism assets outside of Innisfil. Their new sales center is where? Just guess? It is on the hwy 400 just off Innisfil Beach Road in the log home just south of Armstrong Trailers. And the economic future of Innisfil is this water and waste plan.? Give your heads a shake council and see this new corporate identity for just what is really is….just more bureacrats over paid on the sunshine list for the taxpayers to carry the weight. It would be cheaper to purchase another art sculpture for Barb and her friends again!

    • What really irritates me is the constant negativity that almost every proposal generates. I try to give readers a sense of all the issues and I hope I ‘question’ more than criticize. I don’t want to censor comments but I would ask readers to make at least one positive suggestion. For instance, how would you deal with the loss of existing manufacturers to Barrie? New cell towers are going up and, really Doug, we elected a new mayor and council last October. Let go of the partisanship already.

      • I believe my first statement did positively state Innisfil should persue “soft” industry, like software development or home or SOHO based jobs and skilled new economy jobs like the boys at Connex placed into their election platform and speeches etc. The believe that this industrial park is going to land the next regional Honda plant is pure fiction at council. Our new council was just recently elected yes Mike, let’s give them a chance. But isn’t this the same new council which some of them took corporate and developer contributions even after they made an election promise of not doing so? Is that too partisanship for you or the taxpayers and voters of Innisfil? And the $125,000 sculpture or the party just last weekend at Inn Power with cake and ice cream and not a mention of the sculpture’s wrong design during the tour of the new facility is that partisanship?

        And to end this light hearted funny debate, the former mayor who is already campaigning for the mayor role in 2018 election has a facebook page already electioneering on the other side of the desk I think. Her facebook work declares she is in the race even sooner than Hilary Clinton in the USA. Look out council members, 2018 is just around the corner and she has already has 200 loyal “like” followers on her facebook page on the other side of the desk. I trust she will not use town logos on this website during the next 3 years until the 2018 municipal election.

        I would like to bid and quote on the next corporate art sculpture in front of the new “Municipal Services Corporation” . Is it for $125,000 too?

        And lastly I would like to invite everyone out to the May 6th Innisfil council, were I am presenting a 5 minute delegation to new council on recommendations to improve the “code of conduct” rules of council members during an election period. This is our positive recommendation.

        And thanks for the use of your soap box “OurInnisfil” but I have my own radio station 98.5 FM in Barrie and 96.9 FM in Cookstown.

        See you May 6th!

      • Well, this ‘light-hearted’ debate is attracting a lot of readers! I think we get your point. Anyone else want to step up to the soapbox with your thoughts?

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