Places to Grow – in Barrie

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A public meeting tomorrow in Barrie (council chambers, 7:00 pm) is further proof that Ontario’s Places to Grow strategy to limit urban sprawl is a failure – at least in Simcoe County. It also confirms that Barrie is a city without boundaries and an insatiable appetite for greenfields.

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“The lands are designated Highway 400 Industrial/Business Park within the City’s Official Plan and are currently zoned Agriculture (AG) in accordance with Zoning Bylaw 054-04 (Innisfil). The owner has applied to amend the current zoning of the property to Highway 400 Industrial with Site Specific exceptions …”  Continue reading

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A History of the Heights

The ambition to service Innisfil Heights for industrial development has a long history. With the continuing efforts to find the means to finance a sewage servicing solution, it’s useful to look back at how this issue evolved. Fortunately, the digital archive of local news articles from the Innisfil Journal and Innisfil Examiner allows us to piece much of it together.

According to one document, ‘Innisfil Heights’ was first designated for Industrial & Commercial development in 1969. Ontario’s Greenbelt plan came into effect in December 2004, followed by Places to Grow legislation in June 2005. Ontario released the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe in June 2006, setting a deadline for affected municipalities’ Official Plan conformity by 2009.

2007

In October 2007, Watersands Construction Ltd, a corporate division of Metrus Construction Ltd., made a presentation to Council proposing a zoning amendment to 2,284 hectares (5,643 acres) of which they owned 806 hectares (1,992 acres). Their proposal included Hewson’s Village, part of a large residential and commercial concept that would be built adjacent to the existing industrial lands. Metrus said at the time, it “continues to be supportive of finding a ‘made in Innisfil’ solution for the Innisfil Heights industrial area … We want to bring cost effective servicing to the Town thereby providing marketable lands which will be saleable and competitive in pricing.”

Metrus Construction is part of the Con-Drain Group of companies, “one of Ontario’s largest developers” whose activities include municipal servicing; road construction; precast concrete pipe; electrical servicing; land development; commercial and industrial development and home building.

2008

As the proposal failed to get approval at the County level, Watersands returned to Council in August, 2008 to express concern about the draft County of Simcoe Official Plan. “Our most significant concern is the lack of Settlement designation for the existing Innisfil Heights area …”  Continue reading

The Utility of Water

InnPower bills dropped into mail boxes recently. Did you notice the note at the bottom? (“A financial plan for the Town’s Water Systems has been prepared.” ) I didn’t think so. How many of you downloaded the Financial Report from the town’s website? Right. OK, let me tell you a little bit more about how your water rates will be going up, and why.  Continue reading

Roads and Development Follow the Pipes

Readers might want to circle May 21 on their calendars. This is the date of a public Open House (Town Hall, 5 to 8 pm) to explain Council’s plan to form 2 arms-length “Municipal Service Corporations” (MSC) to build and manage water and sewage infrastructure.

Without going into a lot of detail, this is considered necessary because the Town will require large amounts of funding for ambitious water and waste-water expansion. However, Innisfil has neither the borrowing ability, (limited by legislation), or sufficient funds from development charges (DC). Developers usually pay DCs after construction while the money is required well in advance to install infrastructure first.

The following graph may be adequate to illustrate the magnitude of money being sought for water works in coming years:

WaterCapitalExp

Here’s a map to illustrate what this money will be paying for. Continue reading

Innisfil – the Retail Dilemma

In my last article, I talked about local food issues and how zoning can play an important part in promoting resilience. There are a few more things the Town might consider doing to support local businesses and economic development.

Alcona, as the primary commercial core, is too sparsely developed, so far, to form an adequate retail shopping environment. Existing commercial buildings are too spread out between vacant ‘dead’ zones, to make an attractive, walkable retail neighbourhood. Zoning and streetscape improvements were intended to attract significant development but that may be more years away from reality. Cookstown, Lefroy and Stroud are expected to have their own ‘core retail’ as well but will also be years away.

It appears to me that we have too many absentee landlords of commercial properties in Innisfil. Because there are few other options available (vacancy 0.9% in 2010), rents are too high for the current level of economic activity here. Distant landlords are both indifferent and uninformed. This appears to have been disastrous for a number of business tenants that have come and gone in the past few years. Properties can sit vacant for extended periods. This hurts all existing businesses.  Continue reading

Innisfil – Taking Care of Business

Residents who toured the new headquarter building of Innpower on April 11 learned that the west end of the building is unfinished and unoccupied. The intention was to provide now for future utility staff requirements that are 10 to 20 years in the future. As Innpower’s CEO put it in September, 2014, “The building footprint takes into consideration the growth demands for our respective communities.”

The original concept was to lease the vacant space (about 4,000 square feet on 2 floors) to private companies. The leasee would be expected to finish the interior space including drywall and electrical wiring at its own expense. At the time of the building’s public Open House, Innpower staff said that leases would generate revenue until the space was required for Innpower employees.

Meanwhile, back in March, Council was presented with a report describing a County initiative to partner with the Greater Barrie Business Enterprise Centre (GBBEC) “to increase accessibility to services/support to Simcoe County entrepreneurs by adding a mobile Small Business Consultant dedicated to providing in-market services …”. This was to be a two-year pilot project to provide a full-time small business consultant whose mandate would be “to deliver core business advisory services, business plan development, seminar/workshop delivery, [and] youth entrepreneur programs …”. (GBBEC is being renamed the Small Business Enterprise Centre)  Continue reading