It’s increasingly difficult for younger people and new families to find an affordable place to call home. We have Places to Grow legislation, which is intended to rein in urban sprawl and preserve a ‘greenbelt’ around Southern Ontario’s built-up urban area. At the same time, provincial growth projections mandate all municipalities to actively plan for more growth with specific population targets. One estimate suggests 3.5 million people will move to the Greater Toronto and Hamilton region in the next 25 years. But so far, this has only led to more suburban developments starved of employment opportunities; a choice of either lower paid local employment or more costly and lengthy commutes, road congestion, and poorer quality of life. Meanwhile in major cities the size of an average high-rise condo continues to shrink. Neither housing option serves existing needs well. (In New York, ‘micro apartments’ are about 275 to 300 square feet). Continue reading
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.
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.
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
My last article illustrated the loophole that developers exploit to clear forested land long before any rezoning or development approvals are granted. The particular example was of a tract in New Tecumseth where 30 acres of trees are being removed by Tecumseth Estates under the guise of “agricultural expansion”.
In case readers think this is an isolated incident, it’s not difficult to find other examples. In fact, the same developer pulled a similar stunt in Innisfil, although on a much smaller scale. In 2011, under the name Alriz Development Ltd., an application was made for a Special Permit to clear approximately 3 acres “to expand an existing agricultural area”. This was a small portion of 135 acres on the 7th Line, 100 acres of which was agricultural. Continue reading
By “they”, I mean Barrie. I happened to notice that InnPower is preparing to begin preliminary electrical work for pending development of Barrie’s ‘Salem’ project. It illustrates the futility of trying to definitively control urban sprawl. It seems the larger the municipality, the less possible it is. This new urban expansion includes residential tracts about 11 km. from Barrie city hall and provision for a new Hwy 400 interchange at McKay Road:
It puts into context Innisfil’s push to service and develop “employment lands” in the vicinity to the south. The map gives you an idea of what Innisfil’s commercial / industrial developments will eventually be bordering.
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.
The Town of Innisfil is embarking on a lengthy consultation process to develop a new Official Plan (OP) to be known as “Our Place”. The Planning Act requires a review at least every 5 years. The last one completed in 2006 received partial approvals from the OMB between 2009 and 2011.
The goal is to define planning principles and policies that will guide the physical growth of Innisfil over the next 20 years. Initial discussions and public input will be used to develop “policy directions”, followed by draft Official Plan amendments. The consultants at Sorensen Gravely Lowes Planning Associates (SGL) have been retained to conduct the four-stage consultation and Official Plan development, which is expected to take about 18 months.
The project started with interviews with Council members. Similar interviews are also being conducted with “key stakeholders”. These are community associations, environmental groups, farmers, developers, retailers and businesses.
Innisfil residents are encouraged to learn more about how they can participate by visiting the Our Place website. Those who may not be able to attend events in person will be able to contribute their views through the interactive website, social media and online surveys. To reach as many residents as possible, consultants plan to stage several “pop-up workshops” at community events and various locations.
The first major event is a one-day workshop, “Community Visioning Day”, being held on Saturday, March 28 at the Town Hall from 9:30 to 3:00 pm. Participation is free but registration is required and a lunch is provided.
This year will also see updated reports of the strategic plan, Inspiring Innisfil, and Parks, Recreation and Culture Master Plan. Meanwhile Simcoe County’s Official Plan was adopted in 2008 but has yet to receive provincial approval. And at the provincial level, Places to Grow is due for a 10th year review. Over the next two years, our planning principles and goals for Innisfil and the entire region will be under the microscope.
By 2017 we’re supposed to come out the other end with an Official Plan for a “more balanced and complete community that provides greater opportunities to live, work, shop and play.” May it be so! You may not normally give land use planning a lot of thought but residents should keep an eye and ear on this process as it develops.