Hazel McCallion, the Ex-officio Advisor to the Premier on issues within the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, hosted a summit of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) mayors and chairs to hear from her municipal colleagues on the province’s Co-Ordinated Land Use Planning Review. McCallion called the meeting as a direct result of GTHA municipalities raising serious concerns on Ontario’s proposed amendments to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe and the Greenbelt Plan.
“We heard consistent messages from the mayors and chairs, related to the proposed density targets being too high, about what their cities and towns will look like under the proposed plans, and that certain types of density will end up in areas that do not have the necessary planned or existing transit, infrastructure, community services and the corresponding financial investments to support that type of growth,” said McCallion.
“This comes with zero consideration for the financial and economic implications to the municipalities and regions. There are serious concerns that these plans are absent of any direction or planning for economic growth.”
On May 10, 2016, the Government of Ontario released “Shaping Land Use in the Greater Golden Horseshoe,” a document which provides an overview of the proposed changes to four plans that have been part of a Co-ordinated Land Use Planning Review. The Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the Greenbelt Plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and the Niagara Escarpment Plan are four provincial land use plans that work together to manage growth, build complete communities, curb sprawl and protect the natural environment.
A co-ordinated review of the four plans began in February 2015 when the government began to receive feedback from stakeholders. To support the co-ordinated review, the province appointed an Advisory Panel, chaired by David Crombie. Panel members attended public meetings, reviewed submissions, and met with stakeholders.
The Advisory Panel completed its work and provided 87 recommendations in December 2015 through a document titled “Planning for Health, Prosperity and Growth in the Greater Golden Horseshoe: 2015-2041” to help the plans better meet their objectives.
On May 10, 2016 the province released the proposed changes to the four land use plans: The Proposed Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, 2016; the Proposed Greenbelt Plan, 2016; the Proposed Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, 2016; and the Proposed Niagara Escarpment Plan, 2016. All plans the subject of a public consultation where the province is requesting feedback until October 31, 2016.
The summit was an opportunity for municipal colleagues to collectively share concerns and recommendations on the proposed draft amendments to the Greenbelt and Growth Plans, which councils are bringing forward through staff reports to be submitted to the province by October 31.
“I heard overwhelming concern today from my municipal colleagues on proposed density and intensification targets,” said McCallion. “Some municipalities are clear that they just cannot support them. Some say that they should be applied to areas where it makes the best planning sense. What’s clear is that the province has not looked at the impact of proposed policies on each municipality and it cannot be applied the same way across the GTHA. This is not evidence-based planning.”
McCallion will use the summit findings to inform her formal report to the Premier Kathleen Wynne on the multitude of issues impacting GTHA municipalities and their residents as a result of the proposed plans. Specifically, there are concerns on how the plans will impact affordability and housing choice.
“The affordability of life in the GTHA is rapidly getting out of reach for most people,” McCallion said. “The province’s proposed Growth Plan will create housing for the rich and housing for the poor, and nothing in between. There will be limited options in the GTHA for middle-income families to afford a modest home with any backyard or even a patch of garden.”
Amongst many other changes, the proposed amendments to the Growth Plan come with a requirement that the current Designated Greenfield Area density of 50 residents and jobs per hectare be increased to 80 residents and jobs per hectare, and that the intensification target for built-up areas is proposed to increase from 40 to 60 per cent.
“The message was clear — one size does not fit all. As a group, we are united in opposing this approach which does not respect our individual city building process and differences across the GTHA regions,” said McCallion. “Local government is closest to the people. Municipalities need to make local decisions, and it will be the municipalities that are left to implement these plans at a time when we are only beginning to see the impacts of the first Greenbelt and Growth Plans. We recognize it’s very hard for the province to understand the differences among municipalities but they cannot be ignored.”
McCallion has reviewed all of the municipal staff reports released so far and she says the amount of criticism and opposition to the proposed policies is overwhelming. McCallion said these concerns are clearly stated in the City of Pickering staff report: “The province’s new plan for growth does not give recognition to the dynamic and diverse character of the GTA, but treats it as a Toronto-centric one model fits all. It is evident that the province is not planning for complete communities, but rather planning by numbers, with little or no regard to aspects such as urban structure, community integrity, built-form character, place-making, local housing affordability and choice, availability of transit and infrastructure, and financial capacity.”
Meanwhile, the Oshawa staff report notes that. “Council does not support increasing the intensification target in the Growth Plan … from 40 per cent to 60 per cent and … council does not support increasing the minimum designated greenfield area density target in the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe from 50 to 80 resident and jobs combined per hectare.”
The Town of Caledon went ever further with a council resolution that requests the province “lower the proposed … target(s) to reasonable levels more appropriate to Caledon’s current density targets within the Region of Peel.”
With regard to the Greenbelt Plan, the York Region staff report calls on the province to: “Develop a process to review boundaries associated with the Greenbelt Plan and ORMCP (Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan) in response to individual landowner requests.”
“I took great pride in building the City of Mississauga and the communities within it that the citizens continue to enjoy,” said McCallion. “I want to thank each and every mayor and chair who came out today and voiced their very important thoughts on what they want growth in their towns and cities to look like in the future. It is my hope that the premier seriously considers my report, which will echo everything heard today at the Summit.”
Go to www.mah.gov.on.ca/Page14809.aspx to read “Shaping Land Use in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.”