A win for democracy! Ramara withdraws Rama Road MZO Request
From Mike Douglas for the Concerned Citizens of Ramara
Congratulations to Ramara Council for seeing the light. Today, the township announced the withdrawal of its request to the province for a Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO) to fast-track three proposed developments off of Rama Road on the shore of Lake Couchiching.
Make no mistake, the public outcry against the request for an MZO to facilitate the proposed Rama Road Corridor development is what led to council’s change of heart.
It was the combined efforts of local groups like the FGH Group (Fawn Bay/Grays Bay/Hopkins Bay), Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition, Ontario Nature, Environmental Defence, AWARE Simcoe, Orillia residents & some Orillia councillors, and so many other people talking about and investing some time and effort into questioning the circumstances surrounding the proposed Rama Road Corridor development that made the difference.
Changes to the Planning Act, brought about by the current Ontario government through Bill 197, have turned a once rarely used tool, a Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO), into a supposed fix-all that expedites development applications and changes to zoning.
The concern is the use of such an overreaching tool as MZOs in places like Simcoe County, where there are robust local planning controls and bylaws available, reduces or eliminates the open and accessible goals of the already established planning process. The MZO requested by Ramara Township was inconsistent with the Provincial Policy Statement, 2020 (section 2.1.4) that strictly prohibits development on provincially significant wetlands.
Controversy certainly isn’t a foreign concept where Ramara Township is concerned and this one was the latest in a series.
The Township of Ramara made public comments in the media and in front of Orillia council about not wanting an MZO associated with the proposed Rama Road Corridor development.
At the same time Ramara Township council and staff were reluctant to acknowledge the need to officially undo their actions with the province and Simcoe County endorsing the Rama Road Corridor development projects under an MZO.
Without Ramara Township’s official retraction of its MZO request, the province could have proceeded without further input from either Simcoe County or Ramara.
Pressuring our elected officials to do the right thing does work. Today, this is good news and the right news.
We trust this is the end of any initiatives outside of an orderly planning process for Rama Road.
Ramara’s follow up with Province on Rama Road Corridor
After discussion with the Province, the Township of Ramara and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) agreed that a Minister ‘s Zoning Order (MZO) would not be used in stimulating growth on Rama Road Corridor.
The Township of Ramara and MMAH had discussions today regarding the letter asking for changes to the Rama Road Corridor development phasing. This request was to allow changes to the phasing of permitted uses; however, both the Township and MMAH agreed that using an MZO was not the best path to take for this situation.
The Township and the Province are in agreement that the 25 year old designation has not stimulated the growth that was envisioned. To that end, the Township will continue to consult with the appropriate authorities to determine future activities. We will continue to discuss and evaluate policy options and potential next steps while updating Ramara?s Official Plan.
As the Township of Ramara is currently updating its Official Plan, we encourage residents to stay up to date on development by following our project page on Reach Out Ramara at www.ramara.ca/official-plan