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Public comments on Official Plan

In Bradford West Gwillimbury
Jun 21st, 2010

By Miriam King Bradford Times April 15 2010
The Town must review its Official Plan every 5 years, to ensure it complies with Provincial Policy, and the Official Plan of the upper tier government – in this case the County of Simcoe.
But the last time the OP came up for review in 2005, things were in a state of flux. The Province was still working on the Intergovernmental Action Plan (IGAP) and Places to Grow; the County on its Growth Management Strategy and Official Plan.
Instead of a full review, BWG completed a Master Transportation Plan update, looked at employment land supply, and approved 4 secondary plans – including the hamlet of Bond Head settlement area, and the Hwy 400 employment lands.
Now, 5 years later, the Town is ready to undertake a review – but there are still uncertainties, Director of Planning & Development Geoff McKnight told a Statutory Public Open House on Tuesday night.
The County approved its Official Plan in 2008, but the province still hasn’t released its decision, leading to an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board.
The biggest question is, how to apportion the growth that has been allocated to BWG, as one of 5 growth centres in the County.
When the OP was first approved in 2000, the target population for the town of Bradford alone was 38,800 people, with another 9,000 in the rest of the municipality, for a total of 47,800. The most recent provincial report increased Bradford’s population to a maximum of 43,000 by 2031 – an additional 4,200 people, or approximately 1,300 residential units, that must be incorporated into a revised OP.
McKnight proposed no changes to the rural population figures or the plans for Bond Head. Instead, he suggested, all of the additional growth could be accommodated within the current Bradford Settlement Area boundaries.
A study undertaken by Sorensen Gravely Lowes in 2005 suggested that vacant and under-utilized lands in Bradford east of Melbourne Drive could accommodate up to 920 residential units, and greenfields another 925 units by 2026, with 800 more available after that date. In fact, the consultants suggested that Bradford could accommodate up to 44,600 people within its boundaries, and “it would not create an urban form much different from what we currently see,” McKnight said. The issue is, “how to distribute that within the urban area.”
McKnight suggested utilizing the “future development blocks” in a number of the subdivisions – approximately 17.5 hectares of “left-over sites” strategically located near commercial, recreation and transportation nodes, and designated “Medium Density Residential” – but there are also questions of density, and “intensification.”
The Province is calling for greenfield densities for new development of 50 people & jobs/ hectare. Bradford’s current density for new development is 38 people/ha., “quite good in comparison with other municipalities” – and even closer to the target, if the Hwy. 400 employment lands are excluded from the calculation.
But McKnight foresaw greater difficulty in meeting the Province’s target of 40% intensification within the “built boundary” of Bradford. Currently, 4,800 units are in process, but only 180 – or 4% – are within the built boundary of the old town.
With the ongoing uncertainty, “We don’t really know what we have to comply with,” McKnight said, suggesting that most municipalities will miss the new deadline of June 2010, to bring their OPs into compliance – Bradford West Gwillimbury included.
McKnight noted one change, in the designation of lands along the Bradford Bypass corridor. To get provincial approval of OPA 15, the Town had to agree it would be “growth-neutral” – and lands along the Bypass can have no servicing allocation “until the highway is actually constructed.”
Despite a full house, the only comments came from residents of Bond Head – asking for protection, in the Official Plan, of their historic and unique downtown core.
“In 2012, this hamlet will be 175 years old, and it will be one of the oldest and most original hamlets in Simcoe County,” Lynda Usher told the meeting – noting that the acquisition of several buildings along the main street by developers was “causing great distress to the citizens of this hamlet,” and fears for the future.
Vera Stoddart, organizing a Bond Head History Book, pointed out that “there are more than 30 buildings in Bond Head which are over 100 years old” – including the historic Osler Church, now St. Catherine’s of Alexandria; 2 hotels built in the 1860s, and three 19th c. manses that “are still standing and occupied.”
Usher asked Council to “preserve these unique buildings, due to their special history, important people who put Bond Head on the map, and the coming 175th celebration.”
David Chambers added his voice to the call for the preservation of Bond Head. “I see this as an opportunity to review the appropriateness and the effectiveness of our current policies on heritage,” said Chambers, who has proposed that Bond Head be designated a Heritage District. He called some of the changes “most encouraging,” but pointed out that there were still “deficiencies… inconsistent with Provincial Policy” – and called for stronger language in the new OP to ensure heritage preservation.
Photo: Buildings in downtown Bond Head now owned by developers.

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