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Simcoe County pushes to get ‘bonus’ population approved

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In AWARE News Network
Nov 8th, 2013
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Why Springwater doesn’t need any share of it for Midhurst

By Kate Harries and David Strachan AWARE News Network

As the county’s amended Official Plan inches its way through the Ontario Municipal Board process, Simcoe County’s lawyers have their eye on one important prize.
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The county has to have a policy in place in its Official Plan by January 19 2017 on how it will allocate an extra 20,000 people, an OMB panel was told yesterday morning.

Otherwise the provision allowing this exception to Places to Grow legislation, which governs the Greater Golden Horseshoe, will expire.

“We’ve been given a five-year window to utilize the 20,000 bonus population,” county lawyer Roger Beaman explained at a hearing held yesterday at the county administration centre in Midhurst.

The 20,000 ‘bonus’ on top of maximum population allocations already set for each municipality was part of then infrastructure minister Bob Chiarelli’s Amendment 1 to Places to Grow, enacted January 19 2012.

There’s been much speculation on which municipalities will have the 20,000 inflicted on them by their compliant municipal politicians – but Springwater, where Midhurst is the most controversial exception to Places to Grow’s alleged intent of curbing sprawl and green-field development, is not one of them.

That’s because, along with Amendment 1, Chiarelli introduced Transition Regulations which contained Special Rule 5.6, detailing how a section of Amendment 1 is to be implemented.

Amendment 1 had special provision for certain “transitional matters” (eg lands for which developers had plans).  Most such matters are to be guided by clause 6.3.2.2, which requires that the additional 20,000 population be divided among the development by 2017.

Clause 6.3.2.1 was different. Although no mention was made of the M-word, this clause was intended for Midhurst.  In this case, no population caps whatsoever were imposed! But a number of conditions had first to be satisfied. (One of them limited the area to no more than 300 hectares).

Alas, in their quest to craft a document designed to direct the Midhurst development to “be disposed of” in accordance with policy 6.3.2.1, lawmakers appear to have overlooked an important point.  6.3.2.1 (b) requires that the development “is on lands for urban uses as of January 19, 2012.” The Midhurst lands were not designated urban lands by that date, the day Chiarelli announced Amendment 1 at the Nottawasaga Inn.

So, a year later, on January 22, 2013, the province brought in Rule 5.7 which finally admitted that Midhurst is the target and states, “For the purpose of continuing and disposing of the matter in accordance with policy 6.3.2.1, clause (b) shall not apply.” One way or another, everything was fixed.

One can only imagine what kind of back-room negotiations between the province, Simcoe County, Springwater Township and the developers went on over two years to create Rule 5.6 and then Rule 5.7 – just for Midhurst. Suffice it to say that the people of Midhurst, Springwater and Simcoe County were not appraised of the deals. Perhaps Springwater Mayor Linda Collins will share that information with us at election time.

With Midhurst’s pro-sprawl agenda granted a back-door legislative nod, the 20,000 can be allocated elsewhere. Beaman gave a hint that the county will find this “opportunity” useful in resolving some appeals.

Given the deadline, Beaman asked that amended Official Plan process be split into two phases so that the most urgent matters can be moved ahead. The board agreed.

More than 40 lawyers and municipal staff, and a handful of citizens attended the pre-hearing.

A full hearing date is set for June 2-6, 2014 and June 15-20 to deal Phase 1, which will address a policy framework for the 20,000 bonus population; the Midland-Penetanguishene boundary; and development in D4 assessment areas on or near landfills or dumps.

The expectation is that if the board decides those issues, those portions of the amended Official Plan will come into effect – and, with regard to the 20,000 bonus population, will satisfy the deadline set by Amendment 1.

There are a number of further potential issues to be addressed in Phase 2, with an OMB hearing on those expected later in 2014. They are: Highway Commercial; Aggregate policies and mapping; Appendices; Definitions; Greenlands; Natural Heritage; Transportation; Growth Management.

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