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‘Very disheartening’: New Tecumseth councillors learn about impacts of Bill 23

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Dec 5th, 2022
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Members support resolution opposing province’s controversial housing legislation

photo David Hawke
Brad Pritchard Alliston Herald

Thursday, December 1, 2022

New Tecumseth councillors sat down to discuss the province’s controversial Bill 23 at their first meeting of the term Nov. 28, just hours after it was passed at Queen’s Park.

The omnibus legislation is anticipated to have dire financial consequences for the town and every other municipality in Ontario.

A report from the town’s planning and finance departments noted it would it result in an estimated loss of $50 million in development charges (DCs) over the next five to 10 years. To make up for the shortfall, the town would have to increase property taxes on existing residents.

When asked to provide an example of what kind of financial impact the bill could potentially have on the town, staff said if the town were to incur $10 million in additional development costs in one year, that would require a 25 per cent property tax increase.

Mayor Richard Norcross was quick to respond to the comment, noting council would never approve a tax hike of that size.

“It’s not good news,” said Norcross, after staff presented the overview of how the legislation will impact the town. “It’s certainly very disheartening to our municipality. But we’ll get through it and will work together to do that.”

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) also did a preliminary cost analysis, and found Ontario’s 29 largest municipalities could lose as much as $1 billion annually between 2023 and 2031.

The Ford government tabled the More Homes Built Faster Act last month as it looks to address the housing shortage and build 1.5 million homes over the next decade. The province argues these changes to the Development Charges Act, the Planning Act and the Conservation Authorities Act will streamline the process for developers to bring more homes online quicker.

But critics said the changes will add millions in extra costs for municipalities, strip away the public input and municipal planning control processes, and hinder or remove the oversights provided by conservation authorities, which could have adverse environmental consequences.

During her presentation, senior planner Laura Brannon also noted that public meetings for applications for subdivisions and condominiums will no longer be required under the bill, it places a cap on how much parkland the town can request for new developments, it removes site plan control for developments of 10 units or less, and severely limits how much input the town has on larger applications.

She said the town will also no longer be able to rely on local conservation authorities to conduct reviews of applications to ensure they won’t have adverse impacts on the environment, and will instead have to rely on third party reviews at the cost of applicants.

Deputy Mayor Stephanie MacLellan called the province’s actions “inexcusable” and questioned the timing of the change.

“Their lack of regard for municipalities opinions is not in any way, shape, or form, a democratic way to run a province,” she said. “I’m disappointed, although I’m not surprised, that this provincial government strategically waited to present Bill 23 until municipalities were transitioning from the 2018 council to the 2022 council, arguably when we are at our most disorganized.”

MacLellan also called the province’s treatment of municipalities “insulting” and is concerned about the removal of all the checks and balances the town has relied on.

“Bill 23 in its current form, will without a doubt, in my mind, financially hurt and destroy the vision we have for our towns, and most importantly, it will leave the taxpayers on the hook for the tens of million of dollars in DC shortfalls,” she said.

Council unanimously agreed to support a resolution recently passed by the Town of Aurora, which opposes the bill and demanded for it to be halted to allow for more consultation with municipalities.

Councillors will further discuss the bill at its meeting on Dec. 5. The comments from that meeting will be included in the town’s official response to the province.
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