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OMB makes room for 12,000 more people in County's future, 8,000 still in flux

Posted April 30, 2014

The long running saga that is the Simcoe County Official Plan, as it fits into the provincial government's legislated Growth Plan for Simcoe County, as amended, is nearing a conclusion with the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) recently approving policy provisions to guide the allocation of an additional 12,000 population, while holding in abeyance the remaining 8,000 to appease the Township of Adjala-Tosorontio which remains committed to Walton Group's proposal to add 10,000 people to Everett.

The Places to Grow "Simcoe specific amendment" initially provided a hard population projection of 667,000 people by 2031 with the bulk of that directed to designated "primary settlement areas," which includes Alliston. But that sparked an uproar from communities like Wasaga Beach, and Springwater Township, so the province upped the number by 20,000, but did not include how that was to be dispersed since development plans start at the lower tier level.

"At the Pre-hearing conference on April 15th the Board granted approval on the policy framework dealing with how applications will be considered for part of the 20,000 in additional population. The approval for now is for 12,000 population, with a hold-back of 8,000 because there were 2 parties who had a few points of no agreement," Simcoe County CAO Mark Aitken explained in an email to Free Press Online. "The additional 8,000 will be released with the Board's disposition of the remaining matters to be heard at the June hearing for the County OP. ... You will see the policies set out that County Council makes the final decision on these allocations. Applications that qualify for part of the 20,000 would come forward to the County as they are adopted by the local municipalities, they would get evaluated for compliance and brought forward to County Council for consideration and decision."

The OMB's interim ruling for the 12,000 population includes the following approvals framework
  • Does not involve an expansion of a settlement area boundary.
  • if the application is on lands within a primary settlement area;
  • if the application consolidates and aligns land supply in more appropriate locations and uses rural infrastructure and public service facilities efficiently;
  • if the application focuses rural growth and promotes the vitality and regeneration of rural settlement areas;
  • The County, in collaboration with the local municipalities, will identify lands that qualify as lands not for urban uses for each local municipality;
Adjala-Tosorontio's OPA #15 whose aim is to expand the settlement boundary area in Everett does not fit the approvals criteria as set out by the OMB. The Township is seeking to have the OMB delete any references that limit the additional population to "primary" and "does not involve an expansion of an existing settlement area boundary."

Aware Simcoe, a citizens organization which "works for government transparency & accountability, the protection of water, our environment & health," along with the Everett Ratepayers Association have come out against the OMB's interim measures imposed following in camera meetings between the lawyers, and planners.

"The County of Simcoe is asking to go ahead to approve a motion revising 1A without giving us the opportunity to look at the changes," according to Chantale Gagnon of the Everett Ratepayers Association, in a press release. "If this goes ahead without receiving the statements from participants, our statements are no good, what are we here for?"

It was a sentiment echoed by Sandy Agnew of AWARE.

"We have the strongest interest in 1a, we have prepared material that we think will assist the board in making your decision," he told the OMB panel. "If you go ahead and approve, we will be cut right out of it. ... To go out in the hall and have a meeting without including anyone else, this is what we've been complaining about all along - back-hall deals, backroom deals."

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