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Growth policies put north Wellington municipalities at a disadvantage: report

by Patrick Raftis

MINTO - New provincial growth and Greenbelt policies put Minto and other north Wellington municipalities at a disadvantage compared to neighboring municipalities when it comes to attracting development, says a report from the town’s CAO.

The Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe approved by the province, effective in July, “builds upon” provincial policy, but takes “precedence over” it, providing specific direction on future land use, stated Minto CAO Bill White in a Feb. 20 report to council.

Minto is within the most northwesterly edge of the “outer ring” of the Greater Golden Horseshoe plan area.

The plan designates Clifford, Harriston and Palmerston as “Built-up Areas Conceptual,” the same designation as Toronto, Guelph, Waterloo and other large urban centres.

“Although nearly invisible on the map, both Clifford and Harriston have sections designated as ‘Greenfield Areas – Conceptual,’ but no such area is identified in concert with Palmerston,” White’s report explains, adding the counties of Perth, Huron and Grey, which border Minto, are excluded from the growth plan and not subject to its higher-level planning policies.

White indicates the intent of the policy is to ensure diversity of land use and protection of key natural and agricultural areas, in a context of climate change and other provincial policy initiatives.

The policy dictates that within the “outer ring” of the Greater Golden Horseshoe, designated greenfield areas (newly developing settlement areas) shall develop at no less than 80 “residents and jobs combined” per hectare.

“The best I can determine, Clifford will be developing at about half that density. What they’re talking about throughout this plan is forcing settlement areas to develop at much higher densities than they’ve ever been used to,” White told council.

Specific policies in the growth plan require upper and lower tier municipalities to establish a “hierarchy of settlement areas,” the report notes.

“So throughout the county they will prepare a list of settlement areas and which ones will get growth and which ones won’t. So you can imagine what that’s going to look like when the time comes to do that,” White stated.

Currently the municipal affairs ministry is establishing a methodology for assessing land needs to implement the growth plan. This methodology, when approved, will dictate how the county and local tiers calculate the amount of land they will need for development through 2041.

Because it is included in the Greater Golden Horseshoe outer ring, said White, “the rules for Minto and our settlement areas are different than they are for North Perth and Grey County and any other abutting municipality around us except for Wellington North and Mapleton.”

White’s report states that to expand the Palmerston settlement area boundary by a couple of hundred acres will require the same methodology and analysis as it would to expand thousands of acres in the City of Toronto, Cambridge or Waterloo.

“Expansion of these settlement areas (past and future) has, and will have, more impact on the natural environment, traffic gridlock, downtowns, and loss of agricultural land than many urban boundary changes in small town rural Ontario,” the report points out.

“Originally when I was a looking at how it was going down … I always felt we were going to be saved because, when you look at the mapping, there’s no Greenbelt here,” commented Mayor George Bridge.

“But then we got snagged somehow because of Wellington County being in the thing.”

Bridge added Minto is already disadvantaged in some ways as neighbourinug Grey County has no development charges at the county level and “Perth has different things that they get away with.

“Clifford, basically is going to get high rises ... I just hope this government, or whatever government is in there, can wake up some day and say, ‘We’ve got to get out of this business,’” Bridge stated.

White said the changes were “essentially centralizing planning policy back to the province” while eroding municipal authority.

He added, “They have removed the OMB (Ontario Municipal Board) in favour of local decision making, but that local decision making has to comply with all this.”

Council approved a resolution to accept White’s report and file a response to the Environmental Bill of Rights posting regarding the Discussion Paper: Proposed Methodology for Land Needs Assessment for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, indicating the town requests the province not approve the methodology and that it remain as a guiding document only.

The resolution also proposes municipalities in the outer ring of the Greater Golden Horseshoe under 15,000 population be exempt from the methodology, or that specific exemptions be included for settlement area expansions in the outer ring where the urban area will have a population under 5,000 people in 2041.

Council agreed to express concern about loss of local decision making in rural Ontario created by the growth plan, associated documents and methodology.

Bridge suggested council lobby other area municipalities for support.

“We should be getting Wellington North and Mapleton involved, and the county, and letting them know that this is a scary thing,” the mayor stated.

March 9, 2018


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