Minto wants to keep expanded Clifford urban boundary in place

MINTO – The Town of Minto will ask the Ontario government to leave a recent expansion of the Clifford urban boundary in place.

On Nov. 21, town council endorsed a staff recommendation to ask the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing not to include the lands in upcoming legislation to reverse a number of unilateral urban boundary expansions imposed on municipalities across Ontario.

On Oct. 23, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Paul Calandra announced legislation would be introduced to reverse recent urban boundary changes made by the province to Official Plans for the cities of Barrie, Belleville, Guelph, Hamilton, Ottawa and Peterborough, the regions of Halton, Niagara, Peel, Waterloo and York and the County of Wellington.

The reversals included unilateral modifications announced on April 11 to an amendment to Wellington County’s Official Plan, adding more than 1,000 acres of mostly agricultural land to urban boundaries.

The boundary extensions, which were among modifications directed in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs’ approval of Official Plan Amendment (OPA) 119, included:

  • just over 1,000 acres around Fergus and Elora in Centre Wellington;
  • 37 acres adjacent to Rockwood in Guelph/Eramosa; and
  • about 15 acres on the southwest corner of Clifford in Minto.

A building department staff report presented to Minto council notes the province has stated it will take into account any requests from municipalities to allow the provincial modifications to remain in place.

The report states staff support keeping the expansion place because:

  • historically, Palmerston’s growth numbers have been the highest within Minto, mainly due to the availability of buildable lots, but when lands were made available in Clifford, they were built out within a few years;
  • a developer has purchased lands within the urban boundary of Clifford with the intent of constructing a residential subdivision, with its phase two development lands being those brought into the boundary by the province; and
  • Clifford has the servicing capacity for these additional lands and a developer intending to develop them in the near future.

“When we sold our railway lands (purchased by Minto as part of the 2013 settlement of a lawsuit against the town by a developer) to private developers, they were snapped up and built very quickly, which just shows the growth need in Clifford,” director of building and planning services Terry Kuipers told council.

“But due to the lack of available lots that the growth has been historically slow.”

The staff report points out the county’s Municipal Comprehensive Review (MCR) process indicated approximately 40 acres of additional residential land should be added into an urban boundary for Minto in order to meeting provincial growth projections.

The report also indicated Clifford is the only urban centre within the county that has projected municipal water and sanitary sewage capacity beyond 2051.

Kuipers said the county’s opposition to adding land to the Clifford boundary was based on a “high level numbers” assessment “that we should put all the (new urban) land in Palmerston, because Palmerston has the highest historical growth.

“But if there’s not anyone interested in building on it, we don’t grow. So working with this developer up in Clifford, there’s the potential of this moving ahead a lot more quickly than other locations,” Kuipers stated.

“So prior to the minister’s zoning order that put this area … inside the Clifford boundary, that area wouldn’t have been allowed under provincial policy statement? Like we couldn’t just say, ‘Yes, let’s allow this building there.’ Is that true?” asked councillor Judy Dirksen.

Kuipers explained the Clifford lands could have been added through OPA 120 as part of the MCR process, even though the county was not initially supportive.

“We did take some of the urban boundary from Clifford and from Harriston and put it into Palmerston,” Dirksen pointed out.

“That is correct,” said Kuipers.

“And even part of … the lands that the province put in, were part of those lands that we removed.

“And the reason why we, as staff, recommended that they were removed out of the urban boundary is, from a desktop perspective of the lay of the land there, it didn’t look like it could be developed feasibly without lift stations and lots of expensive infrastructure.”

However, Kuiper noted the developer has presented topographical surveys on the area and “they’re confident that gravity flow to our existing system is possible.”

Mayor Dave Turton pointed out the land in question was brought into the Clifford boundary at the request of the developer.

“So I agree with you Terry. If we’ve got a developer and we have the capacity … why wouldn’t we keep it in and go forward?” the mayor stated.

Council passed a resolution to receive the staff report and request the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing leave the expanded Clifford urban boundary in place.

Adjustment deferred

Earlier in the Nov. 21 meeting, council recommended the county’s land division committee defer a request for a lot line adjustment involving the provincially-urbanized land in Clifford until the province makes a final decision on the status of the property.

The adjustment was requested by Michael and Tracey Schaus for a property at 41 Park Street West.

The proponents were asking to sever approximately 14.4 acres of vacant agricultural land within the Clifford urban boundary to merge with abutting future development lands, explains a report from Minto planning technician Ashley Sawyer.

The report notes the land to be severed was brought into the Clifford urban boundary earlier this year as a result of the provincially-initiated modification to OPA 119.

The retained lands are approximately 99 acres (40 hectares), with existing agricultural sheds, a barn and a single detached dwelling. The retained lands remain outside of the Clifford urban boundary.

“While some municipalities are supporting the reversal for the lands in their jurisdiction, others are asking that the provincial changes remain as implemented,” Sawyer told council.

“Ultimately the provincial decision will determine whether these lands stay within the urban boundary of Clifford or not and the provincial commenting deadline does not end until Dec. 7.

“As such, town staff are of the opinion that until the province makes the decision on whether these lands stay within the urban boundary or not, that this application is premature.”

Turton said, “I think the thing is, our staff has spent a lot of time, the county spent a lot of time, on a lot of these issues and things change from the government from day to day.

“So put it on hold like this until they make up their mind.”