Commentary

Orangeville Highlands development

May 21, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Sandy Brown

In 2005 the Provincial Government published The Places to Grow Act. This Act is the foundation for growth in Ontario. The document provides a growth target for municipalities. Orangeville’s target is 36,490 by 2036. In the years following the release of this document, Town Staff looked at all vacant land in Orangeville to prepare a plan to meet this target. Remember that planning is handled through Provincial Policy Statements – and localized through Official Plans that must match up with the Provinces’ policies.

In 2009, Town Staff presented their findings, including the review of the Orangeville Highlands land (that are adjacent and immediately to the west of the Orangeville Mall). This land has been zoned Medium Density for over 30 years. Medium Density means up to 99 units per hectare. For comparison, the townhouse complex at 60 First St has 41 townhouse units on approx. 1 hectare of land. In order to meet the Provincial target – Town Staff recommended that a Zoning Bylaw Amendment be put in place to set a lower unit target for this land of 75.This means that the Town Council in 2009 told the developer you must build 75-99 units per hectare on this land. Based on the townhouse complex at 60 First St, you can see the only way to meet this target is to go vertical – that’s right, the Town Council of 2009 told the developer to build apartment buildings. Remember, this land has been zoned for up to 99 units for over 30 years. The owner of this property has property rights that are granted in law to them. Current Town Council does not have the power to reverse a planning decision made 30 years ago – and frankly, why would they? Orangeville has 25 apartment buildings – and three or four more will not affect the character of Orangeville. Seniors live in apartment buildings, those with mobility issues live in apartment buildings, some young adults just starting out live in apartment buildings. Land use studies done in previous years have recommended that we need more housing units and that our demographic continues to age. 

In 2017 the developer was so fed up at the inaction of the Town that they took the Town to the Ontario Municipal Board due to “failure to process the application.” I was not party to the reasons for this delay – but developers have the right and expectation that their proposal for development be dealt with in a timely manner. It is their land, and when it is zoned in a particular way – they have the right to develop it within the guidelines set out in the Planning Act. They filed a grievance with the OMB to force the Town to review, comment and eventually approve their application. Included in the 2018 OMB application was a request to increase the number of units which were permitted and within the allowable density permitted on this land. 

Over the past two years, I have attended multiple Council meetings and private group meetings with citizens to discuss this project. I have fielded numerous phone calls and emails and have met personally with several concerned citizens. To suggest that there has been little public engagement is patently false

Some have suggested that the aquifer is going to be affected by this development. The Town of Orangeville’s water supply comes from approximately 12 wells situated in Amaranth, Caledon, Mono and Orangeville. Your current Town Council ended a 15-year dispute with the Town of Amaranth over the Pullen Well. We have finished volume and water quality analysis of that well – it is going to help us provide water capacity to our ‘build out’ population of 36,490. There will be no effect on wells in the vicinity of this development. 

In the past several weeks, after many meetings, Town Staff and the developer settled all outstanding issues. Monday’s meeting is for Town Council to direct Town Staff to attend the OMB (now LPAT) meeting and notify the Province that a settlement has been reached. That settlement includes:

Reducing the number units back to 541 from 623.

Confirming that the forest and stream on the north side of the property will be gifted, untouched, to the Town or Credit Valley Conservation preserving a 200-metre wide natural buffer between this development and the $1-million homes on Mono’s Starrview Crescent.

A larger than required parkland dedicated to a new and improved dog park and an additional large park area.

Additional walking and biking trails to complement our Trails Master Plan.

Many green initiatives endorsed by Credit Valley Conservation.

Many required consultative reports, including a detailed traffic study, hydrological studies, soil tests, etc., etc.

Communities that have steady growth flourish. Orangeville still has room to grow within its urban boundary, and this development is an example of that growth.

What are the additional positives?

$100-million in economic growth for our community – at an uncertain economic time coming out of COVID 19.

$6-million in development charges to be collected by the Town to help pay for improved infrastructure such as the wastewater plant improvements – that previous Council’s commissioned and have since been completed.

All this development’s infrastructure such as electrical grid, water and wastewater pipes, roads, streetlights, fibre optics, gas, etc. will be paid for by the developer.

Skilled trade jobs both during construction and after-occupancy upgrades to units.

Economic boost to Orangeville Mall and the other retailers in the immediate area.

Homes for our seniors. 

During the election campaign, one of my rivals famously stated, “We should make this land into Orangeville’s Central Park complete with an amphitheatre.” The failure to grasp basic development principles and ownership rights was frankly shocking. This land is worth $20-million+ (541 units X $40,000 per unit). The Town does not own this land, nor does it wish to buy it. The developer has the right to develop this land. Imagine 10 years of negotiation, and some people are suggesting there was no opportunity to be involved – absolute nonsense. The settlement with the developer has been negotiated, skillfully, by Town Staff. I believe in the healthy growth of our Town, and this development is one that should proceed.



         

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