Zoning for 35,000 housing units approved in Caledon after mayor committed to delay vote this summer

July 5, 2024   ·   0 Comments

By Zachary Roman

A decision has been made on 12 zoning bylaws that have galvanized the Caledon community for months.

At Caledon Council’s June 25 meeting, 12 zoning bylaws that would permit 35,000 housing units were approved. 

Mayor Annette Groves, Ward 3 Councillor Doug Maskell, Ward 5 Councillor Tony Rosa, Ward 6 Councillor Cosimo Napoli, and Regional Councillor for Wards 4, 5 and 6 Mario Russo voted in favour of the bylaws. 

Ward 1 Councillor Lynn Kiernan, Ward 2 Councillor Dave Sheen, and Regional Councillor for Wards 1, 2 and 3 Christina Early opposed the bylaws. 

Ward 4 Councillor Nick de Boer recused himself from the vote due to a pecuniary interest as he leases land for agricultural purposes within the affected lands. 

The June 25 meeting lasted over six hours and Town Hall was packed.

27 people gave delegations on the bylaws. 

A large number of Caledon residents who attended the meeting requested that Groves honour a commitment she made in a May 23 public information session: that she would not hold a vote on the bylaws this summer. 

Others in attendance supported the bylaws and said Caledon needs the growth they will bring. 

Eric Lucic, Caledon’s chief planner, gave a presentation on the 12 bylaws. He said they were designed to meet the criteria of Caledon’s Official Plan and that they’re a logical extension of built areas. 

The bylaws were drafted by law firm Loopstra Nixon and will expedite planning procedures in 12 areas, totalling around 5,000 acres, in Mayfield West, Tullamore, Alloa, Wildfield and Bolton. 

Lucic said a broad approach will best address broad planning issues and ensure critical infrastructure will be built. He said the bylaws are all within the existing urban boundary set out by the Region of Peel and that they won’t negatively impact Greenbelt lands.

“These applications are not a surprise,” said Lucic. 

He said there are holds within the bylaws that will allow Caledon to plan the types of communities it wants; and, that the bylaws cannot be in effect until the holds are lifted by Caledon Council.

Lucic said the bylaws will better qualify Caledon for incentive funding and that while a change in approach to planning in Caledon is difficult, Caledon will benefit from it. 

In response to many questions asked after his presentation, Lucic said secondary planning, which the public will be engaged in, will address concerns.

Lucic said the 12 zoning bylaws will match Caledon’s growth management and phasing plan and that they’re about enabling opportunity for development.

He said while the Region of Peel hasn’t yet provided clearance on the bylaws, staff are confident they’ve addressed the Region’s concerns and continue to work with the Region. 

Sheen said Councillors weren’t expecting the vote on the bylaws to be held on June 25 and asked if more time would help Caledon work with the Region, to which Lucic said it wouldn’t.

Sheen also asked how Caledon will address planning mistakes it made in previous communities like Southfields Village for future communities.

“I don’t want to see Southfields recreated times 12,” said Sheen. “When you try to cut through red tape you take away safeguards.”

Kiernan said she was concerned with the holds in the bylaws; she questioned why if something was so great so many things have to be put into it to make sure nothing goes wrong. 

Nicola Ross, one of the founders of citizens’ group Democracy Caledon — which was formed when Groves first introduced the 12 bylaws through Strong Mayor powers — said the group feels the financial implications of the 12 bylaws have not been properly addressed. 

Ross said the four public information sessions held by the Town of Caledon on the bylaws (May 15 in Southfields Village, May 23 in Bolton, May 27 in Alton, and June 10 in Caledon East) did not cut it. 

“Many of our questions have not been answered,” she said.

Ross said on June 25 Democracy Caledon was not even asking Groves to change her opinion on the bylaws: it just wanted her to honour the commitment she made on May 23 to not hold the vote on them this summer. 

“You broke your promise,” said Ross.

Vadim Promotorov, a Caledon Chamber of Commerce member, said Caledon needs a Mayor who is “mature” enough to keep promises. He took issue with Groves’ claim that the bylaws coming forward on June 25 was a staff-led move. 

Promotorov said he’s not against growth but that it needs to be done with, not against, the residents of Caledon. 

Caledon resident and small business owner Peter Bozzo said he supported the 12 bylaws and that if executed properly they will enhance Caledon. 

Local realtor Anthony Caputo said Caledon needs development to bring housing prices under control and that he applauds Groves for bringing the 12 bylaws forward. 

Realtor Daniel De Rosa said embracing development can take Caledon to the next level and encouraged Councillors to not miss the opportunity to make Caledon better together.

Resident Daniel McCammon said it’s not about development but the quality of development. He said the bylaws should not proceed until the Region of Peel’s concerns are thoroughly resolved. 

McCammon said to proceed with the bylaws without a fiscal framework is folly. He also took issue with Strong Mayor powers, calling them an affront to democracy. 

Resident Cheryl Connors said Caledon should defer the applications to the fall and complete its growth management and phasing plan, and complete secondary plans for the lands impacted by the 12 bylaws. 

“Why should we believe your promises?” Connors asked. “We have been burned too many times. There’s been an erosion of transparency and accountability.”

Connors said by taking a non-adversarial approach to development for developers, Caledon has become adversarial to residents.

Inglewood resident Linda Pim said it’s her view that Caledon has not paid enough attention to resident concerns. 

“Staff may be ready but residents are not,” said Pim.

She said the 700-plus-page agenda for the June 25 meeting, which was released on June 21, was far too large for any resident to reasonably digest in time for the meeting. Pim also shared concerns about whether proper engagement with Indigenous peoples was completed for the bylaws.

Resident Alan Boughton questioned if the bylaws were about building homes or changing the value of land. He said while he’s heard great points on both sides of the debate, there’s no rush for the bylaws and encouraged Councillors to defer the vote on them.

Democracy Caledon co-founder Debbe Crandall said giving zoning to developers up front hands Caledon’s future to wealthy developers and their friends.

“If staff is directed by the CAO, and the CAO directed by the Mayor, how is it not the action of the Mayor to force the vote tonight?” asked Crandall. 

Groves appointed Caledon’s CAO Nathan Hyde using Strong Mayor powers in 2023. 

Crandall said Groves needs to own up to her actions.

“She has proven promises and commitments mean nothing to her,” said Crandall. “Bring back integrity to Town Hall and vote to defer tonight.”

Local realtor Rocky Punia said Caledon needs to tackle the housing crisis by expediting housing development and creating a competitive environment to drive down house prices.

Alex Sallal, owner of restaurant Blue Smoke in Bolton, said it’s been a challenge to run a small business in Caledon. He said it’s hard to find staff when there’s nowhere affordable for people to live. 

“I feel like growth is essential,” said Sallal.

Resident John Rutter said Caledon needs its own health care facility before any large population increase. He also said he hasn’t seen much appetite in the community for 35,000 new housing units.

Resident Alan Axworthy said while he’s learned more about the 12 bylaws, he still never got an answer to his main question: What’s the rush? He said the vote on the bylaws should be deferred until after Caledon knows what will happen with potential downloading of services from the Region of Peel.

Former Bolton councillor Rob Mezzapelli used the start of his delegation to play a recording of Groves committing to not holding a vote on the bylaws this summer. He told Groves to not insult Town of Caledon staff and residents by saying it’s staff’s move to bring the bylaws forward.

“What you are looking at is piecemeal planning on steroids,” said Mezzapelli.

Resident Brad Merkley said, as a young person, he’s not against development but is vehemently against the 12 bylaws and issuing zoning before secondary planning is complete. He said congestion issues in Caledon will be compounded if large amounts of new housing come to Town before jobs do.

“This is ethically and financially reckless,” said Merkley.

Resident Rayissa Palmer said she can’t remember another time Caledon residents came together so strongly in opposition to something like they have for the 12 bylaws. She encouraged Councillors to not support the bylaws.

Phil Pothen, a land-use planning lawyer with Environmental Defence, said the lands added to the Region of Peel’s urban boundary in 2022 never should have been. He said the development the 12 bylaws will permit comes at the cost of more cost-effective infill homes that could be built in other places. 

When delegations at the June 25 meeting were complete, Early said she heard loud and clear that residents did not want the bylaws voted on that evening.

She said it didn’t make sense to vote on something that will impact Caledon for 30 years at 10 minutes after midnight.

She motioned to refer the 12 bylaws back to staff, and her motion was eventually defeated. A later motion from Sheen to defer the vote on the bylaws was also defeated.

Russo said the referral would appease a group of residents and that it wouldn’t actually achieve anything. He said infrastructure in Peel will be competed for and that Caledon needs to get in the queue for it.

“We have a very clear mandate from the Province we must fulfill,” said Russo.

Kiernan said it can’t be swept under the rug how the community spoke out about the bylaws.

“It’s not Caledon’s responsibility to fix the housing crisis,” she said. “I don’t buy that we have to get in queue; we are desirable, there is no reason why we shouldn’t be able to sit down with developers and compromise.”

Maskell said the way Caledon has planned in the past has been far from perfect, so Caledon needs to try something new. He said he liked Lucic’s plan to move things forward and called it comprehensive.

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