News Local

Growth plan raises concerns

By Patrick Bales, The Orillia Packet & Times

Changes to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe are not being welcomed warmly by the City of Orillia.

Councillors heard city staff have a bevy of concerns about the growth plan and how it could impact the city's development going forward. Comments have been welcomed by the province on revisions to four planning documents, however the Greater Golden Horseshoe plan is the only one which would affect the city in any way.

The growth plan was set up to reduce urban sprawl, particularly in the Greater Toronto Area and throughout the 905 area code. Orillia finds itself on the outer fringe of the area encompassed by the growth plan.

One way to limit sprawl was to set intensification targets for municipalities. Orillia's is currently 40%, with the changes to the growth plan looking for that to increase to 60%, within the built boundary set up in 2006, essentially West Ridge Boulevard eastward, Sugden explained to councillors. It doesn't include any new development that has occurred since 2006.

That could be a drastic change for a rural municipality, such as Orillia, Coun. Ralph Cipolla argued.

"(That) means single family housing is out of the question," he said. "My biggest fear is that we're going to be allowing probably 20 storey apartment buildings in a rural community, where they shouldn't be."

The proposed revisions to the growth plan also call for a density of 80 persons and jobs per hectare in designated greenfield areas, up from 50. Orillia's density is already lower than 50, as an alternative density target of 42 persons and jobs per hectare was set out in the city's 2013 Official Plan, as approved by the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

"A change from 42 persons and jobs per hectare to 80 would be very difficult to attain in Orillia," wrote Ian Sugden, director of development services, in the package on the issue in the council committee agenda.

The concern shared by staff and Cipolla was echoed by the Simcoe County Home Builders' Association.

"At a level of 80 people and jobs per hectare, single family homes virtually disappear as an option for people across Simcoe County, being only 24% of the mix while a staggering 42% of the community would be stacked townhouse or four-six storey mid-rise buildings," wrote Robert Schickedanz, president of the association, in a letter to Sugden.

Schickedanz admitted home builders are often lobbying municipalities to increase densities, but the revisions in the growth plan are "too much and certainly not reflective of the character of the majority of municipalities in within the county," his letter stated.

That's an over-crowding situation the Orillia councillor would like to avoid. He wants development, but not just any development.

"We have to grow with the future... smart growth," he said.

It's just another example of Toronto politicians not respecting rural Ontario, Cipolla added.

"It seems that the world ends at Highway 7."

Committee recommended staff send a letter to the province outlining the concerns, pending council ratification next week.

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