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Grand Valley Council Pushes For More Development

Grand Valley Council Pushes For More Development (Thomasfield Development in Grand Valley)

Grand Valley’s council is pushing to allow for significantly more development than planning consultants for Dufferin County have forecasted is required.

“The latest information coming from the county based on their land needs assessment was frankly disappointing to us,” said Katherine McLaughlin of Thomasfield Homes, a developer with lands located in Grand Valley. “Grand Valley is strongly positioned to absorb a larger share of the county’s growth… we don’t feel the county is recognizing that.”

At two recent council meetings, on October 26 and November 9, Grand Valley council heard from prospective developers looking to have lands included in the urban boundary expansion expected to occur under the municipal comprehensive review process that Dufferin County and its lower-tier municipalities are currently undergoing. Planning consultants for the county had presented key findings of their land needs assessment on October 14. One of the main conclusions of the appraisal was that Grand Valley’s allocation of the projected growth would result in the town reaching a population of 9,437 people and employment numbers of 2,318.

To accommodate its allotted portion of the 2051 population and employment growth forecasts for Dufferin County, Grand Valley is said to require about 60.8 hectares of additional land to be developed. Council resolved to tell county that its preferred expansion scenario would be to add approximately 234.2 hectares of land to its urban settlement area, shown in a draft map contained in the agenda for council’s upcoming meeting on November 23.

Dufferin County (Est.)2021203120412051
Dufferin Population69,00079,00087,00095,000
Dufferin Employment 25,000 31,000 35,000 39,000
Source: Greater Golden Horsheshoe: Growth Forecasts to 2051 August 26, 2020 – Reference Forecasts (Hemson)

“The allocations that are provided to each municipality are intended as minimums,” said Robert Walter Joseph, a senior planner with Gladki Associates, representing the United People Corporation which owns and is looking to develop lands in Grand Valley. “Where there are alternative growth scenarios… local municipalities and counties have the opportunity to respond to these market conditions.”

Although Grand Valley council is advocating for more land to be included within the town’s urban boundary than is specified to be required by Dufferin County’s land needs assessment, councillors decided against supporting the inclusion of an additional 147 hectares requested by Innovative Planning Solutions on behalf of the Cortel Group.

“I never want Grand Valley to be that big, we are a small town at heart.” said Deputy Mayor Philip Rentsch. “Yes, I think we should grow, but not that much, ever.”

Mayor Steve Soloman was of a different mind, saying he would like Grand Valley to have a high school, possibly with a football team.

“I’m kind of in the boat of let’s get what we can get, when we can get it. It’s an opportunity and I wouldn’t mind taking it,” said Mayor Steve Soloman. “I won’t be around to see much of it happen, but I wouldn’t mind signing the thing that says it will.”

The land needs assessment for Dufferin County, composed by planning consultants WSP, was based on a projected 2051 population of 95,000 people and employment numbers of 39,000. This number came from a review of Ontario’s Places to Grow plan by Hemson Consulting in August 2020 for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing titled ‘Greater Golden Horseshoe: Growth Forecasts to 2051’. WSP concluded that Shelburne would need to expand its urban boundaries to include another 93.4 hectares available for development. Similarly, WSP stated that Orangeville would need 98.5 hectares.

Municipality2051 Population2051 Employment
Amaranth 5,1121,738
East Garafraxa3,961995
Grand Valley9,4372,318
Melancthon3,783807
Mono11,4043,898
Mulmur4,4391,268
Orangeville38,63621,499
Shelburne18,3286,477
Total95,10039,000
Source: Dufferin County Municipal Comprehensive Review Land Needs Assessment Update – WSP (October 14, 2021 Dufferin County Council Meeting Agenda)

“There is a concern that the MCR process will be used to justify urban expansion onto farmland rather than used to identify where to grow up,” writes Environmental Defence, a Canadian environmental advocacy organization. “A town can double its population and increase local jobs by building two to three-storey mixed-use buildings on Main Street, allowing basement apartments and encouraging appropriate infill.”

Environmental Defence also explains how increased low-density housing on greenfield sites can result in loss of farmland. Much of the land indicated in Grand Valley’s proposed urban boundary expansion is shown to be currently designated as agricultural. Environmental Defence tells how this type of development can create traffic, add to municipal debt, and increase taxes and user fees. At council’s preliminary 2022 budget meeting held on November 16, both taking on debt and increasing user fees were discussed. Grand Valley’s planner, Mark Kluge, has also recently stressed that development has long-term costs to the municipality and its residents.

“The more people that come into our municipality, the more demands on schools, shopping, fire, recreation, public works, municipal office staff… That is all going to put pressure on the existing service commitments of the town,” explained Kluge. “You can’t run a large municipality with twenty-five people… that’s just a reality.”

Why American Cities Are Broke: The Growth Ponzi Scheme – Not Just Bikes YouTube Channel

WSP’s land needs assessment is based on density and intensification targets remaining as-is. Greg Bender, Manager of Municipal Planning for WSP, indicated that this is a function of the county’s residents’ lack of appetite for intensive residential development.

“If we were to increase density targets, none of the municipalities would need land,” said Bender at a Dufferin County council meeting. “I’m not sure if each of the municipalities are necessarily supportive of increasing various targets for density and intensification.”

Orangeville’s Mayor Sandy Brown intimated that he believed there wasn’t ample support for intensive development in Dufferin County. Brown also challenged the province’s position on ‘cramming’ housing in small towns consisting of people who may not want to live in ‘a Newmarket or a Milton’, noting urban sprawl experienced by several municipalities over the years.

“I bet if you talk to the average person in Shelburne, Orangeville, or Grand Valley, we like our small communities,” said Mayor Brown. “Building accommodations for people, based on somebody sitting at Queen’s Park… I think we don’t have enough control over what our municipality is going to look like in the future.”

Grand Valley’s Chief Administrative Officer, Meghan Townsend, emphasized that the province was only asking Grand Valley to add fifty-six hectares of land to the town’s urban area. Townsend told how the province has previously stated that Grand Valley should require an increased density target for current developments. To justify the need for more land than specified under the county’s assessment, Grand Valley may contradict the province’s density targets.

Dufferin County Planning for Growth & Urban Expansion

On October 14, 2021, Dufferin County Council heard a presentation from its planning consultant regarding how the county can accommodate the province’s growth plan and how population and employment growth is intended to be directed toward each of Dufferin’s municipalities through the municipal comprehensive review process. Under the province’s growth plan, updated in 2020, Dufferin County’s population is forecasted to […]

“They want very dense population areas created,” said Townsend. “More dense than the townhouses, more dense than the small single-detached, not less.”

Kluge also communicated that Dufferin County had expressed similar views regarding the need for Grand Valley to increase density in new residential developments. Kluge stated that Grand Valley would need a more diversified mix of housing to hit density targets, such as townhouses and four-storey mid-rise apartments.

“If we want more people, we have to have higher densities,” said Kluge. “We’re going to have to seriously look at reducing our love affair, reliance, on single-detached homes.”

Under the planning act, Dufferin County has approval over Grand Valley’s urban boundary expansions while performed as part of the upper-tier municipality’s update to its official plan. Kluge explained how, if Dufferin County did not allow Grand Valley to grow as it wanted, the town could appeal the decision to the Ontario Land Tribunal. Affected landowners, including developers, would also have the opportunity to contest the ruling.

“They have the right to appeal that decision of the county, and we may find ourselves at the board regardless,” told Kluge. “If things are happening at the board that are impacting Grand Valley, we need representation there.”

Kluge told how consulting work would need to be authorized by the council to justify requiring additional lands in the town’s settlement area. This may include Grand Valley conducting its own land needs assessment and an agricultural impact assessment, in addition to updating the water and wastewater master plan.

“Council has to be aware that we’re going to have to spend money to defend whatever position you take beyond those 56 hectares that county says that we can accommodate,” told Kluge. “We have a track record; we’re managing our resources well. I see no reason why we couldn’t expand; it just comes at a cost.”

The town’s planner told how development charges could help fund the required studies if agreements were struck with the parties benefitting from the work.

“The county’s current MCR process provides a rare opportunity for the town to control and shape its vision over the long-term horizon,” said Cameron Sellers of Innovative Planning Solutions. “This is a critical time to consider the future of Grand Valley for decades to come.”

References – Grand Valley Council Pushes For More Development

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