King Township requests more details on province’s Bill 66.
Officials seek clarification on the ‘open-for-business’ planning bylaw.
Environmental Protection ……………
by Sheila Wang King Connection, yorkregion.com
Mary Muter, with the Georgian Bay Great Lakes Foundation, spoke to council at the meeting about Bill 66 on Jan. 14, 2019. – Sheila Wang/Metroland
If you know anything about King Township, environmental protection is not a matter for debate.
Dozens of concerned King residents, environmentalists and local groups attended a council meeting on Jan. 15, as council members deliberated on what to do with Bill 66, Ontario’s new Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act which the province says is aimed at attracting employers and streamlining development approvals.
While a strong opposition to the bill was expected from a majority of the crowd, council voted to request more information from the province before taking a definite stance on it.
Council made the decision unanimously after listening to more than 10 representatives who voiced their concerns over the bill’s potential impacts on the environment in King.
“All I’m saying is I want to see more before saying no,” said King Township Mayor Steve Pellegrini. “It’s great for other municipalities that have very little Greenbelt and have incredibly large or diverse industrial and commercial (land) to say, ‘no, don’t even look at it.’ I right now cannot afford to do that.”
Council will submit the comments from a 22-page staff report to the province before the Jan. 20 deadline. The report, prepared by the planning department, explained in great details what this bill means to King Township and what information is missing.
In the report, King asks for additional time for reviewing, detailed information on the proposed changes, and clarification on the “open-for-business planning bylaw.”
The discussion was predominantly focused on the open-for-business planning bylaw which will enable municipalities to act quickly to attract businesses that create at least 50 jobs.
If the bill was enacted, it will enable a municipality to pass the bylaw so that they can streamline development approvals by bypassing a number of the province’s environmental protection and planning policies.
It means cities and towns will be exempted from sections of policies such as the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, the Greenbelt Act, the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, the Places to Grow Act, and Great Lakes Protection Act and the Clean Water Act.
Large portions of King Township are located within the Oak Ridges Moraine and Ontario’s Greenbelt and the Holland Marsh, and many speakers believed it was unacceptable for the province to allow development on these protected lands and headwaters.
Calling it “short-sighted and regressive,” Bruce Craig, chair of Concerned Citizens of King Township said the bill will take the township back to the years “when there was much less consistency in planning and piecemeal development took place.”
Craig’s speech was backed by many local groups who also demanded council to pass a resolution to not to utilize this bylaw.
“King Township council needs to reject Bill 66 since it does not respect very significant existing legislation and provides no direction on how infrastructure servicing would take place,” said Mary Muter, chair of the Georgian Bay Great Lakes Foundation.
To control or to be controlled
“I trust you,” said Tom Allen, president of King Chamber of Commerce who opened his speech talking about trust in council.
“You worry about us, and only us. And so it is with that I think there is an opportunity to navigate having to deal with reforms.”
Allen, who was the only speaker who expressed support of the proposed bill, said it would allow municipalities to take back some control from the province.
He said the open-for-business bylaw — a voluntary tool for municipalities to utilize — will help King Township to facilitate its sustainable economic development, noting the job deficit the township has been dealing with.
However, critics argue municipalities may just end up giving up more control over its local development to the province as the proposed bill would bypass a number of existing plans and policies.
“What makes this proposal, for me, extremely horrible is that it’s naïve to think that any of these jobs that are going to be created will be here as jobs 20 years from now. But I can tell you the land that has been violated and turned into a factory will be here 20 years from now, not providing us food or a green space,” Ward 5 Councillor Debbie Schaefer said.
What worries critics even more is the potential for the open-for-business bylaw to spill over to residential development in the future.
“It’s important to emphasize the planning act amendments, the proposed Bill 66, applies exclusively to commercial and industrial, not to residential development,” Allen said.
Schaefer pointed out that people have had different interpretation over what exactly the bylaw applies to.
In order to utilize the open-for-business bylaw, Bill 66 requires municipalities to identify the use of the application for development which cannot “have residential, commercial or retail as the primary use.”
Meanwhile, town or cities will be able to pass an open-for-business bylaw without public consultation, with public notification required within 30 days after it is passed.
Many, including council members, found it inappropriate. The bylaw would not be subject to appeal to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal either, the staff report wrote.
Once the bylaw is adopted, the province will take an “all or nothing approach,” the report said, which indicates that a municipality must bypass all the identified environmental protection policies in their entirety.
In the comments to be submitted to the province, King proposes to be selective in terms of which policies to be exempted from when utilizing the bylaw to approve development applications.
To be green or to be affordable
While some council members appeared to be more strongly opposed than others, it was a consensus that there wasn’t sufficient information for them to decide whether to be committed to the bylaw.
Mayor Pellegrini said it’ll be a difficult decision to make.
“There is no other municipality out there that has what we have, in terms of the Oak Ridges Moraine and Greenbelt. We’re all protected.”
However, it comes with a price, the mayor said, noting the tax burdens on the residents.
“What keeps me awake at night? It’s King’s sustainability. Being green, is extremely expensive.”
The open-for-business bylaw has had many worried that it would open up the Highway 400 corridors for industrial and commercial development on the protected lands.
But it may just be a beginning, warned Greg Locke, former president of Concerned Citizen of King Township.
“It’s shameful,” he said. “I believe there are a number of developers and speculators just waiting to pressure local councils to approve developments that could not previously, and for good reasons.”
Note from Georgian Bay Great Lakes Foundation.
The picture above shows Mary Asselstine making her deputation.
Mary Muter’s slide presentation to King Council will be available soon. To be notified, send an email to: email@example.com
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Tags: Environment, King City, King City Council, King Township, Mary Muter