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On January 15, 2019, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (Ministry) released proposed amendments (Amendment 1) to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, 2017 (Growth Plan). The government is undertaking a consultation process that is open until February 28, 2019, which provides an opportunity for stakeholders to give feedback on the proposed amendments. To complement Amendment 1, the province has also released accompanying modifications to O. Reg 311/06, Transitional Matters – Growth Plans, a framework for provincially significant employment zones, and proposed modifications to O. Reg 525/97, Exemption from Approval – Official Plan Amendments.
The purpose of these changes is to increase the province’s available housing supply, streamline the process for transit growth, attract investment and foster job creation, and improve the planning process for rural communities. Amendment 1 also walks back the Growth Plan’s long-term goal of net-zero communities, committing instead to working towards environmental sustainability. The government has indicated that the driving force of these amendments is to provide local governments more autonomy in the decision-making process, while continuing to protect the Greenbelt, agricultural lands, the agri-food sector, and Natural Heritage Systems in Ontario.
Under Amendment 1, upper- and single-tier municipalities would have the ability to designate employment areas by way of official plan amendment without the need for a municipal comprehensive review. Municipalities would also have increased autonomy to convert lands within existing employment areas to non-employment uses prior to a municipal comprehensive review, provided that:
This considerable increase in municipal autonomy to convert employment areas is balanced by the proposed creation of provincially significant employment zones, which are exempt from this simplified conversion process. The government has provided a list of proposed provincially significant employment zones, which are areas that:
To determine if an area will be identified as a provincially significant employment zone, the Minister will also consider the general connectivity to transit and infrastructure, strategic economic placement, interconnectivity with industrial uses and contiguous zones. Amendment 1 also provides additional protection to the industrial and manufacturing sector. It is proposed that the development of sensitive land uses, major retail uses, or major office uses be required to avoid or mitigate any impact on affected industrial and manufacturing uses.
A number of the sites on the Ministry’s proposed list of provincially significant employment zones include parts of major transit areas in Ontario. The government is currently seeking feedback from the public and other stakeholders on whether these areas ought to be included in the provincially significant employment zones designation. The list of proposed provincially significant employment zones can be found here.
Amendment 1 would also allow municipalities to fast-track residential and commercial development by granting increased independence to municipalities to make settlement area boundary changes outside of the confines of a municipal comprehensive review. Under Amendment 1, municipalities may adjust settlement area boundaries outside of a municipal comprehensive review if:
Municipalities, under Amendment 1, may also expand settlement area boundaries outside of a municipal comprehensive review, provided that:
Amendment 1 revises the Growth Plan’s minimum intensification targets for delineated built-up areas, resulting in targets that differ by municipality. The province’s stated intention with these revisions is to recognize that “one-size does not fit all” when it comes to intensification and density. Under Amendment 1, intensification targets remain at 60 percent for development occurring within the City of Hamilton, and Regions of Peel, Waterloo and York, but drops to 50 percent for the Cities of Barrie, Brantford, Guelph, Orillia and Peterborough, and the Regions of Halton, Durham and Niagara. The City of Kawartha Lakes, and the Counties of Brant, Dufferin, Haldimand, Northumberland, Peterborough, Simcoe and Wellington, will be required to establish a target through their next municipal comprehensive review.
Similar modifications were made to minimum density targets for designated greenfield areas. Amendment 1 has set density targets for the City of Hamilton, and the Regions of Peel, Waterloo and York, at 60 residents and jobs per hectare. The Cities of Barrie, Brantford, Guelph, Orillia and Peterborough, and the Regions of Durham, Halton and Niagara, have a slightly lower target of 50 residents and jobs per hectare, while the target for the City of Kawartha Lakes, and the Counties of Brant, Dufferin, Haldimand, Northumberland, Peterborough, Simcoe and Wellington, is set at 40 residents and jobs per hectare.
The minimum density targets for Urban Growth Centres, including those in the City of Toronto, are unchanged by Amendment 1.
Amendment 1 is intended to streamline the process for determining major transit station areas, in order to speed up the process for development and zoning to meet the growing infrastructure and transit needs of Ontario residents. Amendment 1 would provide municipalities with the ability to delineate major transit station area boundaries, and identify minimum density targets for these areas prior to a municipal comprehensive review, provided it be done in accordance with the Planning Act’s provisions relating to major transit station areas.
Amendment 1 also seeks to alleviate some pressure on small rural communities, by allowing minor adjustments to the boundaries of rural settlements outside of a municipal comprehensive review. Rural municipalities will have the ability to adjust boundaries, if:
Under the proposed changes to the Growth Plan, provincial Natural Heritage and Agricultural System mapping will not apply until it as been implemented in the applicable upper- or single-tier official plan. Municipalities will have the ability to refine provincial mapping during the implementation phase of their official plans. Subsequent to these refinements, changes to the Natural Heritage System and agricultural land base mapping will occur through a municipal comprehensive review.
Amendment 1 focuses on providing more power and independence to local governments to manage growth planning in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. This increased autonomy will have a substantial impact on the development industry in Ontario. Dentons will continue to monitor the proposal as it makes its way through the public consultation process. The deadline to submit comments to the province is 11:59 p.m., February 28, 2019. If you have any questions about Amendment 1 and its impact on your business, or require assistance in providing comments to the province, please do not hesitate to contact Katarzyna Sliwa or any member of Dentons’ Municipal, Land Use Planning and Development Law team.