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Jun 19, 2020

Province Announces Proposed Amendments to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, 2019

By Patrick Harrington and Laura Dean

This past week, the province announced a number of proposed changes to A Place to Grow: Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (the “Plan”). The proposed amendments are intended to support municipalities to make it faster and easier to plan for anticipated growth. Highlights of the proposed revisions are set out below.

Background

The Plan, which came into effect on May 16, 2019, was released as part of the province’s “More Homes, More Choice: Ontario’s Housing Supply Action Plan.” At the time of its release, it was indicated that the province would be working to update the Plan’s projections and planning horizons. Proposed Amendment No. 1 provides this update.

Updated Growth Forecasts and Change to the Horizon Year

The current Plan provides population and employment forecasts for each of the twenty-one upper- and single-tier municipalities in the GGH to 2041 (Schedule 3) and for the lower-tier municipalities in the Simcoe Sub-area to 2031 (Schedule 7). Municipal comprehensive reviews currently underway in support of Official Plan Reviews throughout the GGH are using the forecasts to 2041.

Through Proposed Amendment No. 1, the province proposes to amend the Plan to update the growth forecasts and extend the horizon of the forecasts to 2051. The province is further proposing to remove Schedule 7 and revise Schedule 3 with one of three growth forecasts: a Reference Forecast, a High Growth Scenario or a Low Growth Scenario. The three forecasts contain variations based on different assumptions for comparative purposes. The current consultation period will be used to determine which forecast will be inserted into Schedule 3 as the new 2051 forecast.

The policy language accompanying the new forecast will make it clear that the 2051 forecasts are to be treated as “minimums” and not “targets”. This means that upper-tier and single-tier municipalities will be required to update their official plans (by July 2022) to accommodate at least the 2051 forecasts for population and employment. Moreover, the province’s expectation is that any municipal comprehensive reviews that are currently underway will need to revise their projections to meet the new minimums. There is no transitioning.

Aggregate Mineral Resource Extraction

The proposed change to the Plan’s aggregates policies would remove the prohibition on new mineral aggregate operations, wayside pits and quarries from habitats of endangered species and threatened species within the Plan’s Natural Heritage System.

Provincially Significant Employment Zones

Under the current Plan, employment lands within a provincially significant employment zone (“PSEZ”) are not eligible for conversion outside of a municipal comprehensive review. This is the key feature of a PSEZ.

A proposed policy amendment would allow conversions of employment areas to non-employment uses within a PSEZ outside of a municipal comprehensive review if the land is located within a major transit station area. Through this amendment, the province intends to allow for mixed-use developments to be initiated faster around major transit station areas, notwithstanding that the area may have been identified as forming part of a PSEZ. The province has indicated that this will not change municipal zoning by-laws or other conversion policies within the Plan.

Transition

If approved, the Minister would make the following amendments to the Growth Plan transition regulation (O. Reg. 311/06) to facilitate implementation of the changes to the Plan:

  • Provide that required conformity with the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe 2019 would now require conformity with the amended Plan; and
  • Provide that where the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal has completed a hearing, but not yet issued a decision in respect of a matter required to conform with the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe 2019, those decisions are required to conform with the Plan as it read before it was amended.

The proposed amendments to the Plan, if approved, would apply immediately after they come into effect, including in in-progress municipal comprehensive reviews.

The province is proposing to retain the current date of July 1, 2022 for municipalities to bring their official plans into conformity with the amended Plan.

Land Needs Assessment

In addition to the proposed amendments to the Plan, the province is consulting concurrently on a proposed new Land Needs Assessment Methodology for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

The proposed methodology outlines key steps for assessing community and employment land needs to the Plan’s 2051 horizon year. The proposed new methodology would provide a streamlined approach to land budgeting activities by outlining the key components, at a minimum, that would be addressed as part of local land needs assessment processes.

The proposed methodology would not preclude municipalities from considering alternate assumptions about population and employment growth to the horizon of the Plan. A municipality may test alternative growth assumptions to establish the case for a higher density target. Assumptions that include density targets lower than those required in the Plan would require the Minister’s approval.

Details for the proposed changes can be found at these links:

The consultation closes on July 31, 2020.

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