Planning Issues Top of Mind as Official Plan Deadline Approaches

We are in a period where planning issues and decisions are beginning to dominate legislative agendas.  All cities, counties and municipalities in Ontario must file new Official Plans by June 30th of this year. Last October, Peterborough County Council received a growth analysis outlining projections of growth across the County over the next 30 years.  This is one of many background exercises required in the development of a new Official Plan. Prepared by Hemson and Associates, the analysis included a review of provincial population and employment forecasts, growth allocations and a land needs assessment following provincial guidelines.

Growth is allocated by the province to upper tier levels of government- in our case, Peterborough County, which then divides it into specific allocations for each municipality.  The numbers are largely based on recent growth trends from Census reports.  According to Hemson’s forecasts, 27.4% of the population growth in the County over the last five years has occurred in Cavan Monaghan.  The next highest municipality in growth is Selwyn which represents 19.3% of the County’s increase in population over this period.

The analysis included population growth forecasts in the region for the next thirty years.  While populations are expected to grow in all municipalities, the largest growth was expected to occur in Cavan Monaghan, whose population is forecast to rise by 8,010 residents over that period, a figure representing 41% of the County’s growth.  The next largest growth is forecast to occur in Selwyn, whose population is expected to rise by 3,450, and account for 18% of the County’s growth.

Provincial growth policies support complete communities, and require efficient use of land, resources, infrastructure and public services to protect against urban sprawl.  To achieve this objective, the province has established “intensity targets”.  Broadly speaking, communities are expected to contain 40% of all new residential growth within what is identified as Built Up Areas.  In Peterborough County, these are Havelock, Norwood, Lakefield and Millbrook.  There is the opportunity to request a lower target if the 40% is deemed unachievable, and the County has done so, asking for a 15% target.  At the reduced level, Cavan Monaghan has asked to set its new residential unit target within the existing Millbrook boundary through new development to 215 units, which would be creates on vacant land (infill), through the redevelopment of existing properties through the creation of creating secondary suites (basement apartments) or conversions to higher density housing options. This represents a small portion of the 3,490 new residential units projected to be created across the municipality in the next 30 years.

Early in December, Township planning staff delivered an extensive presentation providing insight into a variety of planning policies and the myriad of legislative issues that impact municipal planning decisions.  Among the topics was a review of the former jail location where the opportunities and constraints presented by this property were discussed.

Designated as a Special Development area in the current Official Plan, this property presents a strategic development opportunity for the township.  The zoning allows the redevelopment of the site in a number of ways.  According to Executive Director of Planning and Development John Connolly, residential possibilities include housing development for special needs, seniors, or the creation of long-term care or retirement homes.  Institutional options include education or health care related uses, while employment uses could include research and development businesses, professional offices or a conference centre.  Any redevelopment plan would be subject to a comprehensive review.  Due to its location, this property is subject to a number of significant protective policies including the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and the Source Water Protection policy in addition to provincial growth and planning policies.

The township’s current Growth Management Strategy also identifies this property as a potential site to meet Millbrook’s future residential and commercial needs.  A portion of the site falls within Millbrook’s Built Up Area, so any development at this location would contribute to achieving Cavan Monaghan’s provincial intensity target.

As reported last month, the 106 acre property is currently owned and managed by Infrastructure Ontario, which is in the process of circulating through a prioritized list of potential purchasers.  Cavan-Monaghan is on that list, having formally expressed an interest in acquiring the property, but the process has not reached the point where discussions can begin.  Clearly, owning the property outright would provide the municipality with greater control over the nature of any redevelopment on that site.

The future of this property has been the subject of much speculation since the jail closed in 2003, fueled by its natural beauty and its strategic location.  Whether the township ultimately secures the property or not, Connolly encouraged the establishment of an inclusive and extensive land use planning process that allows sufficient public consultation to help drive a “common vision” for the property. KG

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