With Monday night’s Special Council initially scheduled to address the proposed Greenbelt changes in Grimsby, including a Specialty Crop area on the lakeshore and another parcel near Main Street West, things took a different turn with the Provincial government “plowing ahead” and passing Bill 23 on Monday morning.
On the agenda was a Staff Report for the consideration of Council that recommended the following be put to the Province regarding the Greenbelt changes:
“The Town recognizes the need for housing, and requests that the Province further clarify the implementation of the proposals, as follows:
a. A clear and streamlined developer driven process for Council to consider including the proposed removal area and/or the redesignated area to the settlement area boundary. This process should also reference the forecasts allocated by the Province and Region through their conformity exercise, and address the limitations of amending the Niagara Official Plan within two years of passing (unless proclaimed through changes to Bill 23).
b. Clarification of the responsibility of the municipality to fund the new or
expanded servicing required to support the potential development.
c. Clarification of the proposal timing that would require construction to begin by 2025 in relation to the timing required to change settlement area boundaries and municipal official plan reviews.”
The Province while pursuing its goals of “affordable and attainable housing” through Bill 23 has not provided a clear path how municipalities should get there, especially where the Greenbelt is concerned and the time constraints proposed.
Councillor DiFlavio was first out of the gate and raised issues on the loss and impact of development charges from Bill 23, in terms of financials and future infrastructure needs. He stressed the issue is affordability of housing, not the availability of housing.
The Deputy Director of Planning, Walter Basic, questioned whether developing one of the proposed Greenbelt sites on the waterfront would meet the objective of “affordable” housing.
Councillor Davoli requested numbers on how many residential units are in the development pipeline. She further inquired whether there was any other proposed changes to the Greenbelt elsewhere in Niagara (Grimsby is the only one). She commented that Grimsby should not bear the burden of the entire region of Niagara and was concerned the removal of development charges would have to be passed onto the local taxpayers.
Next up, Councillor Freake had questions regarding whether building on these two Greenbelt areas would go towards meeting 2051 housing quotas. Mr. Basic stated that the existing urban boundary (without these Greenbelt parcels) would accommodate the 7,000 units that the Town was assigned to build before 2051. He also pointed out that the Town has intensification areas that could accommodate the needs to meet those targets. Councillor Freake also expressed concerns over the stress that would be put on infrastructure in these Greenbelt areas. He put forth a resolution with many important points and opposing Bill 23.
Councillor Charrois inquired whether there has been any consultation with local Indigenous leaders. She had concerns that the proposed “developer-driven” process would not consider this type of consultation. She also questioned whether the considerations of the long-term “health and welfare of the community” as is suggested by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing in decision-making has been explored. She also added that it appears the two Greenbelt parcels at issue are located in NPCA identified floodplains.
Councillor Korstanje raised concerns that more money was being spent from incoming development charges than what was being taken in and that the reserves would be quickly depleted. She also raised the question that if development charges are reduced, how can the Town afford the required repairs 20-25 years down the road when that infrastructure needs repairs or upgrades.
The Director of Public Works, Brandan Wortman, stated that if there was no development charges to cover these, the cost would have to be borne by the local taxpayer.
Councillor Vardy commented that the Provincial legislature will not achieve its claimed goals, Bill 23 would be devastating to the environment and that the Province has “put the cart before the horse”. She stated that Council had to send a strong message to the Province and that they needed to get our local MPP, Sam Oosterhoff “to stand in front us and tell us why this is going to be so great from Grimsby.”
Round two brought comments from Councillor DiFlavio on Councillor Freake’s proposed resolution and that the Staff comments need to be included. Mayor Jordan agreed that the resolution needs to be strong and include the Staff comments. Councillor Charrois echoed this sentiment.
Councillor Vardy agreed and that she didn’t want to see a “developer-driven process” and that the message has to be strongly worded and that Council “does not accept this”, that being Bill 23 and the Greenbelt changes.
The issue of democratic rights was raised by Councillor DiFlavio, being the loss of appeal rights and public consultation. He concluded that the Province in placing a 30-day comment window in the midst of a Council changeover across the Province equated to Queens Park wanting no consultation and that the undemocratic nature of events needs to be in the resolution. Councillor Freake agreed.
Mayor Jordan offered his opinion on Bill 23 and the proposed Greenbelt changes. He noted that the usual process of deliberation over these serious matters are to occur over time. He said that the Province is “ramming it through” and that despite the Town and Region trying to following the Province’s requirements on housing, the “goal posts have been moved and we are playing a whole new game where everyone is trying to play catch-up”. He stressed that the normal and well-thought out process of reaching agreement has been “taken away” by the Province.
Councillor Davoli commented that MPP Oosterhoff would not be familiar with our planning process nor the Council discussion on these matters and that a delegation including the Mayor and Staff meet with him to brief him.
Councillor Freake agreed and stated that his “constituents are Sam Oosterhoff’s constituents. It is incumbent on him, if he doesn’t know the full negative impact of Bill 23” and supported a delegation to brief the MPP. But he reiterated that he would still like to see Mr. Oosterhoff come before Council to reply to their concerns. He further stated:
“He represents us, he represents most of the Region, and the municipalities that are all not in favour of this Bill 23. So, I think it is incumbent on him, because he approved it obviously, he was one of the ones who voted on it down in Queen’s Park, he should come to this Council and talk to us about it, with an Open House and the public present.”
Mayor Jordan stated that it appeared everyone agreed that Oosterhoff should come to Council and that he would be happy to meet with and communicate Council’s concerns to him ahead of that.
There was a short break while the Clerk sorted through the wording of the resolution. The resulting resolution was quite long and rather than transcribe, the main points are listed here:
- Bill 23 and related Greenbelt changes will negatively affect Grimsby’s residential development goals;
- There was not adequate time provided to have fulsome and proper consideration of those matters;
- That Bill 23 restricts democratic rights related to appeals;
- That consultation with Indigenous leaders is essential;
- Greenbelt – Requesting clarification on the Town’s responsibility to fund infrastructure;
- Greenbelt – Clarification of timing guidelines for Official Plan and Urban Boundary changes;
- That all levels of government must collaborate to solve the housing problem;
- That Bill 23 will affect the Town’s financing, infrastructure planning, climate change strategies, staffing levels and will negatively affect the municipality as as a whole;
- That the Town as most Ontario municipalities does not have large development charge reserves and will require additional funding from taxpayers or higher levels of government;
- That the Town does not endorse Bill 23 in it’s current state and requests that Bill 23 be withdrawn and/or the comment period be extended to allow for full municipal consideration;
- That a copy of the resolution be sent to Premier Doug Ford, MMAH Minister Steve Clark and our local MPP, Sam Oosterhoff.
The motion was passed into resolution unanimously by Council.
It is clear that Council is not happy with this Bill and Greenbelt changes, as are most if not all Councils in Ontario and they are now telling the Province that in very clear terms.
It is now incumbent for MPP Oosterhoff to take his turn and face constituents at Council, listen to their feedback and take those messages back to Queen’s Park and do what he was elected to do, represent the voice of his constituents.
If you feel that our MPP should appear before Council and residents to listen and respond to feedback, you can contact Mr. Oosterhoff and extend the invitation at the following: