It’s been a very political week in municipal circles. Too bad it didn’t end with a resolution, a direction that would set the region on the path to prosperity.
On Monday, Ministry of Municipal Affairs regional director Larry Clay stepped back into the fray locally, as he told Simcoe County it needed to do more work on its growth plan – to provide justification for population, density and intensification targets. The content should come as no surprise; his ministry said it before, in at least two letters that have been made public.
On Wednesday, Simcoe County politicians read the letter and filed it – and moved on with recommending county council approve the proposed Official Plan (which is based on the aforementioned growth plan).
On Thursday, Barrie’s new boundary working group met. It undoubtedly discussed the contents of Clay’s letter; no doubt, the letter came as a pat on the back for the Barrie group, which will be led by Coun. Jeff Lehman. Lehman – a planner/economist by profession – was key in helping the city create its response to the county’s growth plan.
Lehman created a chart that contrasted the county’s plan with Ontario’s Places to Grow – and he questioned the county’s intensification and density targets, as well as where it was putting population and future employment. Yes, indeed, Lehman must have been pleased to see his work come full circle and arrive on his committee table Thursday afternoon.
Officially, no one is talking about how to handle growth in the region.
The province seems to be shying away from intervening in the growth management process.
Undeterred by criticism, the county appears to be forging ahead (although a sense of unease is growing among county councillors, even those considered as “county supporters”).
Barrie continues to do its own work in isolation.
It is high time the province intervened.
Ontario needs to disaggregate an unallocated 40,000 people. This is key; this is information that should have been provided two years ago and it is information that is at the centre of the dispute.
With no direction, the county spread the people out, mostly throughout south Simcoe. Without clear intervention, the county is unlikely to slow its speed or change its course.
With no direction, Barrie edges closer to buildout and that puts the area’s economy at risk, as the supply of serviced, prime industrial land dwindles and instead, plans proceed to convert prime agricultural to industrial and commercial.
Ontario also needs to change the boundary between Barrie and Innisfil to ensure a good supply of high-quality employment land, not only to attract investment, but to also bolster the creation of a complete live-work-play community that is Barrie, the economic heart of Central Ontario.
Perhaps this is what we can wish for this holiday season – goodwill towards our neighbours, so that together, we can create a better community and a better economy for our children.