The Wild West.
At a meeting Thursday, as a parade of developers marched through Simcoe County’s administration centre to stake their claims, it became all too clear all too quickly, growth will be a gold mine for some, but others will undoubtedly be left out.
“We have a 250-year supply of employment lands and at least a 100-year supply of residential lands,” said Simcoe County’s growth planning consultant Ray Simpson.
“The issue is that we have (a total population for 2031) of 667,000 to deal with. What are we going to do about it?”
Located just north of Ontario’s greenbelt (where land prices are hitting $800,000 acre near Highway 400), the county offers opportunity: reasonably priced land close to or on the shores of Georgian Bay and Lake Simcoe, close to the booming GTA market via Highway 400 and close to skiing and boating.
But, there’s a limit. Despite its natural abundance, the county can only offer land for a potential 124,000 dwelling units and land for an additional 80,000 jobs over the next 25 years.
Simpson stressed Ontario’s numbers for the county are not negotiable. In its plan to enhance the economic engine of the Greater Golden Horseshoe, Ontario is pushing more growth to the Waterloo-Wellington and Niagara areas, and essentially forcing a status quo to the growth trend here, despite the intense speculation for land as developers leapfrog over the greenbelt.
It’s the job of Simcoe County politicians to allocate how those numbers should be allocated throughout the area. That’s what the county’s growth planning process means in real terms, in real numbers the equivalent of 1.5 cities of Barrie’s size, using a city population of 135,000.
Filling the council chambers over the course of the day was a series of well-shirted and indeed influential developers, each polishing their image as they stated their case to the county’s growth steering committee. The scenarios could be said to be literally pipe dreams, as they are all dependent on water and sewer servicing.
Several major themes emerged: a business park along Highway 400 in Innisfil and/or Bradford West Gwillimbury, an expansion of Alliston’s Honda-centric enterprise area, and an expanded Lake Simcoe Regional Airport, which would be the centre of an employment hub that would create as many as 2,000 jobs per year, according to the developer’s claim.
And then there is the promise of substantial quick returns, with announcements like: “This is one of South Simcoe’s superior opportunities. Alfredo DeGasperis is finalizing an agreement with a major manufacturer planning to consolidate 12 operations into a single entity on a site in Bradford,” said Geranium Corporation’s John Bousfield, adding the complex would include a head office as well as assembly and distribution plants that would radically change the fortunes of South Simcoe.
The numbers, though, are the lasso. The province is clamping down on
speculation and unbridled growth, which could be fueled by the
pressures to move north over the greenbelt, to use the area’s
transportation assets, and even its population, which although already
skilled, includes a growing creative and entrepreneurial class that
will undoubtedly grow as some of the GTA’s most successful retire
“We have a very difficult overall gap in expectations of the development community and of some municipalities, which are far in excess of those in Places to Grow,” said Simpson.
“There are definitely conflicts.”
At least the only guns are the hired guns.
Simcoe County. The Wild West.