Ontario Tries to Grow Up

Municipal, Planning & Environmental

05/23/2017       By Signe Leisk, Raivo Uukkivi, Christie E. Gibson

On Thursday, May 18th, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs released updates to four of its land use plans that affect Southern Ontario: the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (the Growth Plan), the Greenbelt Plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and the Niagara Escarpment Plan. These plans delineate where and how growth will take place in the province by directing development to target areas, while strictly limiting development in others.
Of particular interest are proposed amendments to the Growth Plan that modify growth targets and employment lands policies, including:

  • The intensification target directing new development into built-up areas will be increased from 40% to 60%, applicable as of 2031
  •  Municipalities must complete a municipal comprehensive review by 2022, and will be asked to achieve an interim intensification target of 50%
  •  Beginning in 2022, Designated Greenfield Areas (DGAs) will be required to achieve a density target of 60 jobs and people per hectare. All new DGAs will be required to achieve a density target of 80 people/jobs per hectare
  •  Alternative density targets may be requested to the interim targets
  •  Major Transit Station Areas (MTSAs) are subject to special density targets, established according to the type of transit offered. In particular:

    o 150 residents and jobs combined per hectare must be achieved for GO train service

    o 160 residents and jobs combined per hectare must be achieved for light rail transit (LRT) and bus rapid transit (BRT)

    o  200 residents and jobs combined per hectare must be achieved for subways
  • Development will be required to consider and create communities that support an aging population, and to consider a range of housing options and unit sizes that accommodate a diverse range of household sizes and incomes 
  • A new “prime employment area” land designation will be added for employment uses that require a large amount of land, or access to certain infrastructure 
  • All conversions of employment lands to non-employment uses now require the approval of the province

Changes to the other plans will also impact development in Ontario going forward. The province is committed to a process to expand the outer edge of the Greenbelt. It will mandate the inclusion of climate change policies in municipal official plans, and encourage municipalities to adopt other environmentally protective measures. Municipalities will also be provided with direction concerning the protection of infrastructure and utility corridors.
The new Growth Plan, Greenbelt Plan and Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan come into effect July 1, 2017. The Niagara Escarpment Plan comes into effect on June 1, 2017. Regional and single-tier official plans must conform with these updated land use plans by 2022.
This announcement comes on the heels of the land use planning reforms proposed by the province on May 16th for the replacement of the Ontario Municipal Board with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal. The impact of these land use plan updates will need to be considered in conjunction with the proposed limits on appeal rights. The updates represent an additional plank in the coordinated overhaul of the land use planning system in the province.
The News Release setting out the updates may be found here, while an accompanying background piece may be found here.
Please contact any member of the Cassels Brock Municipal, Planning & Environmental Group for further information.