By Mike Williscraft
Grimsby was mixed in the provincial news cycle Friday and not for reasons appreciated by many, including Mayor Jeff Jordan.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a proposed release of up to 7,400 acres of land from the limitations of Greenbelt legislation, thereby freeing them up for development.
For Jordan, it is not simply that controversial move, but when it is combined with a major shift in favour of developers for the planning process itself, the ability for local municipalities to defend against over development has been hamstrung.
The only land being removed from the Greenbelt in Grimsby is church lands on the northwest corner of Hunter and Winston roads and west of Oakes Road, east of Kelson Road, north of Main Street West and south of rail tracks,” said Jordan.
“The bigger issue is completely removing control of planning from the municipality and the reduction of development charges. Bill 23 will force existing residents to pay for new construction putting higher profits into the pockets of developers.”
MPP Sam Oosterhoff said the changes are needed for his government to fulfill a key plank in their election strategy – to build 1.5 million homes to boost affordable housing numbers.
“Fundamentally, these changes are about making it more affordable to get into the market for first time home buyers,” said Oosterhoff.
When Jordan’s point of limited development charge (DC) revenues for municipalities was raised, Oosterhoff noted they do remain in place.
“To be clear, DCs aren’t scrapped, merely capped. But those costs are passed along directly to new home buyers,” said Oosterhoff.
“In June, we were elected on a commitment to build 1.5 million homes across the province to help address the housing crisis. For too long, governments have been content to see fewer housing starts than are needed to address our population growth. Our government is taking the action that is needed to ensure all Ontarians, including those in Niagara West, have a place to call home.”
When asked about affordable housing being a need and why a lakefront property was chosen to release from the Greenbelt, Oosterhoff did not comment.
Oosterhoff was also asked how two seemingly random properties – in particular the 321 Hunter Road parcel which recently changed hands to New Horizon Development Group – got on the radar for the provincial government, Oosterhoff contacted the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, which did not respond by press time.
Some may recognize New Horizon as the developer which sought to build multiple residential towers in Stoney Creek in excess of 50 storeys.
Ford claims his move will pave the way for 50,000 new homes in 10 years.
Oosterhoff said those new homes will include the proper residential mix of housing, from rental units to detached homes and everything in between.
“The changes we are making in the More Homes, Built Faster Act will accomplish exactly that – in Grimsby and across Ontario.”