Province to join region in attempt to save development plan

The Ontario government is concerned enough about Waterloo Region's long-term development plans being struck down by a provincial judicial tribunal that it will join the region's appeal of that ruling, says Government House Leader John Milloy.

The Ontario government is concerned enough about Waterloo Region's long-term development plans being struck down by a provincial judicial tribunal that it will join the region's appeal of that ruling, says Government House Leader John Milloy.

The Ontario Municipal Board, the body which settles conflicts over planning in the province, ruled against Waterloo Region's development plan in January. The region is appealing the decision.

Milloy said in an interview with Craig Norris on The Morning Edition Monday the province will be seeking standing at divisional court and will be supporting the region in the appeal of the ruling.

"This is about us wanting to help the Region express their concerns to the OMB ruling and we’re going to be making our case in front of the court," he said.

"We obviously have concerns about the OMB decision and we welcome the fact that the court may look at it."

The region’s plan seeks to limit development sprawl in the outer reaches. The plan aims to meet or exceed guidelines set out in the provincial 2006 Places to Grow Act, the legislation regulating development in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area.

 "We feel the provincial growth plan, this Places to Grow Act, is very, very important for the future development over the next 20, 25 years," said Milloy, who is the MPP for Kitchener Centre.

At the heart of the issue is how much land will be available for development.

The Region of Waterloo plan calls for between 70-85 hectares to be opened up to developers. While the Places to Grow Act set a target that at least 40 per cent of new residential development should happen in existing neighbourhoods, the Region set a more aggressive target of 45 per cent.

But developers in the case, led by a consortium that includes Activa Holdings Inc., Stonefield Properties Corp., and Northgate Land Corp., are pushing for a plan that would see 1053 hectares opened up to development.

Part of the reason the OMB overruled the region's growth plan was because it said the provincial growth plan didn't have a target date for intensified development.

Milloy said he couldn't talk about whether legislation should have been drafted more specifically.

"We can't be in a position to start arguing our case in front of anywhere except the courts," he said.

The region’s growth plan was passed by regional council in June of 2009, and approved by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing with some modifications in December of 2010.

Milloy said that while he had concerns about the OMB's ruling, the province won't be re-examining the role of the OMB.

Milloy said the OMB isn’t perfect but it does serve a valuable purpose as an appeal body.