Ontario government criticized over use of zoning orders for condo development
Ministerial Zoning Orders allow province to skirt local government approval processes
The Ontario government is being criticized over its approval of two controversial zoning orders that will facilitate the construction of two condo communities consisting of 40,000 units.
The Ministerial Zoning Orders (MZOs) were approved late on Thursday, and allow the province to skirt local government approval processes. They relate to two separate condo communities — one in Markham and the other just across highway 407 in Richmond Hill.
While the government says the MZOs will facilitate huge development projects in York Region, neighbours and city officials are concerned the planned infrastructure — including schools and hospitals — won't be able to support the ballooning population.
Graham Churchill, an executive director for community group, A Better Richmond Hill, says the planned development "is going to destroy York Region."
He says several pleas to Premier Doug Ford not to go ahead with the development in its present form have all fallen on deaf ears.
"Rethink this Doug. This is insane," Churchill said on Friday.
"What you are doing is not good for Toronto, it is not good for the GTA, it will economically wreck us."
Churchill has accused the Ford government of making "a secret deal" with the developers, effectively doubling the density in the area and cutting jobs.
"So, where York Region originally had a plan of two to one of housing to jobs, this is now going to be 10 to one. That's bad for the region, but it's bad for Toronto. And the reason it's bad for Toronto is because people here will not have a job."
If the development goes ahead, Churchill says it will make the area the densest place in the Western world and the second densest in the entire world.
"The densest place in the world today is the Dharavi Slums of Mumbai, which was made famous by the movie Slumdog Millionaire. The second densest place is Mong Kok in Hong Kong. Mong Kok has a density of about 150,000 people per square kilometre. This center will have 175,000," he said.
"It will be six times denser than downtown Toronto."
What this will do is because they're not making this an employment zone, everybody who lives here will have to leave to get to work.- Graham Churchill, executive director, A Better Richmond Hill
The proposed developments are called transit-oriented communities (TOCs), and will be located close to transit hubs planned for York Region. Across the two developments, there will be 67 highrises, some 80 storeys tall.
But Churchill says there won't be enough businesses and jobs for people.
"What this will do is because they're not making this an employment zone, everybody who lives here will have to leave to get to work," he said.
"Now, where do they go? Well, they're either going to get in their cars, which will just jam up all the roads or they're going to get on the subway going southbound, which is already at capacity south of Sheppard, which is a problem because now nobody in Toronto is going to be able to get seats in the subway."
According to the auditor general, the government has used the fast-track method of MZOs 44 times in a two-year period. Prior to this period, they were used around once a year.
Tom Muench, Richmond Hill city councillor says he's "sad" with what the government has done, adding that there was need for "more collaboration and discussion."
"There wasn't full transparency and openness and discussion with the community, with people like myself, and there were other options that weren't even considered," he said.
"I would have liked to have a little more engagement as opposed to doing it on a Thursday night on a long weekend."
A spokesperson for Ford says with 40,000 new units, this will add almost as many homes in one deal as were built over the entirety of recent years.
With files from Desmond Brown and Lorenda Reddekopp