Raising The Bar In Growth Planning for Simcoe County
About a year and half ago, I wrote on this blog about the Province’s new Places To Grow legislation. Basically, the province is looking at the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) area of Ontario, which includes Simcoe County as being an area in dire need of some long range planning. And rightly so.
The GGH is home to almost a quarter of Canada’s entire population and it is projected that an additional 3.7 million more people will live in the area by 2031. Read that again. Amazing, isn’t it? We cannot accommodate that type of growth in the same sprawling fashion of the past without resultant disaster and so, the plan was developed. The over-arching intent of the plan is to improve quality of life and contribute to prosperity and diversity while protecting our environment. The plan contains four major sections: where and how we will grow, infrastructure to support growth, protecting what is valuable and implementation. It considers where new development must be concentrated, revitalization of downtowns, identification of employment lands, transportation and connectivity, creation of more complete communities and curbing sprawl.
With much controversy, Simcoe County completed its plan earlier this year however, the plan was not supported by some local Mayors such as Collingwood’s own Chris Carrier. Since then, it seems the province doesn’t like it either and they have now stepped in to amend the plan.
Under the provincial plan, it reallocates population and jobs from northern Simcoe municipalities to five major centres including Barrie, Collingwood, Bradford West Gwillimbury, Orillia and Alliston. Strangely, both sides for against both plans use the same arguments for not liking one or the other. For example, the Environmental Defence group thinks the provinces plan spurs urban sprawl yet detractors of the county plan say exactly the same thing.
In the end, I think the county blew it. They were mandated to follow certain principles of smart growth and they didn’t. The McGuinty government has shown some teeth in standing behind their vision. Which one is correct remains to be seen but no matter what, the pressures of enormous growth continue to present enormous challenges in planning the future of our region. The good news is that the bar in planning has been raised to new heights and that is sure to lead to better outcomes in the end than what we have had in the past.