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Growth Plan update gives County new regional planning authority, MCR up first

Posted September 6, 2017

Simcoe County's Planning Advisory Committee (PAC) was meeting this morning to prepare the way for its first Municipal Comprehensive Review (MCR) since the provincial government's Growth Plan, 2017 shifted responsibility from the lower to upper tier, setting up the County as a regional planning authority.

"This is a fundamental shift in the responsibility and role of the County of Simcoe," according to planning department report to PAC. "It is expected that during the time the County is undertaking the MCR, some of the local municipal OP updates may have to pause certain portions of their process until there is further clarity. Specifically, clarity is required with respect to allocated growth, the settlement area hierarchy across the County, the employment strategy, an intensification strategy is determined with targets established and density targets known, and servicing scenarios tested at the least."

The most recent County OP was adopted in 2008 but not approved by the Ontario Municipal Board until December 2016.

"(MCR) will involve more comprehensive studies and consultation on such things as sewer and water and watershed management that must be used to inform regional scale planning and decision-making," according to the County's planning department report to PAC. "As part of the MCR, the County will be establishing a settlement area hierarchy across the County and be determining the amount of growth and development that is appropriate to be directed to each settlement area based on many integrated factors such as sewer and water servicing capacity, intensification and density targets, an employment strategy, watershed planning and financial analysis."

The Growth Plan, 2017 stipulates any lands designated for agricultural uses or rural uses in a lower-tier official plan as of January 20, 2017 can only be designated for development through a MCR.

A key component of the MCR will involve expanding settlement area boundaries which has a direct impact in New Tecumseth as thousands of acres of rural and farmland have been purchased by development interests. The largest of these plans is the Cappuccitti/Mattamy proposed 15,000 residential development between Alliston and Beeton, sitting in limbo at the OMB as one of the last remaining matters to be settled.

The County estimates the MCR to take at least two years to complete and estimated to cost between $500,000 to $800,000.

"There is urgency in getting underway with the County MCR as it is anticipated to be at least a two year exercise. County staff and local staff have been contacted by landowners/developers about the timing of the County MCR. They have expressed that time is of the essence to move this project forward ASAP. The County MCR may result in unforeseen delays on some projects.

It is anticipated that County Planning staff will lead and project manage the MCR, working with the lead consultant throughout the project. Dedicating current County staff resources to this significant, and highly complex undertaking will take resources away from development reviews and involvement on other County and external planning initiatives. With the introduction of Growth Plan, 2017 and the shifting of responsibilities to the County, additional resources will be required."

Simcoe County council still has to adopt the measures.