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Creemore area councillor-elect Robert McArthur says he believes Bill 23 would be a giant step backwards for Clearview Township.

McArthur, a lifelong Cashtown Corners farmer, is supporting the position of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), to intensify housing development without sacrificing farmland.

He said the threat to prime agricultural land has been ongoing in cities for a long time.

“We believe that building needs to be done along the core transit lines, and either build more condensed units or build up,” said McArthur. “When you put it into context, in 100 years there won’t be much [farmland] left in Ontario.”

Because the government has limited the commenting period, McArthur applauds the OFA for its response, especially since the new council hasn’t been sworn in yet and is unable to formulate a response.

In a Nov. 17 submission to the Standing Committee on Heritage, Infrastructure and Cultural Policy, to which Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022, has been referred, the OFA has taken the position that it supports intensification within urbanboundaries but should go further to limit zoning dedicated to single detached dwellings, and to increase density in rural settlement areas.

OFA says it “opposes any re- introduction of severances in the agricultural area and desires to work with the Province to increase density and housing in rural Ontario in ways that do not sacrifice farmland.”

The OFA also opposes the removal of local site plan control, upper tier planning responsibilities, public meetings for subdivision draft plans, and third-party planning appeals.

“OFA worries that these changes to Ontario’s land use planning system will disproportionately impact rural municipalities as they may not have the capacity (e.g., staff, budgets, or expertise) to adopt these downloaded responsibilities and keep up with the pace of policy implementation. We recommend the province financially assist municipalities in achieving any goals related to updating and implementing municipal plans, policies, and procedures that will address housing and other matters of provincial interests.”

Instead, the OFA is calling on the province to create an independent, non-partisan office of the Legislative Assembly to provide oversight of the municipal implementation of provincial land use plans and policies.

“Farmland is farmland, whether it is inside or outside the Greenbelt. Between the last two census 2016 to 2021 we lost 700,000 acres. The urban boundary expansion announced will use up more farmland. And once it turns into housing and development, it never goes back to farmland,” said OFA president Peggy Brekveld in a Nov. 16 presentation to the Standing Committee… “Some of the best farmland in the province is under this asphalt and concrete [in Toronto]. And do we want that to continue?”

McArthur is also concerned about how the Bill will affect the township’s finances.

“It’s going to impact the bottom line as developers are going to get a reduction in development charges under this proposed Bill,” said McArthur. “In other words this Bill is just a means for developers getting bigger financial profits, quicker.”

Sunrise Homes developer Sajjad Hussain said bad decisions over the past 20 years have hurt the development community and caused the current housing affordability crisis

Sunrise Homes is currently working on a 294-unit development of single detached homes on County Road 7 in Stayner that goes by the name Clearview Park.

He said streamlining the development process is way overdue.

“Just to get things done in a municipality takes years and years and years and that is the prime reason for price escalation. Having this Bill and consolidating a lot of these timing issues, I think will help,” said Hussain.

He said a zoning application in the GTA takes two to four years to be approved, compared to three to six months in the United States, causing new homes to be slow to come to market, and inventory translates into affordability.

“It’s a supply issue. We have been crying about it for a long time,” said Hussain. “Bring more product to the market. It’s as simple as that.”

He said people are coming to this country, many to Ontario, and families are looking for homes. High prices in the GTA drive people out of the city, and they want to live in single detached homes.

“You can’t change the reality. Where are these people going to go? Not everybody wants to live in a 700 square foot condo,” said Hussain.

He said speeding up the approval period alone would be a huge win for the province, and that includes amalgamating conservation authorities, and eliminating redundancy in the approval process.

Hussain said his company’s profit margins are the same as they were 20 years ago because of rising land prices, building costs, taxes and fees.

He said it’s too late to bring prices down so it is necessary to manage prices, and that means forcing the municipalities that have otherwise not demonstrated leadership when it comes to allowing development.

Hussain said it’s not a perfect Bill. It needs to be accompanied by infrastructure supports for municipalities whose growth potential is limited by a lack of sewer and water capacity, something that has staled construction in Creemore and Stayner respectively.

“Is it perfect? No. Is it going to harm? I don’t think so. In fact, you’ll see more inventory in the market, which is perfect for anybody who is new, or an existing buyer… you will see a lot of movement,” he said. “Prices need to stabilize. That’s the bottom line.”

Hussain said as a developer, he doesn’t want to do anything that would harm the environment or his children’s future, and wants to work in a sustainable industry, to build communities.

“We are not angels obviously we are here to do business,” he said. “The reality is the way the policies have been driven for the last 20 years were bad policies.”

The Clearview Park development includes a future medium density block and Sunrise Homes has another 200- acre property on which the hope is to build some attainable housing.

  • Agricultural land makes up less than five per cent of the province. 700,000 acres of farmland was lost between 2016 and 2021.
  • 319 acres a day is being lost each day. That is 75 million carrots, 25 million apples and 1.2 million bottles of VQA wine. Per year, every year.
  • Ontario is one of seven regions in the world that has the ability to export more food than it imports.

– Ontario Federation of Agriculture

 

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