‘Major milestone’: Simcoe County’s plan for population and jobs growth moves forward

According to planning director Nathan Westendorp, the official plan amendment voted on by Simcoe County councilors on August 9 represents a "balanced approach" between the growth of settlement areas and the protection of agricultural land and the natural environment.

Getting a group of toddlers to agree on their favorite ice cream might be easier than winning unanimity among a crowd of politicians.

Nonetheless, a clear majority of Simcoe County mayors and deputy mayors voted Aug. 9 to proceed with the final stage of the ongoing municipal comprehensive review.

The RCM is a process stemming from the province’s growth plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Phase 1, which aimed to distribute population and employment growth to the year 2051, is now complete. Councilors voted 20 to 11 in favor of the report to Committee of the Whole.

“Finding 16 municipalities that will all agree on exact allocations is going to be a near impossible task,” said Rob Elliott, general manager of engineering, planning and environment. “But we feel we’ve met the province’s goal.

Oro-Medonte Mayor Harry Hughes strongly disagreed with the numbers applied to his township, noting that they represented an annual growth of 82 residents and 100 jobs.

“It seems so offbeat,” he said. “It’s something you can’t understand.”

Representatives from the townships of Springwater, Ramara and Severn also expressed apprehensions, but their various concerns could not sway the vote.

Planning Director Nathan Westendorp described the Official Plan Amendment (OPA) as a ‘major step’ which represents a ‘balanced approach’ between growing settlement areas and protecting farmland and the environment natural.

“There is still work to be done to complete the RCM, including continuing work to ensure that the mapping of our green lands and natural heritage system is accurate and up-to-date, mapping the agricultural system and providing improvements where warranted, and working with multiple municipalities. to plan the expansion of the settlement area boundaries,” he said.

While there was talk of delaying the process and trying to address some outstanding concerns, Westendorp pointed out that the July 1 deadline for the takeover bid had already passed.

Lynn Dollin, Deputy Warden and Mayor of Innisfil, agreed that further delay would be a bad idea.

“If we don’t say what we want, or if that’s our plan, then that plan will be given to us (by the province),” she said, adding that such a scenario might include virtually no constraints on housing development.

The population allocations mentioned in the OPA are unchanged from those set out in a March land needs assessment. The county is expected to grow to 555,000 by 2051, 54% more than the current total of 361,000.

Phase 2 of the RCM process will include technical work to support improvements to the Provincial Agricultural System and Natural Heritage System mapping, as well as other elements. A staff report this fall will provide councilors with an updated work plan.