- On October 23, 2023, Minister Paul Calandra, Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, announced he would be “winding back” controversial changes to urban boundaries made through Provincial adjustments to 12 municipal and regional official land-use plans.
- As we previously reported, the changes applied to York Region’s Official Plan (YROP) expanded Stouffville’s urban boundaries by moving all of the Town’s Whitebelt lands into its Settlement Area, opening them up for development.
- Through that process, the Province scrapped Town and Regional hopes to incorporate the South Gormley Employment Area and Bethesda Lands Community Area into Stouffville’s employment and residential growth plans. Both of those sites sit on Oak Ridges Moraine (ORM) Countryside lands.
- As part of their review, Minister Calandra has asked the mayors of impacted municipalities to submit recommendations regarding the Provincial modifications and their potential retraction.
- In response, Town Staff have formulated a detailed report for Council consideration which will inform Mayor Lovatt’s submission to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH). It recommends the following:
- Maintain the Province’s addition of the Town’s Whitebelt lands as Settlement Area for development and employment purposes
- Add the South Gormley Employment Area expansion as adopted by the Region
- Include the identification and protection of three additional Future Strategic Employment Lands sites along the 404 Corridor
- Council will have an opportunity to debate the report at their meeting on November 15 prior to the Mayor forwarding it to Minister Calandra.
- The public can also speak to the recommendations at the meeting, which takes place in Council Chambers at 9 a.m. Alternatively, correspondence can be submitted to the Town Clerk via email.
In 2021, Mayor Lovatt criticized a near-term planning focus on Stouffville’s south-central Whitebelt lands, highlighting the significant costs of servicing them. “These lands are unserviced, geographically located away from any local amenities, and will make residents who eventually move to this area fully car dependant,” he explained on his website.
Alternatively, the Mayor advocated for moving ORM Countryside lands south of Bethesda Road between Ninth and Tenth Line into Stouffville’s Settlement Area—opening them up for future development to help meet the Town’s growth targets. According to Lovatt, those lands “are within the Old Elm Go Station MTSA, are adjacent to services, will promote walkable, transit-oriented communities, and will again be less costly to the Region and Stouffville to service.”
York Region planning staff have maintained that all of Stouffville’s Whitebelt lands would be needed to realize growth targets through 2051 and had recommended moving them into the Town’s urban boundaries. However, Stouffville’s focus on the Bethesda lands was endorsed by Regional Council and reflected in the final YROP submitted to the Province. Instead of approving the Official Plan as adopted, the Province removed the Bethesda lands change and opened all of Stouffville’s remaining Whitebelt lands.
While the Staff report mentions the past desire to utilize the Bethesda lands, it does not request reconsideration of them by the Province. Staff state that the added Whitebelt Settlement Area lands will be needed to meet Provincial housing targets and the Town’s housing pledge. Mayor Lovatt told Bullet Point News that he supports Staff’s recommendation, and that there is “no indication that the province intends to reverse Whitebelt additions to our urban boundary.”
We asked Mayor Lovatt for further clarification on why there is no longer a push for the inclusion of the proposed Bethesda Community Area over Stouffville’s Whitebelt lands, despite past positions suggesting it was a better option and its inclusion in the YROP. He did not respond by the time of publishing; however, we will update this piece if a response is received.
The Town’s recommendations to the Ministry also reiterate Stouffville’s desire to make available lands along the 404 corridor for employment purposes. This request includes the South Gormley Employment Area and future North Gormley, Vandorf, and Davis Drive Employment Areas. Doing so would require the use of ORM Countryside and Natural Core Area lands, as can be seen in the map included below.
“An insufficient supply of serviced employment land in the Town will have long-term, serious consequences on the economic viability of the local community,” the Staff report suggests. To help justify the recommendation, projections were included estimating the four employment sites could derive over $30 million in annual tax revenue, with over $7 million going to the Town.
Stouffville and York Region have supported numerous motions and reports seeking additional employment lands along the 404, focusing on the need to diversify the Town’s tax base while bolstering local job growth. A report compiling the long history of those requests is available here.
According to Staff, the South Gormley Settlement Area expansion represents “the most logical and appropriate location, as the lands are contiguous to the existing Gormely Settlement Area and would make more efficient use of existing and planned infrastructure and community services and facilities, and are readily serviceable in the shorter term.” It would require expansion into ORM Countryside Area, as opposed to the proposed Davis Drive Future Employment Area sitting on Natural Core lands.
Following Council consideration, Mayor Lovatt will submit the Town’s feedback to Minister Calandra by December 7, 2023. After Ministry reconsiderations and approval of the finalized YROP, Stouffville can move to adopt its own postponed new Official Plan.