Toronto-region policy context

Although many of the approaches and findings in this study are relevant to other jurisdictions, this project originated in response to local plans, policies, and conditions, some long-standing, others new. Of particular importance is the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (MPIR 2006a), which came into effect in June 2006.1 The Growth Plan, to which municipal plans and planning decisions must conform, is part of a larger program of interrelated reforms to the land use planning system as well as of public infrastructure investment introduced by the present government. These reforms include the establishment of the Greenbelt, amendments to the Planning Act and the Provincial Policy Statement, and the creation of Metrolinx.

In part, the plan seeks to reduce automobile dependence, promote more efficient provision and use of infrastructure, and decrease the rate of conversion of rural land to urban uses. For future development on greenfield land, the plan's policies promote the creation of "complete communities" -- urban form and activities that are more mixed, dense, and conducive to travel by means other than the automobile relative to currently prevailing forms.2 To support these policies, the provincial government has set a minimum density target of 50 residents and jobs combined per hectare for the designated zones of future greenfield development of single- and upper-tier municipalities. Progress by municipalities towards this target will be measured by the Province every five years (MPIR 2006b). (See Fig. 1.)

Fig. 1: Policies in the Ontario Government's Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe
"Complete communities"
s. 6. Complete Communities ... meet people's needs for daily living throughout an entire lifetime by providing convenient access to an appropriate mix of jobs, local services, a full range of housing, and community infrastructure including affordable housing, schools, recreation and open space for their residents. Convenient access to public transportation and options for safe, non-motorized travel is also provided.
Mixed-use development
s. New development taking place in designated greenfield areas will be planned, designated, zoned and designed in a manner that ... creates street configurations, densities, and an urban form that support walking, cycling, and the early integration and sustained viability of transit services [;] provides a diverse mix of land uses, including residential and employment uses, to support vibrant neighbourhoods [; and] creates high quality public open spaces with site design and urban design standards that support opportunities for transit, walking and cycling.
s. Municipalities will develop and implement official plan policies, including phasing policies, for designated greenfield areas to achieve the intensification target and density targets of this Plan.
Minimum density target for greenfield land
s. The designated greenfield area of each upper- or single-tier municipality will be planned to achieve a minimum density target that is not less than 50 residents and jobs combined per hectare.
3. This density target will be measured over the entire designated greenfield area of each upper- or single-tier municipality, excluding the following features where the features are both identified in any applicable official plan or provincial plan, and where the applicable provincial plan or policy statement prohibits development in the features: wetlands, coastal wetlands, woodlands, valley lands, areas of natural and scientific interest, habitat of endangered species and threatened species, wildlife habitat, and fish habitat. The areas of the features will be defined in accordance with the applicable provincial plan or policy statement that prohibits development of these features.3
4. Policy is provided for the purpose of measuring the minimum density target for the designated greenfield areas, and is not intended to provide policy direction for the protection of natural heritage features, areas and systems.
5. The Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal may review and permit an alternative density target for an upper- or single-tier municipality that is located in the outer ring, and that does not have an urban growth centre, to ensure the density target is appropriate given the characteristics of the municipality and adjacent communities.
1. The Toronto metropolitan region, which the provincial government refers to as the Greater Golden Horseshoe, comprises 16 Census Divisions: the Regional Municipalities of Niagara, Waterloo, Halton, Peel, York, and Durham; the Counties of Haldimand, Brant (including Brantford), Wellington (including Guelph), Dufferin (including Orangeville), Simcoe (including Barrie and Orillia), Peterborough (including the City of Peterborough), and Northumberland, and the Cities of Toronto, Hamilton, and Kawartha Lakes.
2. The term "complete communities" appears to be borrowed from Vancouver (GVRD 1996). The Growth Plan builds on priorities spelled out in the Provincial Policy Statement, which states that: "Land use patterns within settlement areas shall be based on: ... densities and a mix of land uses which: 1. efficiently use land and resources; 2. are appropriate for, and efficiently use, the infrastructure and public service facilities which are planned or available, and avoid the need for their unjustified and/or uneconomical expansion; and 3. minimize negative impacts to air quality and climate change, and promote energy efficiency ..." (MMAH 2005c: s.
3. This is a change from s. of the "draft" version of Growth Plan released in February 2005, which specified the target on a gross basis (MPIR 2005a). The November 2005 "proposed" plan introduced the concept of a "designated greenfield area," defined as all land between the existing built-up urban area and the boundary of the designated settlement area, which is the total envelope of land that is projected to be developed over the long term (MPIR 2005b). The June 2006 final plan further refined the definition of the lands to be excluded from the designated greenfield areas when applying the target (MPIR 2006a).