The developments described below are at various stages in the approval process. The final outcome of each proposal will not be known for months or years.
Ontario Potato Distributors Inc., New Tecumseth
Location and Description
The proposal calls for a 50,000-person development just south of Alliston in New Tecumseth. The lands on which the 1,416-hectare OPDI development would be built are now occupied by potato and sod farms. If fully developed, the development would feature 15,000 dwellings and a range of commercial, industrial, and institutional land uses.
Phase One includes a large central Commons with green space, stormwater ponds and public buildings. Neighbourhoods would be added as the community grew. The first phase would bring 1,200 units on-line -- enough to support an elementary school. The overall development plan includes a hospital and a future campus of Georgian College (see Map 6).
OPDI project manager Allan Duffy justifies the choice of the site near Alliston by noting:
- employment prospects in the area are strong due to the presence of a large employer, Honda, and the addition of 405 hectares of new industrial and commercial lands in the recently adopted Alliston Industrial/Commercial Secondary Plan;
- the fact that a significant proportion of the Honda plant's workforce live outside the township because local housing options in the township are limited; Duffy argues that Honda's employees can afford better housing than is currently available in Alliston, Beeton or Tottenham;
- the presence of substantial existing and proposed highway infrastructure; OPDI would be built at the junction of the proposed Highway 427 extension and a proposed new Economic Transportation Corridor.
It is, however, difficult to argue that the OPDI site "lies in the path of growth and is in keeping with the long-term objectives of the Region to manage growth,"48 a justification that Duffy used in getting approval for a similar proposal near Queensville in York Region.
Planner Eric Taylor of New Tecumseth believes that surplus water capacity in the Collingwood-Alliston pipeline and the expectation of an increase in the capacity of the wastewater treatment plant encouraged the large-scale development proposals: "I think that the expectation of being able to service a much larger population created a flurry of activity."49
In spring 2003, the Town of New Tecumseth completed an EA for the expansion of its regional wastewater treatment plant. The Town sought to have the plant assessed for a capacity of 40,000 m3 per day. The EA has not yet been completed, but the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs expect to set the maximum assimilative capacity of the Nottawasaga river at between 23,000 and 28,600 m3 per day. That assessment level allows New Tecumseth to accommodate planned growth, excluding parts of the Alliston Industrial/Commercial Secondary Plan Area. It does not, however, accommodate the OPDI proposal. Duffy believes that better sewage treatment technology, perhaps in conjunction with piping treated sewage, would allow the development to be serviced without overloading the assimilative capacity of the Nottawasaga River. He argues that the government should let the developer spend the money to find a solution that can grow in step with the new development's phasing.50
The Town of New Tecumseth received an Official Plan Amendment application from OPDI in October 2003. Initial debates in Council focused on whether to proceed with the application. Several councillors felt that the application was premature and that allowing the application to go through the pre-consultation stage would make it more difficult to refuse. Council asked staff to review the application and present recommendations on how to proceed. Staff drew up a memo outlining the pros and cons of refusing the OPA application outright and recommended that Council allow the OPDI application to "take its proper course through the process in accordance with the Planning Act."51
In the November 2003 municipal elections a new mayor, Mike MacEachern, and six of the Town's nine councillors were elected on a campaign to stop the development. On January 5, 2004, the Town passed a motion to ask the Province to include the town in the Bill 27 Greenbelt Study Area, so that they might take advantage of the moratorium on urban area expansions.52
At the January 19, 2004, Council meeting, Mayor MacEachern passed a resolution to refuse OPDI's official plan amendment application.53 The resolution was based on peer review reports of OPDI's proposal, which had identified shortcomings and discrepancies in the OPDI proposal.
First, OPDI's population growth projection was deemed to be unrealistic. OPDI's proposal represents a doubling of the County's and New Tecumseth's 25-year population projections. The Town's existing Growth Management Study projects that Alliston will grow from 9,700 today to 21,100 in 2031. If the OPDI development were to proceed, Alliston's total population in 2031 would be approximately 71,000 people -- more than three times the original projection.54 According to Hemson Consulting's review, the proponent "does not make the case as to why there is a need to accommodate additional growth in the Town of New Tecumseth" instead of elsewhere in the Toronto-related region.55
Second, the reviewers noted several unresolved technical issues relating to servicing infrastructure, including sanitary sewer capacity, management of the floodplain, groundwater vulnerability, phosphorous balancing, and the assimilative capacity of the Nottawasaga River.
Third, the reviewers did not consider the proposed development to be a logical expansion of existing residential areas in Alliston. They viewed OPDI's proposal, with its own town centre, as completely separate from Alliston.
Finally, an assessment of existing arterial road infrastructure determined that the trip generation model used by OPDI had underestimated both the total traffic that would be generated by the development and the necessary improvements to the road network that would be required. The reviewers cautioned against relying on unplanned and unbuilt transportation initiatives as solutions to the traffic generated by large-scale development.
In response, Duffy says that this kind of setback is not unusual for a large-scale development proposal. He has no plans to abandon the proposal. Although he says he would have liked to work cooperatively with the Town, he is considering several options, including an appeal to the OMB and a direct application to the County to permit the development.56 One of the measures in Bill 26 would prevent any appeals to the OMB for urban area expansions that are opposed by elected municipal governments. Therefore, the ability of the developer to appeal the rejection may depend on whether the OPDI proposal is viewed as an expansion of Alliston or as a new settlement area.