The private sector is acting like the public sector

By definition, business operates at the size of its market. The housing market of South-Central Ontario operates at a regional scale that transcends any one jurisdiction. Developers, therefore, make their decisions at the regional scale in a way that public bodies do not. The result has been a shift of public functions to the private sector.

In the absence of a region-scaled growth strategy defined by the Province for how the Toronto-related region should grow, developers have established the dominant development pattern by exploiting market opportunities and building according to industry norms.

In the Bond Head case, the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury refused the initial plan, but invited the developer to incorporate additional lands into a revised proposal. The result is a comprehensive land use framework covering the width of the entire Town. The Bradford Bond Head Planning Area is more than a simple development application. It is, in essence, a new growth management strategy for the Town. The terminology shift is important: the project has become a "planning area" coordinated by a "development corporation." The image presented is now akin to, for example, Toronto's waterfront redevelopment, but with the private sector in charge. As a result, the private sector is filling the comprehensive planning role traditionally played by government. The final plan will have as its base motivation profitability for the developer, not the creation of the most rational growth pattern for the area in the context of the Toronto-related region.

The development industry is conscious of the role it is playing. Responding to a question about the quality of the development pattern region-wide, Neil Rodgers of the Urban Development Institute said: "Let me spin it another way for you. How good is the County's vision? Because maybe what is happening there is the development industry is more visionary than the County is. ... I could say maybe the development industry is leading what should be a vision done by the County."127

Interestingly, the large scale and comprehensive nature of the development projects has led the developers in Simcoe County to hire former public officials as advisers. Geranium Corporation has never undertaken a development as large and comprehensive as the Bradford Bond Head Planning Area. To assist in its planning, Geranium hired former Deputy Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Daniel Burns to consult on the revised Bradford Bond Head Planning Area proposal. The developers of OPDI retained former mayor of Richmond Hill and developer of Queensville, Allan Duffy, as project manager.

While the use of outside consultants is normal, the hiring of people with substantial public-sector experience represents an attempt to frame development proposals as comprehensive growth strategies or planning policy reviews.

127. Neil Rodgers. President, UDI-Ontario. Interview. October 31, 2003.