Council in Caledonia expansion vise

By Bill Jackson - The Regional

February 11, 2009

Haldimand has seemingly reached a stalemate in a quest to further expand urban boundaries in Caledonia as it awaits a final decision from the province on the county's new official planning document.

Last fall the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) expressed its aversion to two proposed expansion areas in the plan including one land parcel south of Sixth Line that would be used for commercial and industrial development, and other lands situated along the east and west sides of River Road, south of the Grand River, that could accommodate residential development.

According to a county report to council last November, Caledonia will not have a 20-year supply for urban growth, as required under the Provincial Policy Statement, if Douglas Creek Estates lands are not available for development. Yet according to the MMAH, the proposed urban expansions of Caledonia need to be assessed and justified through comprehensive reviews under the Provincial Growth Plan.

Haldimand Council had passed a resolution to advise the MMAH that its position on Caledonia urban boundary expansions was "not acceptable" and asked its planning staff for a subsequent report outlining options that it considered this past Monday.

Some developers argue that the proposed urban boundary expansions in Caledonia meet provincial growth objectives and have urged council to take a firm stance.

Rich Shaw, a representative on behalf of Coscorp lands adjacent to River Road, contends that even though Six Nations concerns are not clearly documented by the province, they are contained in its response. Perhaps between the lines.

Recognizing the concerns of natives pertaining to riverfront development, Coscorp is instead proposing the development of 100 acres of land on the west side of McKenzie Road.

"the development of Coscorp lands on River Road poses many more challenges than the McKenzie Road property," according to a submission from Nancy Shoemaker, a consultant on behalf of Coscorp. "By virtue of its location adjacent to the Grand River and land claim issues with Six Nations in this area unresolved, the future development of this property is less clear. In addition, the construction of a new bridge over the Grand River to implement a ring road will require an Environmental Assessment which will be both costly and time consuming."

Costly infrastructure improvements would also be required to develop the lands adjacent to River Road and Shaw said it would take between five and seven years for the project to start, if it was granted the go-ahead.

The proposed development off McKenzie Road could begin in two years. It wouldn't necessarily replace the 448 homes that were slated for DCE, but could come close, he said.

"That level of detail we would like to sit and discuss with staff at this time," he told reporters.

A report considered Monday that was prepared by Elaine Brunn Shaw, Halldimand's manager of planning and development, recommended that the proposed relocation of Coscorp development be considered separately through an official plan and zoning amendment and that council request the MMAH to defer the proposed extensions to the Caledonia urban boundary to permit analysis relative to the Provincial Growth Plan. Brunn Shaw said that the province has already prepared a final decision on Haldimand's official plan and was awaiting a resolution of council.

Coun. Tony Dalimonte called the matter a "political issue" and suggested that the county request a meeting with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, but he wasn't in favour of holding up the entire official plan any longer. Many other county matters hinge on its approval moving forward, he argued.

Hadlimand's CAO Don Boyle said that council could choose to deal with the matter by requesting a meeting with the Ministry and hold off on any further resolutions. Or, Boyle said council could choose to defer sections of the official plan, namely the Caledonia urban boundary expansions, and deal with those separately as recommended by staff.''

That wasn't an option for Coun. Buck Sloat.

If council deferred a portion of the plan, the province might not look at Caledonia expansion again until the next official plan is contemplated, he reasoned.

"We need to stick to our guns and move forward. I will not support a deferral."

Council unanimously supported a resolution directing the mayor's office to request a meeting with the Minister of MMAH to discuss options for obtaining final approval of the official plan "as it relates to Caledonia's urban boundaries."

However, planning staff recommendations that requested the province deal with the proposed boundary expansions separately was dropped when councillors split a vote on the recommendations 3-3. Councillor Leroy Bartlett was absent from the meeting and Councillors Sloat and Lorne Boyko, along with Mayor Marie Trainer, voted against the recommendations.

Boyko was concerned with taking Caledonia boundary issues out of the plan because he said that ministry staff could say '"Good, they've taken the real controversial part out of it."'

Brunn Shaw said that the issue has essentially been deferred until a meeting with the ministry is held. Council wants a report back in 45 days, she noted.

In the meantime, the minister could sign off on the official plan without a meeting being held.

Once a decision is issued, a 20-day appeal period will take effect. Anyone that has participated in the official plan process will be notified and will have the right to appeal all or part of the minister's decision.

Mike Tucci, a representative of the Forecast Group that wants to develop lands south of Sixth Line, said that proposed urban boundary expansion in that area meets provincial growth plan objectives and strongly recommended that council appeal the province's final decision to the Ontario Municipal Board.

The proposed commercial and industrial development could bring up to 1000 jobs, according to proponents.

Moving forward without such lands included in the official plan is detrimental to Caledonia's ability to stay competitive, Tucci said.