First Nations groups fighting Innisfil Orbit MZO

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

The Williams Treaties First Nations (WTFN) have filed court proceedings to challenge the  Orbit development planned in Innisfil and asking for a suspension of the Minister’s Zoning Order issued in August.

Court documents naming the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the Cortel Group, argue the province granted the order “in a manner inconsistent with the honour of the Crown,” by failing to consult and accommodate First Nations as required under Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

On August 9, the Province of Ontario announced that a Ministerial Zoning Order (MZO) was issued to designate lands on the 6the Line for the Town of Innisfil’s future Orbit transit hub.

The MZO includes guidelines for how the land immediately surrounding the transit station (i.e., land within 425 metres of the proposed GO station) can be used, including for spaces like retail, business, residential, affordable housing, recreation and more, as well as protection of key environmental features, including woodlands and wetlands. Lands outside the area will be addressed in the future through a secondary plan, and the town will once again look for input from the community later this year.

An Environmental Registry of Ontario (ERO) notice has been posted to establish a timeframe for permit and compensation agreement under the Conservation Authorities Act for the Orbit MZO lands. The public comment period closed on Sept. 6.

Jeff Burch, NDP critic for municipal affairs, says Innisfil “will pay the price” if wetlands and farmlands are built on and infrastructure costs rise.

“Ford is granting this MZO on environmentally-sensitive land,” Burch said in a statement. “There is no way to justify bypassing the standard environmental planning process for a development proposal of this scale.”

Innisfil officials said the MZO will help expedite the construction of the new GO station, in addition to the planning for the surrounding Orbit neighbourhood and will help stakeholders to secure private investment for the project. The town also said the MZO will support economic recovery as Ontario begins to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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