Ontario Construction News staff writer
Relations between the City of Barrie and the Town of Innisfil may be tested by competing visions of growth on either side of the municipal boundary.
The town wants to extend its Innisfil Heights Strategic Settlement Employment Area (IHSSEA) north, above the ninth line and south to the sixth line. The northward trek would take the Innisfil area to the boundary of the two communities, and that has the City asking some hard questions, directed at the province in a letter from Michelle Banfield, Barrie’s Director of Planning and Building Services.
In the letter, Banfield writes that an expansion of the IHSSEA is inconsistent with Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 policy 1.1.1d, which states “healthy, liveable and safe communities are sustained by: d) avoiding development and land use patterns that would prevent the efficient expansion of settlement areas in those areas which are adjacent or close to” settlement areas.
“Without a fulsome review and consideration of the matters surrounding servicing and transportation the City believes this proposed expansion is premature and requires further study before any expansion is considered and before any ultimate land uses are contemplated in this particular area,” she writes.
The City’s concerns focus on its own plans for its south-end lands. It wants to develop the area as employment lands, and Banfield raises questions as to whether the Innisfil lands would be serviced, and if so from where the servicing would originate.
“It is unclear as to whether the intent is to offer the expanded IHSSEA as serviced or unserviced lands. There would seem to be need to differentiate the IHSSEA lands from those within the major urban settlement area of the City of Barrie immediately to the north, in order to appropriately support a range of employment development in the regional area,” writes Banfield.
Banfield asks, in the letter addressed to Mirrun Zaveri, Ontario Growth Secretariat, whether the province will require the Innisfil lands to be serviced, an if yes, what the proposed timeline might be. She adds that cross-municipal “planning and coordination of such key growth management matters should be encouraged, if not required, by the province.”
Barrie has designated employment lands that are near the proposed Innisfil expansion area “and through the new Official Plan process, which is well underway, the City will likely be seeking to expand the settlement area boundary, within existing municipal boundary, for additional employment uses,” continues Banfield.
“Based on provincial policy direction, the City would be seeking to situate those additional employment area lands in close proximity to key infrastructure such as Highway 400 and the existing rail line to the east of the highway. The future highway interchange at McKay will provide important freight access to the highway for the employment area lands. As is the case for our existing lands, all development in this area will be fully serviced.”
The City has done a Land Needs Assessment (LNA), which indicates the need for new employment lands to accommodate employment growth planned for 2014.
“We believe that the LNA approach reflects good planning principles and the provincial requirements. Has the Town of Innisfil done a Land Needs Assessment to justify the need for this employment area expansion?” She adds that the expansion of the IHSSEA was not contemplated when Innisfil completed its Official Plan, which was approved by the County of Simcoe in October 2018.
The letter also raises transportation concerns, citing corridor/interchange challenges along Highway 400 in the Barrie area.
“The City has concerns that an expanded IHSSEA up to the … southern boundary will put additional pressure on the transportation infrastructure in this area. Has the Town of Innisfil reviewed the potential impacts this proposed expansion may have on the transportation network?” She asks if the province will require the same infrastructure improvements from Innisfil as the City has made for development in its south end.
The question of permitted uses was also raised in the letter. The City, writes Banfield, recommends that the province “consider restricting the uses to only dry-industrial uses and not permit more employment supportive uses as the 25% restriction has already been exceeded.”
An IHSSEA expansion should not be the route for “further retail and commercial uses that should otherwise be directed to within settlement areas. Also, restricting the type of employment uses to dry-industrial uses alleviates the need to extend services to this area and allows for the needed differentiation between the IHSSEA lands and the serviced industrial lands offered within the City of Barrie to provide for a range of employment development opportunities.”
Finally, Banfield raises the question of designating employment lands in south Barrie as a Provincially Significant Employment Zone (PSEZ), a discussion the City has been having with the province.
“Although the IHSSEA is already identified and delineated within the Growth Plan, it is unclear if the province intends on designating the IHSSEA as a PSEZ. The City would like to know how this might impact the City’s designation process.”