Ontario Construction News staff writer
Speaking virtually to municipal leaders at the Association of Municipalities (AMO) conference last week, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clarke highlighted the use of Minister’s Zoning Orders and other tools.
“We temporarily suspended decision-making timelines under the Planning Act, so you could focus on what was most important…local public health needs,” he said. “It is imperative that we pull out all the stops when it comes to supporting economic recovery.”
He encouraged municipalities to use the available tools to find local solutions so move high-priority projects ahead without delay.
“Whether it’s helping to build long-term care homes in Innisfil . . . or Clarington, or hundreds of housing units including for seniors in Whitchurch-Stouffville . . . these MZOs help get shovels in the ground faster, create jobs and support local priorities,” Clark said.
While the government is focused on reducing delays on critical projects that local communities need by enhancing the Minister’s Zoning Order authority, Clark reminded the crowd that certain areas need not apply.
“I want to be clear that this new tool cannot be used in the Greenbelt,” he said. “Our focus on supporting economic recovery has not wavered – we’re helping to build more housing, long-term care facilities, and leveraging our transit investments, and that is the focus for the enhanced MZO.”
Transit-oriented communities and affordable housing projects are priorities as the province emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We can also support another top priority, by requiring that affordable housing be part of the mix in new developments through inclusionary zoning,” Clark said. “The COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act also gives your communities more say on the location of new landfills, something that many of you have been calling for.”
Also, changes to the Drainage Act make it easier to improve existing municipal drains and reduce flooding hazards. “They simplify the process for minor drain improvements and reduce costs for farmers, rural landowners and municipalities – which will help Ontario’s agricultural sector,” he said.
Clark also spoke about changes to development charges that were made after significant consultation.
“We’ve added many services to the list of eligible development charge services, including long-term care, parks and recreation facilities, libraries, public health, and more… all of which will be 100 per cent cost-recoverable,” he said.
“The community benefits charge, on the other hand, is a new revenue tool that some of you will be able to use for higher density residential development.”
Municipalities will have the flexibility to choose to use the community benefits charge – in addition to parkland tools to help ensure that growth pays for growth… and provide greater predictability for municipal revenues from new development…