Simcoe County fast-tracking plan to turn Oro-Medonte farmland into seniors housing

Ontario Construction News staff writer

An Oro-Medonte Township family has convinced County Council to support a plan to build a seniors housing development on farmland just outside Barrie.

The plan, presented to council by the McLean family, is to overhaul farmland that has been in their family for generations, to create mixed senior living space with parkland, long-term care and affordable housing.

However, to make the dream a reality, the McLean’s need a ministerial zoning order approved by the province. That’s why County support was important.

“Our vision is to build an innovative neighbourhood called McLean Park, a unique place to live that welcomes everyone – most particularly the under-serviced seniors in our community,” wrote the McLean family in their property proposal.

According to the proposal, 133 acres located at 121 Penetanguishene Rd., on the border between Barrie and Oro-Medonte Township – has been owned by the McLean family for generations.

“It’s here that our parents, Joe and Eileen McLean, lived and worked the land. As their children and proud inheritors of their farming traditions, we are committed to honouring their legacy. We wish to begin a new chapter that will let us share, with the community, the abundance and prosperity inherent in the land.”

The land is currently designated restricted rural and is active farmland. Development plans include:

  • Multi-unit apartment buildings 4-5 storeys in height
  • Rear-lane and back-to-back townhouses with 6.0 metre frontages
  • Senior-focused 1-storey single detached dwellings with 9.0 and 11.0 metre frontages
  • Single detached dwellings with 12.0, 15.0, 18.0, and 21.0 metre frontages
  • Mixed commercial, office and retail uses
  • Institutional (long term care home) and recreational uses
  • Parkland
  • Stormwater management facilities
  • Infrastructure block and wastewater treatment facility

Agricultural technologies would be incorporated into the development and approximately 430 permanent full-time jobs would be created, the report estimates. However, without a ministerial zoning order (MZO), the county and township would have to amend their Official Plans and approve a zoning-bylaw amendment.

Section 47 of the Planning Act gives the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing the same

authority as municipal councils to make decisions on certain land use planning matters. In this regard, the Minister has the authority to directly zone land by issuing a MZO. The MZO would establish land use permissions and set specific requirements for new development, such as maximum building heights, parking, access and servicing requirements. New development must conform to the provisions of the MZO and the permissions of the MZO would supersede those of the applicable in-effect official plan(s) and zoning by-laws

If approved, the MZO would establish land-use permissions and set specific requirements for new development, such as maximum building heights, parking, and servicing requirements.

Also, it could not be appealed to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). The argument in favour of the order says the plan “responds to and supports” provincial priorities because it would improve health care options provide housing and create jobs.

Adjala-Tosorontio Deputy Mayor Bob Meadows has concerns about circumventing the OP.

“Here we have an MZO for something that doesn’t meet the criteria for three sections of the planning and building code,” he said during a committee of the whole meeting. “I don’t know how I can support it.”

Oro-Medonte Township Mayor Harry Hughes said COVID-19 has drawn attention to issues in long-term care, retirement living and health care in general that need to be considered – and the plan includes 131 long-term care beds. Oro-Medonte council has already agreed to support the request.

The decision will need to be ratified at the next regular meeting of council.

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