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Recap: March 24th York Regional Council Meeting

Meeting Links: Agenda, Minutes, Video

Members in Attendance:

W. Emmerson, M. Bevilacqua, J. DiPaola, M. Ferri, R. Grossi, V. Hackson, D. Hamilton, J. Heath, L. Jackson, J. Jones, J. Li, I. Lovatt, T. Mrakas, S. Pellegrini, C. Perrelli, M. Quirk, G. Rosati, F. Scarpitti, J. Taylor, T. Vegh, and D. West

Note: The following summary is not to be considered direct quotes or meeting minutes but the best interpretation of the comments made at the meeting with a focus on items that impact Richmond Hill.


Recap:

C. Statutory Public Meeting to consider proposed bylaw to allow for imposition of development charges (DC) (collected from new residential and non-residential development)

  • the old bylaw needed to be updated by June 17

  • a background study and public meeting had to be held first (this was the public meeting)

C.1 Presentation by Craig Binning of Hemson Consulting

  • DCs will help fund growth-related infrastructure

  • Changes (proposed new rates in presentation):

  • Stacked townhomes will be treated as apartments

  • Any residential dwelling <700 sq. ft. as a small apartment

  • Exempt additional residential units in existing and new buildings

  • Exempt conversions of common spaces in rental buildings into additional new units

  • Removal of the four-storey minimum height requirement on ‘development charges deferral for purpose-built rental buildings’

  • Presentation was received and carried

C.2 Deputations regarding the Development Charges

  • Include hospices in the exemptions from Development Charges (since the need is great and they want to expand to a 12-bed from a 3-bed situation)

  • Was referred to staff

  • Want the horizon year to be 2051 not 2041 because the share of infrastructure costs that benefit growth after 2041 (up to 2051) will be put on the development up to the 2041 period.

  • Because of the expiry date in June, the region could commit to reviewing it again after the Region’s Master Plan is done.

  • Some concerns about projects that will benefit existing development (such as transit) but are not being funded by existing development or not being funded fairly by existing developments

  • Large apartment rate (>700 ft2) is increasing more than other housing units (assuming an increase in size of families using them) which will lead to an increase in cost of housing for these apartments and may be based on inaccurate information.

Mayor Scarpitti (MS) - disappointed about suggestion from Housing Affordability Task Force (HATF) that an audit was needed to see how municipalities were spending DC (without a representative there from the municipalities) BILD should have been responding to this earlier on their behalf, pointed out that these funds are not a windfall for municipalities because they must be used to fund infrastructure. Points out that these DC will not cover all the costs of transit and future costs will be paid by future developers. We need to clarify the subway effects, and bus rapid transit (BRT) costs. It was clear that our council wants to see the development of RT to support growth. Could staff clarify points like this more for BILD? Where does BILD think the $ should come from to build the infrastructure (70% of which must be vertical)?

  • We don’t want growth in the future having to pay for growth today. Growth should pay for growth. To the extent that existing development benefits from infrastructure - it should pay proportionally as well.

MS - young couples and now kids in Markham lining up outside condominiums for buses? How should it be paid for if BILD thinks there will be less people per unit in the future?

  • Our question is to regional staff, PPU in smaller apartments stayed the same as from 2017 but went up in larger apartments. Why?

MS - Just how much of the BRT cost is included in this bylaw - and obviously more to come will be needed for the growth in the region?

  • Kelly Strueby (KS) (Acting Commissioner of Finance and Regional Treasurer) - MS is correct, the future BRT program estimated at 5.4 Billion $ (background study is 2.9 billion$) - a significant component is not yet included in the bylaw update.

MS - Are we limited to how far out we can go in a DC bylaw?

  • KS - For transit we are limited to a 10-year planning horizon, generally, overall, there is no time limit for a DC bylaw. No limit on water and sewer. The only other one with a limit is the subway with a 20-year horizon.

  • BILD - the data provided by KS proves point - half of BRT is funded over the next 10 years and yet it is a 30 year plan. Why is over half of it being funded over 10 years?

MS - That figure will be reviewed and already we are seeing that number heading much higher.

Mayor Taylor - Implications of longer term - may cause challenges in long-term planning.


  • Concerned about two things: Access to affordable, livable healthy housing and loss of green spaces to roads and subdivisions (particularly agricultural land)

  • The price for clearing snow in front of longer frontage is greater - the DC charges for larger buildings should be more.

  • No difference between DC for units on greenfield sites vs intensification. DC on greenfield should be higher as they will cost more.

  • Tiny house idea: concerned that the threshold for considered small is 700 sq. feet. It should be higher to encourage the concept of tiny houses.

  • Growth projections - we are not seeing the growth expected (40-70% less). Why believe that projections are likely to be accurate now? If projections are not realized, the residents and businesses or municipalities have to cover the costs and land is unnecessarily designated for development. Again, greenfield developments should have higher DCs.

Counc. Jackson (CJ) - tiny houses? What do you feel is an appropriate square footage?

  • DS - less than a 1000 square feet.

CJ Would this be for condos?

  • DS - yes, and a family could live in that

CJ That would be tight for a family. Less than 700 square feet is not livable - we need to make livable.

Mayor Taylor - I couldn’t agree more with points. We are fairly limited (snow-clearing - DC cannot take into consideration operational costs or even replacement of infrastructure. We want to use them to incentivize changes like climate change. We should increase the size and produce something that will support a small family.


C.3 Communications - received and referred to staff

C.3.1 Susan Swail, York Region resident - around DC charges and the need for type-specific DC particularly for low-density greenfield.


C.3.2 Clair Malcolmson, Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition - around DC charges and the need for type-specific DC particularly for low-density greenfield.

  • We recommend using questions such as these to make the options make sense to non-planners. Will the growth option:

    • Increase or decrease access to public transit?

    • Increase or decrease the proportion of affordable housing?

    • Increase or decrease public greenspace on a per capita basis?

    • Increase or decrease the extent of agricultural land?

    • Increase or decrease the extent of natural areas (forests, wetlands, valleys, grasslands)?

    • Increase or decrease property taxes?

    • Increase proportional salt from roads polluting our waterways?

    • Increase or decrease personal vehicle GHG emissions from Simcoe County?

  • Against the new rate for large apartments and PPU being increased to over 14% because it will undermine affordability for this unit type.

G. Communications

G.2 - Transportation Master Plan and Development Charges By-Law, Irene Ford

Attached her written version (much copied below as I thought it was very revealing) of a deputation given to the Council of the Whole the day before.

  • Asking Council to NOT support the draft Transportation Master Plan or Draft DC by-law because they are fundamentally flawed and destined to fail

  • They are based on forecasted land needs that were never supported by staff.

  • In fact, Council was strongly warned about the risks of supporting four motions last September that were deferred, revised and endorsed in October at Regional Special Council meetings.

  • Chair Emmerson did not allow staff to bring a staff report forward on the impacts of the 4 motions so instead the impacts and risks were written in a memo from multiple York Region Commissioners. I only found this memo under communications on the October agenda last week. It is a compelling read and I hope that all Council members have taken the time to read this memo.

  • Staff warned that the motions put the Region at greater financial risk because if the growth is not realized you will not be able to service the existing $2B debt already carried for growth that is yet to be realized from the existing Official Plan.

  • There are significant risks and unknowns associated with infrastructure both water/wastewater and transportation that may be triggered by the urban expansion.

  • Some growth is dependent upon provincial approvals; approvals that are beyond the Region’s control as Council knows all too well and still awaits approval six years later for the UYSS.

  • Staff warned that Council decisions put the Region at potential legal risk because once the land comes into the urban boundary there is an expectation and potential legal argument that the land must be serviced.

  • Nonetheless, land has been included that staff does not anticipate can be serviced within the 2051 planning cycle. The addition of these lands with the motions as written reduced the intensification rate in the existing built-up area to 48% below the provincial requirement of 50%. Council proceeded to revise and endorse the four motions.

  • As a result, in order to make the decisions and direction of this Council work and remain compliant with the requirements of the province staff added approximately 14,900 people to the forecasted population growth above and beyond what the Region was required to accommodate.

  • This additional growth appears to have all been accommodated in East Gwillimbury whose projected population increases by 14,800 more people than what staff recommended in the September, 2021 staff reports.

  • These are lands that do not have a servicing solution for approved growth let alone new growth. Staff advised there will be future MCR opportunities for which the changes in the motions could be considered to re-calibrate Regional Plans so they are more reasonably in line with actual growth and development charges collections.

  • Why is this term of Council committing a future Council to unnecessary risk especially when the warning from staff is crystal clear? The majority of Council members have served more than one term, some multiple terms, so you can’t say that you do not understand the risks of exposing the Region to increased debt that can’t be serviced because the growth is not realized and the development fees are not collected.

  • I fail to see how the endorsed draft Official Plan is in the public interest and therefore all master plans that are guided by this document. Above and beyond saving farmland or acting on Climate Change it contains risks that are unacceptable for a government to knowingly endorse both fiscally and legally. Where is the due diligence, at what point are these Council decisions considered willful negligence? It is Council’s direction and decisions, not staff, that is the problem; this is what is breaking the planning process in Ontario.

  • Council members who supported these motions supported BILD. I would like to remind Council BILD is not a partner they are a lobbyist group that represents the wills and wants of private businesses, landowners. Their interests are and will never be aligned with Regional Government who represent the collective public interest across nine municipalities.

  • Sadly, all that is happening in this term of council is a pooling of money and deference to the will of lower tier councils. What purpose does regional governance serve if the collective interests across the region are not represented and upheld by Council members?

  • When you sit at the Region you vote in the interests of the Region and when you sit at the local council you vote in the interests of the local municipality. Vaughan regional council members demonstrated that lower tier Council decisions do not have to be upheld or defended at the Region when they maintained support for Highway 413

  • The Auditor General’s Land Use Report revealed that York Region staff have spent millions as a result of changes announced by the province during the MCR process.

  • Previously, I did not support asking Council to open the forecasted land needs or endorsed Draft Official Plan , which would require more time and resources from staff (whom I am sure are exhausted from the ping-pong ball of direction they’ve been receiving).

  • However, after I read the memo I strongly and firmly believe that Mayor Taylor’s motion seeking 60% intensification must be supported.

  • I also firmly believe that the large amount of employment lands forecasted requires more scrutiny.

  • Employment lands brought into the urban boundary surrounding King Vaughan Rd were done so on the justification that they were needed to secure future employment lands surrounding Highway 400, where the proposed Highway 413 will dead-end.

  • In 2020 as part of the MCR process, against the recommendations of lower and upper tier staff, the Regional Council endorsed employment conversion requests to residential on some of this land.

  • In the very same area, I want to ensure that Council is aware that King Vaughan Rd from Weston Rd to Jane St, where the 400-overpass bridge was just rebuilt due to highway widening, has been scheduled for road work.

  • Myself and other local residents have been actively involved and engaged with staff, by-law, local Council raising awareness and seeking accountability for questionably compliant land use and blatant illegal land use (refer to Appendix 1).

  • I am told that road work is part of the Region’s Asset Management Plan. I am highly skeptical how this piece of road came to be scheduled in 2022. I am appalled that a dime of the Region’s money, my tax dollars, will go into road work when the city, Region, YRP nor the province appear to be able to do anything to change the operations, the volume of traffic or reduce the negative impacts on the surrounding community.

  • Neither the MTO, the Region nor Vaughan are being transparent about the extent of the basket weave being contemplated here nor the widening of local and/or regional roads that will be required at interchanges.

  • I have to say it does not look good that any road work is scheduled on King Vaughan Road so close to where the proposed Highway 413 ends.

H. Consideration and Adoption of Reports (I’ve included links to the documents so the payments can be quickly accessed.)

H.3 2021 Statement of Remuneration and Expenses for Members of Council and Local Board Appointees

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