Province silent on ‘land facilitator’ for Lakeview Village as residents left reeling from MZO that erased two decades of local planning
The PC government has failed to provide any details about the planning process to double the size of the Lakeview Village development along Mississauga’s eastern shoreline, including when and how a ‘land facilitator’ will be appointed to help guide the process.
With Lakeview Village’s population now set to be double what was originally approved, moving forward, the Province said a “Land Facilitator” will be appointed to work with Mississauga to ensure the infrastructure in the area can be upgraded to handle the dramatically increased density. As the City starts to look at a complete reworking of its capital plan, Ward 1 Councillor Stephen Dasko said the sudden Lakeview Village revamp is something the City will have to work on with the facilitator because of the radical density now slated for the area.
Several requests to the Province by The Pointer to confirm a timeline for when the land facilitator would be appointed and what the process will look like, went unanswered.
“The intensification is extreme for what they're looking at here, on top of what the Official Plan and local area plan already calls for,” Dasko said. “As far as I'm concerned, we are at a point right now where we need some clarity and we need to know what we're working with because before anybody takes another step, there's huge questions that need answers to and that's what we'll find out in the not too distant future, but it's very much top of mind.
“It's something that I will continue to spend a fair bit of time on to make sure that we get what we should have for the existing community and the new community.”
With the PCs now behind the wheel, Dasko said he will be monitoring closely to see what decisions will come through the facilitator before moving forward with any motions. Once staff have a stronger hold on where the City is at with the development, which was initially set to be completed between 2025 and 2026 before the province uprooted years of planning, he will be bringing forward some motions in the coming months.
Mississauga residents were left reeling after the recent snap decision by the PCs to double the size of Lakeview Village from approximately 8,000 units to 16,000, following a Minister’s Zoning Order requested by Lakeview Community Partners, the development consortium behind the historic project to revitalize the former Lakeview power plant lands.
“Community members are shocked, they're pissed off,” Trevor Baker, president of the Lakeview Ratepayers Association, told The Pointer.
Nearly two decades of planning by the City of Mississauga and residents to redevelop the property on the city’s eastern waterfront were thrown out the window by the snap decision of the PC government. It claimed the MZO approval was necessary to achieve Mississauga’s ramped up housing targets mandated under Bill 23. It’s a claim the City refutes, showing data that suggests current development numbers will exceed the set targets.
The MZO tramples on years of work from the Lakeview Ratepayers’ Association (LRA), a municipally recognized residents’ association for the community of Lakeview, which worked tirelessly with the City and developers to establish the Lakeview Legacy Project, a resident-generated visionary concept plan for revitalizing the area (later revised and marketed as the Inspiration Lakeview Master Plan). The previous plan aimed to respect the history of Lakeview and present a transformative plan to build a legacy development on Mississauga’s Lake Ontario waterfront.
For years, the Association fought diligently to promote healthy development and strategic growth, culminating in the Inspiration Lakeview Master Plan which envisioned new businesses, retail stores and waterfront public spaces together with mid-rise residential development. Dozens of hours of consultation with residents and Indigenous groups, public meetings, staff reports, studies and assessments were completed to reach an agreement between Lakeview Community Partners (LCP) and the City that included approximately 8,000 units and space for close to 17,000 new residents.
Mississauga’s vision for revitalizing its waterfront would remediate the former home of the Four Sisters power plant into a neighborhood of mixed-density homes.
(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)
The redevelopment of the former brownfield area would see buildings rise over Lake Ontario’s shoreline, along a completely redeveloped waterfront boulevard with opportunities for employment, commercial and institutional development, cultural spaces, and outdoor recreation including parks. An entire “village” between Lakeshore Road East and the waterfront would house one of the largest mixed-use developments in history along its eastern shoreline.
“It was really put together with community members envisioning what this area could look like as we came up with a plan,” Baker explained. “Part of that was a plan so that when a developer did take over this land, and Jim Tovey (the area’s late councillor) always used to say, ‘you buy the land, you buy the plan.’”
“The plan was in place, and we all really believed that the major fight was over.”
But in one fell swoop, the PC government undermined the City and local residents by approving an MZO request from LCP to effectively double the development in size from the previously-approved plan. MZOs are supposed to be used for unusual circumstances, including emergencies, but the PCs under Doug Ford’s reign have used the tool to override municipal planning authority, allowing developers to influence crucial land use policy across the province.
The decision revealed early last month was made with zero feedback from City officials and residents, and makes the visionary principles that guided the planning for Lakeview void.
The Lakeview development on the site of the former “Four Sisters” coal-fired power plant that stood on the waterfront for half a century was the legacy of late councillor Jim Tovey, a proponent for restoring coastal wetlands in urban areas, who worked for years to ensure residents of Mississauga remained connected to Lake Ontario as the city fronting it grew up. After the Lakeview Generating Station was demolished in 2007, Tovey introduced an idea to residents to create a more accessible waterfront on the dormant site, one that would see the former industrial property transformed into one of the world’s most environmentally sustainable communities with coastal wetlands, trails and meadows.
“Throughout this history, the site has served Mississauga as both an iconic placeholder on Mississauga’s Lake Ontario shoreline, as well as an influential employer during the city’s industrial peak,” the Inspiration Lakeview Master Plan details.
“The Inspiration Lakeview lands are the largest undeveloped waterfront property under single ownership in the city. The Lakeview area is a hidden jewel and if properly developed, could become one of the city’s greatest assets. It is understood by all involved that the revitalization of this major waterfront site must be visionary, community-driven and fueled by an understanding of the tremendous opportunity to create a lasting legacy – a feat that for many cities, is once-in-a-lifetime.”
Instead of erecting another industrial site, Mississauga’s vision for revitalizing its waterfront would remediate the former home of the Four Sisters power plant into a neighborhood of mixed-density homes. Its historically industrial presence, made up of Ontario Power Generation and Lakeview business employment lands, would be transformed into a sustainable new community along Mississauga’s eastern waterfront with a network of parks and open spaces connecting neighbourhoods providing views of the lake and public access to the shoreline of Lake Ontario.
The PC government recently approved an MZO request from LCP that doubles the size of the previously approved Lakeview development.
(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)
When the land was purchased by LCP in 2018, the community was under the impression it would undergo the transformative work of redeveloping the former industrial lands—which for decades spewed coal ash and smoke throughout the city—into a vibrant, mixed-use community.
Councillor Dasko, whose ward includes Lakeview Village and who previously worked closely with Tovey on plans for the area, was left stunned by the MZO approval. He was previously told a request had been made, but not the full scale of what LCP asked for in a planning and development meeting at the beginning of May.
“I think everybody, rightfully so, are incensed by what happened in the overreach quite frankly,” Councillor Dasko told The Pointer. “Myself and everybody, I think, we're all so stunned and quite frankly, very upset at the Minister who knows nothing about Lakeview or the community or the backstory, or all the blood, sweat and tears that went into this plan.
“[It] is a comprehensive plan and at the strike of a pen radically altered what that looks like.”
Dasko previously admitted he did not take the request seriously after nearly two decades of effort to reach the previously approved plan, viewing the appeal to the province as more “aspirational” than anything serious.
Echoing the Ward 1 councillor’s skepticism, Baker said he also did not realize the severity of the request before its approval came only days later. He expressed his frustration that nearly 20 years of community effort into creating a vision for Lakeview Village, which he said was to be “the jewel in the crown that is Mississauga,” has now been swept aside by the PC government.
“It was shock and disbelief at the hint of the MZO. I honestly didn't believe it was true and then it very quickly was followed by a punch to the gut when the province approved it so quickly,” he told The Pointer.
“We've worked with [the City] since 2016 to come up with this plan that worked. What was finalized was a reflection of all those years of work and effort. So for the developers to then ask for an MZO so that they could have the right to build whatever they want, however they want, after all of that, that's what feels like a real betrayal.”
He said there’s also a really strong sense of betrayal toward the provincial government for approving the MZO ahead of the City’s previously scheduled planning and development meeting where the request was supposed to be reviewed and debated.
“There was a scheduled meeting in place on the Monday where council was going to address this, and the province didn't wait for that. Then to claim that the purpose of this MZO was to help address the affordable housing crisis in Ontario, which to me is so blatantly and obviously not being addressed with this MZO, it just screams of unethical motivations behind what they're doing.”
Baker said local area residents and community members have been left enraged and in disbelief by the Province’s decision.
“It's got this real hope and ambition for what the future is going to look like for us in this village and the original plan that the developers came up with was a big part of that,” he said. “And now, the government is basically saying, ‘yeah, no, that's not the case,’ the developers can now do whatever they want.
“That's why we're pissed off because the jewel is no longer a jewel. And it certainly has the potential to become a big hunk of coal.”
A previous rendering of the vision for Lakeview Village which is now effectively useless as the design of the development will completely change following the MZO approval.
In a recent report from Mississauga City staff, LCP has requested the removal of any height and density restrictions, except for buildings directly fronting the lake (to be limited to 10 storeys), despite significant concessions the City of Mississauga had already handed LCP to increase the density to what the developers envisioned for the project. Requests also included the elimination of minimum setbacks for front or side yards (meaning more units can be crammed closer together); and the reduction in required sizes for apartment amenity areas, landscape features and parking areas for residential, commercial and employment uses. The MZO has also eliminated the requirement for townhomes.
Not only does the MZO approval completely eliminate the work and consultation from staff and community members, but City staff noted it represents unmanageable growth planning to accommodate densities that simply cannot be supported by municipal and provincial infrastructure, The Pointer previously reported. It remains unclear how the PC government will pay for additional services like schools and transit required to accommodate incoming residents. The City of Mississauga and Region of Peel are also being left to balance locally-funded infrastructure, required by new residents, with the lack of development fees they can charge to pay for all these needed features, as a result of new legislation passed by the PCs.
In Monday’s planning and development meeting, the committee voted unanimously to receive the Lakeview Innovation District Community Improvement Plan recommendation report which permits the City to promote growth and development by providing incentives. It leaves concern about how the Province’s MZO will alter the staff report, which did not take into consideration changes since the request. In an email to The Pointer, a City spokesperson confirmed that “as the CIP is an enabling policy and does not involve an initial budget commitment, changes are not required as a result of the Province’s recent MZO for Lakeview Village.
“Realizing the vision of the Innovation District remains a City priority and the CIP is central to attracting the desired uses.”
It’s unclear how the City will get these CIP (community improvement) benefits from the development consortium, as the new PC legislation dramatically curtails requirements of builders to create community enhancement features such as parks.
According to a press release from the provincial government, the approval of the MZO — including two others for properties at 3355 and 5645 Hurontario Street — are needed in order to tackle the housing crisis in Ontario “and ensure Ontario has a range of housing options to meet demand,” Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, stated in the release that included a claim that the government is “supporting the development of complete communities that will deliver on our commitment to help more Ontarians find a home that meets their needs and budget.” The press release did not explain how limiting the housing options within Lakeview will support the creation of complete communities.
“We've got all these developments coming in, and it feels like there's going to be absolutely no accountability, or requirement to adhere to good planning when they move forth with their developments,” Baker said.
“My biggest concern is the use of future MZOs to undermine community and city planning. Not just Lakeview, or our fellow neighborhoods, but all of Ontario and the current government has proven that they're willing to use MZOs beyond the intention of the MZO program.”
Dasko said the unexpected MZO move by the development consortium and the PCs, without consulting the City or community members who poured years into the previously approved plan to completely reshape their vision for a new Lakeview Village, was a gut punch.
“This is upended, not just 17 years of aspirations, but the past five years since the land was purchased in terms of all the planning that has gone into it, and it's been significant.”
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