Province remains guarded on details of MZO reversals, future of Lakeview Village development hangs in the balance
Following a recent promise from the Province’s Minister of Housing to review controversial planning decisions previously forced on municipalities by the PC government to get homes built, Mississauga City Council has made a request to rescind a zoning order that effectively doubled the size of the Lakeview Village lakefront development.
In October, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Paul Calandra announced he would be introducing legislation that would allow municipalities to reverse the controversial planning decisions his government forced on them as part of its ambitious plan to bring 1.5 million new homes online by 2031, stating “the process was one that I was just not comfortable with.”
“I think there was just a little bit too much involvement from individuals within the previous minister’s office on the official plans in these areas,” Calandra, who replaced former housing minister Steve Clark after Ontario’s integrity commissioner found he broke ethics rules in the Greenbelt land swap scandal, admitted to reporters on October 23.
The legislation, introduced on November 16, will “wind back provincial changes to official plans and official plan amendments, except in circumstances where construction has begun or where doing so would contravene existing provincial legislation and regulation,” he previously explained.
“I did not have confidence that decisions were made in a way that supported our goal of building at least 1.5 million homes in a way that maintains and reinforces public trust,” Calandra stated in a November 16 press release following the introduction of the legislation, titled the Planning Statute Law Amendment Act.
Since stepping into the role following Clark’s departure, Calandra said he has made it “a priority to review past decisions.” This includes reassessing Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZOs) — which he said has nearly been completed — and municipal official plans, “to ensure that they support our goal of building at least 1.5 million homes in a manner that maintains and reinforces public trust.” Upon reviewing how the official plan decisions were previously made, Calandra said it was “clear that they failed to meet this test.”
MZOs are supposed to be used for unusual circumstances, including emergencies, but since coming into power, the PCs under Doug Ford’s leadership have used the tool to override municipal planning authority, providing developers with more control over crucial land use policy in the province. Despite the expectation that MZOs would only be issued to maintain services and expedite work to protect the public interest, between March 2019 and 2021, the PC government issued 44 MZOs, an unprecedented rate that has increased dramatically in the years since, after the Housing Minister’s powers to issue these orders were expanded.
In May, the PC government blindsided Mississauga with an MZO that, at the stroke of a pen, tossed aside more than a decade of planning between the City and the community around the massive Lakeview Village redevelopment project which was suddenly doubled in size, overnight, from 8,000 units to 16,000, effectively adding twice the projected population from approximately 20,000 residents to 40,000. The MZO, which overrided traditional municipal planning rules, came at the request of Lakeview Community Partners, the development consortium behind the revitalization of the former Lakeview power plant lands, despite significant concessions already made by the City.
Premier Doug Ford has repeatedly used the PC government’s plan to get 1.5 million homes built by 2031 as justification to override municipal planning through the use of MZOs.
(Government of Ontario)
The PCs ordered the decision the Friday evening before a scheduled planning development meeting on the following Monday, where the matter of increasing density was to be discussed, with zero input from City officials or residents. The Province has repeatedly maintained the MZO approval was necessary to achieve Mississauga’s mandated housing targets under Bill 23 (120,000 new units by 2031) but the City has refuted these claims, assuring it will exceed its assigned target without the doubling of the Lakeview project.
One of the biggest questions following the issuance of the MZO is how Mississauga will fund the local infrastructure needed to accommodate the surge in residents suddenly planned for Lakeview Village.
When asked recently if the province would reconsider the Lakeview Village MZO, Alexandru Cioban, a spokesperson for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, said in an email to The Pointer, “As Minister Calandra has stated, we are undergoing a review of Minister’s Zoning Orders to ensure that they support the province’s goals of getting shovels in the ground faster and building 1.5 million homes by 2031.”
In response to Calandra’s legislation, area Councillor Stephen Dasko said it felt like a bit of a tease. He questions what the legislation will mean for developments like Lakeview, where elected officials and City planning staff are trying to get the MZO rescinded. He said the PC commitment to revisit its heavy-handed influence on municipal planning comes after an MZO process that “was not very well defined.”
“The tone had been in the past that Ministerial Zoning Orders would only be granted if the municipality had actually asked for it, and I will say that that's not always been the case, especially in Lakeview, because it was certainly not asked for,” he told The Pointer. “As a matter of fact, it was the opposite.”
“This is [a development] that had been worked on with everybody collaboratively. Truly this was one where it wasn't ‘not my backyard,’ it was ‘yes, in my backyard,’” he explained. “But we also wanted to have something that everybody was going to be very proud of. I think we had that.”
In October Dasko put forward a motion after the legislation was introduced directing Acting Mayor Chris Fonseca and staff to formally request the Minister review the MZO for the Lakeview development and consider rescinding the order, restoring the project to its originally approved plan. The motion also requests all staff reports related to the site be shared with the Minister outlining the consultation and review processes undertaken by the City to establish a master plan for the site.
Dasko said the purpose of the motion is to have the Minister review the Order “as it was against the Community’s, Council and City’s wishes” and the City does not believe the decision was justified.
“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,” he previously told The Pointer.
In October, Councillor Stephen Dasko asked the Province to rescind the MZO previously issued for Mississauga’s Lakeview Village, which was doubled in size earlier this year.
(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)
Fonseca’s letter to the Minister acknowledged “MZOs can be a useful tool in the planning process, but in certain circumstances and only when used in collaboration with city council and planning staff.”
“The City of Mississauga is however not supportive of the Lakeview MZO as it was granted by the previous Minister at the end of the planning process when the majority of planning work, including infrastructure planning, had already been completed,” her letter states.
The additional density, doubled to some 40,000 residents and 16,000 units, leaves several unknowns around the current plans for roads, wastewater and transit, among other key infrastructure needs, which may not be sufficient to accommodate the level of growth now anticipated as a result of the surprise MZO. City staff and elected officials are anticipating a significant delay in the development while these factors are being reconsidered.
Fonseca’s letter assured that staff are confident Mississauga’s housing plan, “Growing Mississauga”, will meet the province's housing targets without adding additional density where it cannot be accommodated. It noted staff included the previously approved 8,050 units for Lakeview Village as part of the City’s current housing target without doubling the density to achieve the goal set out by the province.
“This will be a positive step in ensuring a well-planned community and avoiding unnecessary delays as we work towards our target of building 120,000 new homes by 2031,” her letter states.
Dasko confirmed to The Pointer the City hasn’t received a response to the City’s request yet, but that he’s asking staff daily for updates, noting it’s very important to him “to have this dealt with as quickly as possible.”
“Work is still continuing because we want to get shovels in the ground. We want to get people housed. As far as we know at the City, the ultimate announcement has been made in terms of authority, and that was the Enhanced Ministerial Zoning Order,” he said.
In a separate letter from Lakeview Community Partners, the development consortium said while it welcomes a review of the Lakeview Village MZO, it argues the Province and Minister “should stand by this sound decision as it represents good planning, is consistent with Provincial planning policies and will allow for the development of a complete, mixed-use, transit-supportive community.”
“The merits and process for this MZO request are strong and the decision of the Minister to issue this MZO is one that is consistent with this government’s mandate to deliver 1.5 million homes in a location that is within a major transit station area where density should be planned,” the letter from the development group, LCP, states. The building consortium said it was “disappointed” to see the City of Mississauga is requesting the Minister to rescind the order and does “not feel that their letter properly or accurately provided” the Ministry with the full context “with the full context of the benefits to the MZO [and] the advancement of the project.”
“The indication within the letter from the Office of the Mayor that roads, wastewater, transit and other key infrastructure needs are unknown and may not be sufficient is highly inaccurate and does not take into account the significant work that we have undertaken together with their staff,” LCP wrote.
Lakeview Community Partners says the Province and Minister should stand by the MZO, arguing “it represents good planning.”
LCP says it has provided Mississauga staff with an analysis of the financial benefits for the municipality that are associated with the Lakeview Project, which it estimates will generate $1.2 billion in municipal revenue — over $55 million is associated with the additional density, according to the development consortium.
According to LCP, the City’s request to rescind the Lakeview MZO would result in Mississauga and the Region losing approximately: $172 million in additional City development charges; $280 million in additional Regional development charges; $15 million in additional Community Benefit Contributions; $50 million in additional cash-in-lieu of parkland contributions; and $40 million in additional transit and education development charges.
The letter from LCP notes the consortium and City staff have made “significant progress” on the development project since the province issued the MZO five months ago, including: meeting weekly to advance an updated Traffic Impact Study to document the traffic solutions and road capacity for 16,000 units; approving and executing a pre-servicing agreement allowing for the installation of water, sanitary, storm and district energy infrastructure — which were upsized to accommodate the increased density; and coordinating with the Peel District School Board and Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board on school needs resulting from increased density.
With Lakeview Village’s population now set to be double what was originally approved, the Province has appointed a “Land Facilitator” to work with Mississauga to ensure the infrastructure in the area can be upgraded to handle the dramatically increased density. While the provincially appointed facilitator has been meeting regularly with the City and LCP to ensure the required infrastructure for the additional population triggered by the MZO would be sufficient, Dasko maintains the work should be focused on the previously approved plan for 8,000 units.
“We've said let's take a pause on this and have this reviewed by the Minister,” he said. “We feel it was not justified because it was a working plan that everybody had agreed to, and this is one that, as far as I'm concerned, should be reviewed and looked at very, very closely.”
To ensure the reset plans match the PCs’ ambitions to build 1.5 million homes by 2031 as mandated under Bill 23, Calandra said his government will be asking impacted municipalities to submit changes and updates to their official plans to the Ministry within 45 days from the October 23 announcement date. This includes information on projects that are already underway, specifically projects that are directly reliant on the modifications made to the plan through the ministry’s decision. Calandra acknowledged there will be financial implications to municipalities as a result of this decision, and assured the PCs will “work with the impacted municipalities to assist with related planning and staffing costs.”
While the province reviews the Lakeview MZO, another order issued in Mississauga for a 50-storey development has recently been revoked after it was determined to be obstructive of a Pearson Airport flight path. At the time of issuing the MZO for the Lakeview development, former municipal affairs and housing minister Steve Clark approved Orders involving two commercial plazas in Mississauga — owned by real-estate developer Kaneff Properties — that allowed up to 50-storeys. While the MZO for one of the properties, 3355 Hurontario Street, still stands, the other at 5645 Hurontario Street was removed in August after the Greater Toronto Airports Authority expressed concerns about how close the potential tower, located inside Pearson Airport’s operating zone, would be to its flight path.
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Paul Calandra says affected municipalities have until December 7 to submit feedback on changes to previous planning decisions.
(Government of Ontario)
As municipalities prepare and submit their feedback, Calandra is urging their leadership to prioritize increasing density, “especially near transit,” adding that, “With this legislation, now is the time to refocus and redouble our efforts on building more homes faster.” Proposed changes could include modifications that help boost housing supply or support priority projects such as a long-term care home or a transit-oriented community, the Minister explained.
Construction that has already received a building permit would be able to continue, according to the Act. Applications already in progress seeking planning permissions — zoning by-law amendments and plans of subdivision — would continue to be processed and would be required to conform to the municipality’s official plan as approved under the Act. The affected municipalities have been given until December 7 to submit feedback, including proposed changes and updates to the official plans and information about specific circumstances or projects that are already underway.
After the December 7 deadline, the Province will review any proposed changes and explore, in consultation with municipalities, the most effective way to implement — through further legislative solutions or other tools — any changes to the official plans that municipalities would like to keep.
Referring to the letter from LCP, Dasko said, “Regardless, work is being done to their point because it's been mandated, and this is the direction we're under. However, if there's an opportunity that it gets reviewed, I think this was the opportune time to do that, to make sure that things get reviewed in its proper context.”
“The work has to get done. They've also said that they don't want to get held up and they've been very public about that, that they don't want municipalities holding things up. So those are the marching orders that we were given by, basically, the province, who really is the one that holds the cards.”
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