Fort Erie staff opposed to decade-old development seeking MZO outside of the urban boundary; Niagara Falls denied housing funding from feds 
Photo Illustration by Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer

Fort Erie staff opposed to decade-old development seeking MZO outside of the urban boundary; Niagara Falls denied housing funding from feds 

Niagara Democracy Watch is The Pointer’s weekly feature aimed at increasing the public’s awareness and political involvement in the Niagara Region by highlighting key agenda items, motions and decisions. 


Council-in-Committee Meeting

Date: Tuesday, April 9 -  6:00 p.m. | Delegate | Full Agenda | Watch live


Subdivision proposal in limbo for 12 years seeks Ministerial Zoning Order

On Tuesday evening, Fort Erie Council will discuss the future of a development plan that has been approved for more than a decade, but has yet to break ground. The property at 1589 Nigh Road, has had a subdivision plan approved for 12 years, but no progress has been made toward the construction of any houses. The developer is now seeking a Ministerial Zoning Order (MZO) to expedite an urban boundary expansion to intensify the property to accommodate 150 single detached dwellings.

MZOs are a provincial planning tool that allow the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to approve developments, superseding the will of local councils and bypassing critical studies around environmental protection. 

Ontario Yours to Protect, an initiative of organizations supporting clean water, farmland, biodiversity, and healthy communities, argues that orders should only be employed in “situations of extraordinary urgency” and that MZOs “override local planning authority to approve development without expert analysis, public input, or any chance of appeal.” 

An application related to the Fort Erie property, an undeveloped 9.51 hectare (23.5 acre) parcel outside of the urban boundary, was first made in 2008. At the time, Niagara Region questioned a hydrogeological study provided by the property owner, Bryce Ivanchuk. Eventually, the owner proceeded with an application for a development that the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority was satisfied with consisting of the ten single detached dwelling lots, a public street and two blocks for environmental protection.  

In 2012, Town council provided draft approval, subject to the owner entering into a subdivision agreement with the municipality.

Since that time, there have been six draft approval extensions provided by the Town. Three subdivision agreements and related bylaws have lapsed because the owner did not execute the agreements within the required one-year time frame. A condition of pre-servicing the property has never been fulfilled.

The first report on Tuesday’s agenda regarding 1589 Nigh Road pertains to another request for extension of Draft Plan Approval, the seventh since the 2012 Council approval. The owner, through his agent, is seeking a two-year extension “to allow the developer additional time to make financial arrangements through presales to procure the necessary securities and cash payments to execute the pre-servicing agreement and to ultimately enter into a Subdivision Agreement with the municipality.”    

Staff does not support the 24-month request, offering that one year is a “reasonable time frame” for the owner to make financial arrangements. Staff note the “procurement of securities has been ongoing since 2018”, when the first subdivision agreement was approved. Staff also caution that they may not be able to support any further extension requests unless reasonable progress is made over the next twelve months.   

Staff describe the use of MZOs as a way to “protect a provincial interest or help overcome potential barriers or delay to critical projects.” With an expedited approval process, the notion is that building permits will be issued quicker and the time saved will help the development be more affordable than if the “traditional” planning process were followed.

From the owner’s perspective, the MZO is a strategy to expedite approval of an urban boundary expansion that would allow for the significant increase in housing density from 10 single detached dwellings to 150 single detached dwellings.  This would go against the town’s current policy.

Since Council’s 2012 approval, the Town changed its policies to only allow subdivisions within the urban boundary. 

The second report related to 1589 Nigh Road explains that the typical process to expand the urban boundary would be through a Municipal Comprehensive Review. While the Region, as part of their 2022 Official Plan, did a Land Needs Assessment that identified an additional 105 hectares to accommodate growth in Fort Erie, there is ample land available to meet the Town’s future growth needs without the need to add 1589 Nigh Road. In addition, the parcel is not serviced, meaning it is not currently “shovel ready” for development.

The staff report explains that there are two mechanisms available to “facilitate” an urban boundary expansion through the Province: an MZO or the Community Infrastructure and Housing Accelerator (CIHA). The ministerial orders resulting from either process are not appealable by the public or municipality.

Of the two processes, staff is more inclined toward a CIHA, where the request to the Province comes from the municipality, “as it is a more defined process” and the Town gets to recommend what the zoning regulations for the subject development would be. Staff caution that the “hasty process” under the CIHA could result in “inadequately prepared zoning bylaws that are based on limited information.” The report highlights that because the eventual Minister’s Order is not required to conform with the Provincial Policy Statement, the consequences could be development on floodplains, significant wetlands or loss of agricultural lands.

Although the municipality would consult with the public and Indigenous communities in “a matter deemed appropriate” by the Town, the expedited processes through the Province do not allow for the same level of consultation.   

While both processes present “challenges”, according to staff, “there is no formal process for requesting an MZO, nor is there established criteria for approval.” As a result, staff are not in support of the use of a Minister’s Zoning Order to facilitate an Urban Boundary Expansion at 1589 Nigh Road.


The staff report on the extension of draft plan approval can be read here.

The staff report on the request for a Minister’s Zoning Order can be read here.


Past reporting:


Council Meeting

Date: April 9 - 7:00 p.m. | Delegate | Full Agenda | Watch live


City partners with local not-for-profit on deeply affordable housing units

In a step to create “deeply” affordable units in the city, Welland is proposing a partnership with Hope Centre to create six housing spaces for those in need. 

Jon Braithwaite, Chief Executive Officer, for the Hope Centre will be updating Council on Tuesday and seeking various municipal approvals on the project. The not-for-profit organization runs a local food bank and has been providing housing services over the past 10 years through an emergency shelter and housing support programs. 

The proposed facility at 662 Deere Street will provide six “deeply” affordable bedroom units targeting single adult males who are exiting homelessness.

While the Hope Centre has previously leased space from local landlords, subleasing to clients, there are fewer units available due to rising rents. With the cost of an average one bedroom rental unit in Welland at $1,043, most units are out of budget for those receiving Ontario Works at $733 per month.

The proposed rent at the Deere Street residence for each unit will be $700 per month or $350 per tenant. The tenants will be at the residence for no more than four years, participating in programs in a supportive environment that will address the issues that led to their homelessness, help them develop the skills needed to maintain housing, rebuild their support networks, and transition them into sustained housing.

Each unit will consist of two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen and a common area. The ground floor unit will be accessible. The property is in a residential neighbourhood, close to amenities.

The Hope Centre is requesting a long-term lease arrangement with the municipality, in-kind servicing to the lot line and waiver of related development fees. The Hope Centre will be using $57,500 of its existing funds towards the project and applying for loans and seed funding through the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The organization may also qualify for various programs under the City’s Affordable Rental Housing Community Improvement Plan administered by staff.

The City’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee is in support of the project and in a related report, City staff is recommending council endorse the project, approve the long-term land lease, the provision of in-kind services and $10,000 from the Affordable Housing Reserve Fund. 

The project is estimated to cost $620,000 with a possible August construction start.


The presentation by the Hope Centre can be read here.

The staff report can be read here.


Welland Council to Receive Conflict Relationship Training

Also, on Tuesday’s Council Agenda is a report from the City Clerk indicating that all members of Council have been registered for Navigating Conflict Relationships as an Elected Official, a two-part training session offered through the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO). The registration for the session fulfills a 2023 Council motion.  

As accepted by an Integrity Commissioner report, in 2019, an incident occurred during a Council recess when a “very agitated” Councillor Tony DiMarco initiated contact with a fellow elected official, backing Councillor Adam Moote into a wall in an anteroom. DiMarco was found in violation of the Council’s Code of Conduct for the incident and has since been the subject of other complaints to the Integrity Commissioner. Most recently, he was suspended 60 days pay in relation to a September 2023 meeting, when after being ejected by Mayor Frank Campion, he used insulting words that were “disrespectful and unprofessional” toward a City staff member.  

Such activities prompted Councillor David McLeod to introduce a motion requesting that DiMarco resign because his behaviour “has progressively deteriorated and is no longer in a manner consistent with being an elected official”. The motion lost in an 8-3 vote, but even if it had passed, there is no legislative authority that would have compelled the councillor to resign.

As per AMO’s website, the training “will explore the constructs, traps and pitfalls of conflict relationships, why relationships may go wrong and how to approach, plan and execute relationships successfully using practical tips, tools and real-world examples.”

The training will occur virtually in the evenings of May 22 and 23rd. The total cost for the two sessions is $6,800 which will be paid through council’s professional development budget.


The staff report can be read here.


Past reporting:



Date: April 9 - 4:00 p.m. | Delegate | Full agenda | Watch live


Niagara Falls unsuccessful in securing Housing Accelerator Funding.

An information report on Tuesday’s Niagara Falls Council agenda states the municipality was unsuccessful in securing funding under the CMHC’s Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF).

The $4 billion federal fund is available to municipalities to help alleviate the current housing supply shortage. As of March 20th, 76 communities across the country had received funding, including St. Catharines which secured $25.7 million in January. The St. Catharines funding is premised on the municipality approving 2,615 housing units within three years and undertaking seven initiatives, such as the formation of a Municipal Development Corporation.

According to the staff report, Niagara Falls made an application for $45.2 million that would have incentivized 1,668 HAF units in three years. The City also plan to focus on implementing the City of Niagara Falls Housing Strategy, which includes the formation of a five-person Expedited Permit Approval Team, an assessment of surplus municipal land for affordable housing, Inclusionary Zoning in the Major Transit Station Area, the development of alternatives to address workforce housing for hospitality and tourism employees and the creation of an Accessory Dwelling Unit program.

On the latter, in October, City Council approved two Additional Dwelling Units (ADUs) ‘as of right’ on parcels of urban residential land containing a detached, semi-detached, or an on-street townhouse dwelling for a total of three dwelling units on a lot. This brought the municipality’s planning policies into conformity with amendments to the Planning Act triggered by the Ontario government’s Bill 23. At the very next meeting, staff recommended allowing a fourth unit (3 ADUs), which would put the municipality in better stead for HAF funding, as permitting more as-of-right zoning measures was regarded as a “best practice” by CMHC.

Tuesday’s report indicates staff were in regular contact with CMHC regarding the application, that Mayor Jim Diodati had advocated for the application through local federal representatives as well as the Minister’s office, “by way of multiple letters and other means of communication” and on January 23rd council approved a resolution that “Council direct Staff to send a letter to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing (sic), bringing attention to the City of Niagara Falls’ application to the Housing Accelerator Fund; reinforcing the City’s need for partnership from other levels of government; and furthermore, seeking confirmation that the City qualifies for funding and encouraging approval.”  

CMHC staff did not specifically indicate why the application from Niagara Falls was turned down, but noted there had been more than 500 applications received and that “HAF encourages local governments to implement lasting initiatives that remove barriers to housing supply, accelerate the growth of supply, and support the development of complete, low-carbon and climate-resilient communities, which are affordable, inclusive, equitable, and diverse.”

Staff is hopeful that a recent announcement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of a $400 million boost to HAF will allow the Niagara Falls application to be reconsidered, otherwise staff will continue to implement the recommendations of the 2021 Housing Strategy, “albeit at a slower pace”.


The staff report can be read here.


Past reporting:



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