Reports blow up misleading claims by Caledon Mayor Annette Groves around secretive development agenda to build 35,000 homes
Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer

Reports blow up misleading claims by Caledon Mayor Annette Groves around secretive development agenda to build 35,000 homes

It was a wild couple of days last week in the Town of Caledon.

  • Mayor Annette Groves faced angry residents and made a series of misleading statements, claiming bylaws under her name that suddenly appeared out of nowhere on a council agenda a month ago, to push through huge developments along the controversial GTA West Highway corridor, will ensure proper planning and the types of homes people need.
  • Lawyers and consultants hired by the Town to make recommendations on the massive 35,000-unit development scheme and write the mayor’s bylaws appear to be in a conflict of interest.
  • Residents demanded to know if the lawyer and consultant hired under Groves’ leadership are also working for some of the developers who stand to make billions of dollars from the scheme, and found out they are.
  • Twelve Region of Peel reports obtained by The Pointer expose numerous misleading claims by Groves, show billions of dollars will be needed to create infrastructure for homes that were never planned by the upper level of municipal government and raise concerns over the missing work needed before the mayor’s rushed bylaws are approved.
  • The Regional reports kept from Caledon residents show $12.9 billion would be needed just for water infrastructure to support only a third of the 35,000 units, with no explanation from Groves about how tens of billions of dollars will be covered to create all the infrastructure needed by what will effectively be a new city within the town.
  • Facing mounting public backlash, including calls for a criminal investigation, Groves suddenly, late Friday evening, only hours removed from a contentious public meeting that finally ended at 2 a.m. the same day—after residents lined up to express their anger at a mayor who was elected in 2022 on a responsible growth platform—hit the pause button on the ill-fated scheme.   


The reports by the Region of Peel obtained by The Pointer contradict the claims Mayor Groves made about the rezoning of 12 large parcels of land to benefit developers trying to construct the 35,000 new homes mostly along the PC government’s controversial GTA West Highway corridor. 

Surrounded by an overflow crowd, Mayor Groves declared repeatedly throughout Thursday evening’s special meeting at Town Hall, as well as during a community meeting held the previous week by the local group Democracy Caledon, that she is “not trying to bypass the planning process”, a comment met with laughter from residents.

They demanded to know how her draft bylaws, written by a lawyer with a long track record of working with developers, without any public input and scheduled for approval Tuesday, April 30, would address a litany of concerns. How would the scheme to greenlight the construction of 35,000 homes without any staff planning, no public consultation, no provincial ministry input, no input from the Region of Peel, no input from conservation authorities and no debate among the councillors elected to represent the will of Caledon residents, possibly ensure a responsible planning process for the largest growth plan in the municipality’s history? 

Where were the provisions for affordable housing? Where were the guidelines for density? Where were the environmental restrictions around sensitive areas such as wetlands? Where were any financial details to protect taxpayers from unprecedented infrastructure costs that could cripple them, and the municipality? And where were the names of the developers whose applications appear to be supported by the mayor’s surprise draft bylaws? 

“If you read some of the provisions in the draft zoning bylaws, you will see that there are holding provisions to talk about [affordable housing],” Groves claimed. “It speaks to secondary plans, draft plan process, financials and servicing. So this is not going to happen without all of those things in place,” she said.

The Regional reports obtained by The Pointer show this is not true.

“The Region of Peel suggests that this bylaw is premature without comprehensive planning supported by technical studies,” one of the reports dated April 19, addressed to Eric Lucic, Caledon’s Commissioner of Planning and Development, and authored by Peel's Chief Planner, Tara Buonpensiero, lays out. 

The report describes the mayor’s bylaw, which was set to be approved Tuesday, as lacking a “servicing study…transportation study…stormwater management study…Growth Management and Phasing Plan supported by Town of Caledon Council” and lacks any “infrastructure” analysis to ensure proper transportation and servicing for tens of thousands of residents who would move into an area with no work, as of now, to ensure the construction of expected features.

The mayor’s bylaw lacks “financing” details to ensure “fiscal responsibility for the Town and Region.”

It also highlights that Groves’ bylaw does not have the “holding” details that address issues such as required affordable housing and other claims she made. It highlights that the plan fails to address “significant costly infrastructure [that will be in the tens of billions of dollars] required to develop these lands.”

The Region also pointed out that 9 of the 12 parcels of land included individually in the 12 bylaws are not required to meet Caledon’s target of 13,000 units under the PC government’s housing plan (22,000 less than what the mayor is trying to push through).

Groves was supposed to include the Region’s reports, which are highly critical of her “premature” bylaw, in any public meeting, which is clearly stated at the bottom of each report, but they were kept from residents who were never told of the Region’s stinging feedback.

The Region also points out that the setting aside of lands for required features such as public health and emergency services are not included in the mayor’s bylaws.

They lack any requirements for density, transportation and certain housing types, allowing developers to shape and dictate planning in Caledon, under a process that is supposed to be controlled by the public. 

On Thursday, when Groves had to face residents demanding answers about the stunning bylaws she introduced using her Strong Mayor powers, to push through the developments for 35,000 new units, Caledon’s Town Hall was filled from the basement to the council chambers. 

Residents expressed anger about the secretive process used by Groves, which shut the public and their council representatives out from the planning for the biggest growth plan in Caledon’s history. The seven-hour meeting lasted until 2 a.m. Friday morning with residents decrying a “rushed” and “undemocratic” process, pleading with the mayor and councillors to delay the vote scheduled for Tuesday. It would permanently transform the landscape of Caledon and lock in large swaths of sprawling development. Taxpayers would be financially crippled, some said, and the Town’s finances would not recover for decades. 


Caledon staff said regulatory notification requirements prevented moving Thursday’s meeting to a new location. It forced them to get creative in finding ways to accommodate the massive crowd of residents that attended Thursday.

(Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer)


Groves claims her bylaws will be good for Caledon and facilitate much needed housing development to assist the town in meeting housing pledge targets mandated by the PC government. Following the public meeting, her bylaws were meant to go to council for final approval at a meeting on April 30. 

Then, late Friday evening, Mayor Groves released a statement, noting the 12 bylaws, one for each parcel of land set to be developed, had been removed from Tuesday’s agenda. 

“Your voices have been heard, and your concerns respected,” Groves wrote in a statement. She will provide further information at the April 30 meeting. 

The Region said the bylaws are unrealistic due to the lack of sufficient infrastructure capacity and financing issues. Issues such as water, wastewater and stormwater management are not even addressed. 

The Town had the Region’s blunt assessments days in advance of the meeting. The Region concluded each of the 12 documents with the direction that they “form part of the public record and be made available as part of any Public Meeting, Committee Meeting and Council Meeting on this matter.” 

When asked why the reports were not included on the agenda for the public meeting, Elizabeth Howson, a consultant with Macaulay Shiomi Howson Ltd., who was hired to work with the Town on the mayor’s bylaws, claimed the Regional reports contained a lot of information and were being withheld while the Town processed it (The Pointer was able to review them thoroughly in about three hours).

“The public has been undermined and disrespected,” Joanna Valeriani, a Caledon resident, said, referring to a lack of public information throughout the whole process which also saw Thursday’s meeting agenda posted late; without a list of delegates who had registered to speak that evening, and the absence of any correspondence submitted to the Town on the matter. The inclusion of this information is typical municipal practice. Valeriani, and many other delegates, expressed concern with the lack of transparency on the biggest planning proposal in Caledon’s history. 

“We’ve lost control over Caledon,” Ian Sinclair, a longtime resident and former councillor, said.


Former Caledon councillor Ian Sinclair chastised his former colleagues for failing to provide basic answers to questions from residents about the massive proposal to develop 35,000 housing units in the town.

(Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer)


“This is not public consultation. This is theatre,” Cheryl Connors, another resident and local advocate, said.

In April 2022, the Region of Peel voted to expand its urban boundary by 11,000 acres, mostly in Caledon, which would control where additional land for both residential and commercial development would be identified.

But according to the reports from the Region, 10 of the 12 bylaws being pushed by Groves contain lands not entirely within the border of the new urban boundary.

“In accordance with the current, in effect, Planning legislation, a municipal comprehensive review (a Regional Official Plan Amendment) is required to expand the Urban System prior to the lands being rezoned,” the Region pointed out in its criticism of the plan.

A map showing the properties set to be rezoned under the controversial bylaws of Mayor Annette Groves.

(Town of Caledon)


Victor Doyle, a respected urban planner best known as the architect of the Greenbelt, told The Pointer after a community meeting held two weeks ago that he has never seen a plan like the one being promoted by Groves. He says it appears the secondary plans are not complete in the majority of the areas affected, a critical element of the planning process. He says without this essential planning step completed, along with in-depth studies on infrastructure and environmental impacts, the Town is not in a position to begin implementing zoning bylaws.  

The Region agrees.

“The Region of Peel Official Plan requires that the Town complete and implement a phasing plan for the entirety of the 2051 New Urban Area: the Town’s Growth Management and Phasing Plan (GMPP). While the Region has reviewed a draft of the GMPP, it has not been finalized,” one of the Regional reports kept from the public outlines. 

The production of secondary plans also require public consultation, which has not been completed for the subject lands. 

Under Bill 23 and the subsequent municipal housing pledges, the Town of Caledon is required to build 13,000 new units by 2031. With an additional 22,000 homes between the requirement and the plan being pushed by Groves, many residents asked why the Mayor felt it was necessary to zone so far above and beyond what was required of the Town.

"Caledon is poised for transformation, and to ensure our competitiveness in the GTA, we must take bold steps to address the housing shortage. This step positions our community for success in the years ahead while meeting planning requirements,” Groves stated in a previous press release from the Town on March 26, when her surprise move was sprung on residents. “Prioritizing zoned land for a range of housing choices is essential for fostering inclusive communities and promoting equitable growth. We are demonstrating that Caledon is open for business, there is certainty in investment here and that we are ready to build complete communities in a timely manner.” 

Staff explained that just because there is the potential for 35,000 units, not all of those will be built, but in order to achieve the 13,000 target, the Town needs to aim higher.

“Stop hiding behind the excuse of a housing crisis,” one delegate replied.


A number of residents raised significant concerns with how the 12 bylaws were introduced and the lack of transparency around their preparation.

(Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer)


The Region’s reports lay out that the bylaws, as written (which have not yet been approved) do not include language that will ensure any affordable housing.

“Affordable homes are not built in Caledon. They’re built in cities that have public transit, are walkable, etc.,” a delegate said, pointing out that Caledon is not walkable.

Despite Groves’ claims that developers will be held accountable to build the kind of housing residents need, the Region pointed out this is not guaranteed under her current plan.

The bylaws should have “holding provisions” that would ensure developers build features such as affordable housing, with minimum targets, and do not have the leeway to plan for sprawl. “This is not specified anywhere within the By-law. If the Town intends on requiring Secondary Planning, this should be indicated through a Holding provision in the proposed Zoning By-law Amendment. The Region has asked for this provision.” 

Under the Region of Peel Official Plan, greenfield development is required to meet or exceed a minimum density of 67.5 residents and/or jobs per hectare. This requirement is not outlined in the zoning orders from Groves.

The potential uses for each property include housing types of detached, semi detached and townhouses. There are no specifics about density and accessibility, or affordability. 

“Environmental Defence is gravely concerned that Caledon may be wasting its opportunity to break with the failed, low-density form of development that has made it one of the most car-dependent and unaffordable parts of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area,” the advocacy organization previously wrote to The Pointer.

“We are drowning here,” one delegate added on Thursday.

Groves told residents her plan would ensure Caledon will grow densely.

“Is it just a bunch of cookie cutter housing? No,” she told The Pointer in an interview when the draft bylaws were first released in March. “It would be a mixed-use type of development, it would be a development that is inclusive.”

While the Region stated it is supportive of allowing a wide variety of housing types, it is crucial that the Town define the housing types it is allowing and include zoning standards like setbacks and building heights.

The Region estimates service upgrades and extensions will cost over $6.2 billion for water and $6.7 billion for wastewater, just for 13,000 units. This does not include other services and infrastructure needs such as roads, utilities, transit, community centres, libraries, policing, fire, paramedics and a range of other features.

The PC government has removed many of the requirements for developers to pay for some of these costs.

“Don’t use the word affordable when you mean profitable,” one of the delegates said.

Delegates zeroed in on Mayor Groves’ use of outside consultants and an external lawyer to recommend and write her bylaws despite having planning staff more accustomed to following processes and procedures outlined in various pieces of provincial and municipal legislation, requirements that were ignored by the third-party firms. 

Connors, one of the delegates, asked if Howson, the consultant, was representing any owners of the subject lands. She acknowledged representing one. 

It also became clear that lawyer Quinto Annibale, from the law firm Loopstra Nixon, who wrote the draft bylaws for Mayor Groves, is representing the Bolton Homes Landowners Group. Representatives from Loopstra Nixon said the firm had been cleared of any conflict of interest concerns. The Town did not provide a response to explain how the apparent conflict was addressed and why the firm still did the work to recommend and write the mayor’s bylaws, while simultaneously representing one of the groups that owns property in the subject lands, possibly standing to benefit significantly from its lawyer’s recommendations which Groves is trying to get approved. 

The analysis by the Region of Peel also raises a series of questions about the quality of the work completed by Loopstra Nixon and paid for by Caledon taxpayers. 

In several of the proposed zoning bylaws, natural heritage features like wetlands are not designated and the limits of key areas like the Greenbelt are missing. There are duplicate paragraphs in the bylaws and several include lands that are zoned incorrectly or the existing zoning is missing altogether. In other cases, the work was completed by Loopstra Nixon without communicating with key stakeholders whose consultation would be required to complete any rezoning including the Brampton-Caledon airport for lands near existing flight paths and the Ministry of Transportation for lands the Town is trying to rezone within the GTA West Corridor. The bylaws are also formatted like no other zoning amendment the Town has introduced and include terms that the Region of Peel says are not defined within the regulations. 

While the Region stated it supports the Town of Caledon meeting its housing pledge, it repeated the sentiment of many residents who claimed the process was rushed and lacked transparency.

“Rather than bringing forward the By-law for approval on April 30, 2024 as intended, the Town could bring forward the By-law after the Future Caledon Official Plan and Secondary Plan are in full force and effect and therefore the provision would not be required.”

Groves was asked by The Pointer Monday to respond to the residents who confronted her on Thursday. She did not reply ahead of publication.

Faced with the swelling backlash, Groves was forced to remove her bylaws from the April 30 agenda, deferring the vote to a later date. The Mayor has given no indication that the bylaws will be amended or scrapped altogether. No commitment to a proper public process for the planning of the 35,000 homes has been made. 



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