Mayor Annette Groves & CAO at centre of Caledon’s scheme to circumvent public planning for 35K homes; PCs say it doesn’t conform with 413 Highway plan  
Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer Files

Mayor Annette Groves & CAO at centre of Caledon’s scheme to circumvent public planning for 35K homes; PCs say it doesn’t conform with 413 Highway plan  

“In Caledon, we believe that democracy is taking a back seat to a number of different issues; and we would like to see democracy returned.”

Those blunt words were directed at Caledon Mayor Annette Groves and her hand-picked Chief Administrative Officer Nathan Hyde (Caledon’s top bureaucrat, ultimately responsible for serving and protecting taxpayers). 

They were made Tuesday by resident and co-founder of Democracy Caledon Nicola Ross at a council meeting where Groves’ surprise move to ram through approvals using her contentious strong mayor powers for the construction of 35,000 homes was confronted, once again, by voters.

The Pointer was forwarded a letter Thursday morning, upon request, from Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Paul Calandra, addressed to Groves and Caledon’s Clerk, Kevin Klingenberg, sent Friday April 26, reinforcing what 12 reports from the Region of Peel outlined regarding the mayor’s surprise use of her strong mayor powers to approve 12 bylaws, one for each individual parcel of land, for the development of 35,000 homes, the largest growth plan in the municipality’s history.

Caledon Mayor Annette Groves has refused to explain the origins of a controversial development scheme to facilitate the construction of 35,000 homes. 

(Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer Files)


The scheme overlaps with the Doug Ford PC government’s push to get the 413 Highway built immediately, with critics pointing out that the developers who own adjacent lands will make far more profits with a major transportation corridor as justification to get homes built around it, rather than where they are needed.

The highway route and many of the parcels of land Groves is trying to open up for development are also either adjacent to or near the protected Greenbelt, which Ford committed to opening up for developers in 2018, when he asked for their help to get elected.

Though the PCs sent a letter to Groves late last week outlining concerns over the potential conflict between their Highway 413 plans and the Caledon development scheme, they have not made any public statements suggesting the mayor’s approach will be stopped.  

Hyde and Groves failed to get approvals from the provincial government or the regional government, which have authority over planning policies. The mayor was set to pass her bylaws on Tuesday, April 30, before widespread public opposition coalesced against her poorly thought out plan, with Hyde failing to take necessary steps to ensure conformity with provincial and regional policies prior to the drafting of the bylaws, which he hired a development lawyer to do.


Caledon residents, the vast majority opposed to the plan being pushed by Mayor Annette Groves, filled Town Hall last week. 

(Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer Files)


On Friday evening Groves announced the bylaws were being pulled from the agenda for the council meeting on the 30th, when they were set to pass using Strong Mayor powers.

Prior to her announcement Friday, earlier the same day Minister Calandra sent his letter to the Mayor and Town Clerk.

“Because the proposed Zoning By-law Amendments would permit development within the protected corridors (for the GTA West Highway, also known as the 413 Highway), passage of the proposed Zoning By-law Amendments, particularly for [six of the land parcels Groves wants to approve for development] would be inconsistent and not conform with provincial and regional policy directions.”

Residents have expressed concern to The Pointer that Groves has misled them, claiming she pulled the bylaws due to public concern, without ever mentioning the letter from Calandra. Councillors have also said they were never informed of the communication from the province.

Groves and Hyde previously kept the detailed communications sent by the Region of Peel, received by them more than a week ago, from the public. Twelve reports, one for each bylaw and corresponding parcel of land, highlighted what Calandra later wrote, that the bylaws drafted under the leadership of the pair do not conform to Regional and Provincial planning policies.

The regional reports provide far more detail. Hyde failed to have critical work done prior to creating the draft bylaws that were set to become law despite no information on how tens of billions of dollars for infrastructure such as water and waste water, roads, other utilities and services such as policing and fire would be paid for. The draft bylaws were missing key environmental work and plans for mitigation of flooding and other climate change-related impacts. There was no reference to transportation studies, infrastructure studies or work needed to determine watershed impacts. The draft bylaws, contrary to what Groves has claimed, have no provisions to guarantee affordable housing.

The Region highlighted that $12.9 billion will be needed just for water infrastructure to support 13,000 new homes. 

Hyde has not answered questions sent to the Town asking how the bylaws were brought forward without these critical details, lacking even basic planning work or financial analysis required before the approval of 35,000 new homes, the largest growth strategy ever in Caledon.

He has not answered questions about how the lawyer was selected to write the bylaws, a lawyer with a history of representing developers who residents found out on Thursday is working for one of the property ownership groups in the subject lands. 

The lack of transparency and disregard for basic democratic functions in local government was repeatedly brought up at Tuesday’s council meeting by elected officials and residents who expressed their frustration.    

“It’s interesting,” Ross said, “currently, using strong mayor powers, it takes one-third of councillors to make a decision; it will take two-thirds of councillors to decide whether or not she (fellow Democracy Caledon member Debbe Crandall) can speak tonight.”

She decried the “undemocratic” scheme to appease developers, tossing aside the “democratic” system that has been used for decades to plan the municipality, with the people at the centre of the process.

“The housing pledge that Caledon has, is for 13,000 homes. We are not anti-growth. We are not anti-development…Why are we going beyond the 13,000 homes? We have a housing pledge, let’s stick with it.”

She said it was “evident” in the Region of Peel’s more than 200 pages of critical reports on the 12 bylaws—which, as she reminded council members, were not shared with the public (despite clear direction from the Region’s chief planner to do so)—that the scheme was rushed, lacked any semblance of proper planning and failed to follow existing planning documents and the proper public process.

It was a powerful presentation, with Groves sitting metres in front of Ross. The mayor and Hyde continue to face questions about why the public was cut out of the entire process, and why a lawyer who works with developers was hired by the two of them to write the municipal legislation that would force the approval of 35,000 new homes in 12 separate parcels of land, mostly in or along the 413 Highway corridor and, in some cases, right next to the Greenbelt where developers have been trying to get their properties approved for construction.

After more than 300 residents spilled out across Town Hall on Thursday for the special meeting that lasted until 2 a.m. demanding Groves stop her reckless plan, she released a statement later the same day announcing she was hitting the pause button. 


A map of the parcels proposed to be rezoned. 

(Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer Files)


Her 12 bylaws to trigger the huge developments were set to be approved Tuesday using her strong mayor powers (which allow decisions to be made with only one-third of council in support) before she pulled them from the agenda and announced three public meetings will be held to explain the scheme to residents, and hear their concerns. 

Groves repeatedly claimed she is sorry, has heard the voices of frustrated residents and understands the entire process was badly handled. Hyde has not publicly apologized, nor has he explained why he handled the issue in such a non-transparent way, without understanding basic planning principles, including official provincial and regional policies, which can override the Town’s decisions.

Thursday’s historic meeting included 36 delegations by individual residents, demanding answers about the 12 zoning amendments being pushed by Groves. They wanted to know why Hyde hired external consultants and an outside lawyer to write the mayor’s bylaws and why the CAO failed to mention or populate meeting agendas with the critical reports from the Region of Peel which described the bylaws as “premature” and not in compliance with provincial and regional policies. 

Despite direction from the Region’s chief planner to present the sobering reports to the public, Hyde and Groves have failed to do so. 

The mayor, who ran for office in 2022 on a promise to embrace smart growth principles and avoid developer-driven planning, was accused by residents and councillors of doing the opposite. 

“Shame on you. You are not representing your constituents and you are not representing the best interest of Caledon,” resident Rayissa Palmer complained on Thursday. “So I would ask you, who are you really representing?” 

“I apologize to all of you,” Sagi Denenberg, another resident, said brusquely. “Because ultimately it’s my fault. It’s my fault because I voted for this council, I even convinced people to vote for Mayor Groves, and I was wrong.” 

After appearing annoyed throughout much of Thursday’s meeting, Groves shifted her approach during the April 30th council meeting.

“The people of Caledon need and deserve more information. Information about the process and why we are considering this action. We need to address all the concerns that you raised and the questions that were raised…I think we do owe the public that…At the end of the day communication is what matters and I don’t believe that we did a very good job of communicating.”

“I do feel that information and knowledge is power,” she added. 

Ross continued to address the disturbing disregard for democratic processes in local government.

“I want to talk about minutes,” she said, referring to the staff representation of what was said during Thursday’s contentious meeting. “It came to our attention that the minutes as they were recorded misrepresented many of us.” She referenced the 36 delegations that evening. She said the minutes misrepresented what many of them actually said. “Certainly mine misrepresented me.”

The official recorded minutes are required to be an accurate representation of what takes place during a council meeting, so that the public record does not misrepresent to the public, including for legal purposes, what actually took place inside the legislative chamber.

It is a hallmark of democracy, which Ross said has been gravely eroded in Caledon.  

She read out loud a note from one delegate who spoke Thursday, after the minutes suggested he “emphasized the need for growth”. His message in response, read by Ross, stated: “Not only did I not agree with or not emphasize the need for growth, I harshly criticized it…I specifically mentioned that we can be sustained with better planning, saving money on unnecessary consultants…”. She described the misrepresentation in the recorded minutes as “egregious”.

“What is happening with these 12 development applications, and other things, is wrong. It’s just simply wrong. It’s undemocratic, and it’s wrong. We know it’s wrong. Many people in this room know it’s wrong. The residents know it’s wrong. And that’s why they have come out in such numbers. 

“We encourage the mayor, staff and councillors to make it right. Democracy should rule.”

Town Clerk Kevin Klingenberg addressed his recording of the minutes, claiming his version of what was said was meant to provide a “neutral perspective”.

“It’s just wrong,” Ross responded, bluntly. “They have to reflect the truth.”

“This record does not reflect, accurately, most of the comments these delegates brought…They’re inaccurate. They’re just not acceptable, and it’s disrespectful. The minutes have to be corrected,” Councillor Dave Sheen said later in the meeting when his colleague Lynn Kiernan brought forward a motion to send the recorded minutes back to the Clerk to ensure they are only put on the official record once they properly represent what happened Thursday.

Councillor Christina Early said the minutes fail to represent what the residents said when they spoke for almost seven hours on Thursday. She said they talked about the public, the people, planning Caledon responsibly, “Not the developers planning Caledon.” She also said the minutes are inaccurate. 

Klingenberg is required under law to record what was said accurately.

“It seems that Caledon has a way of responding, strongly, to what it perceives to be bad planning,” Crandall said Tuesday. “Moving forward, using Doug Ford’s strong mayor powers—Mayor Groves, you have set in motion a dangerous precedent that, if allowed to proceed, will set the tone for future decisions.” She pointed out that of the more than 300 residents who packed Town Hall on Thursday, the vast majority were opposed to the use of strong mayor powers to “subvert the normal planning process”.

She detailed much of the critical work Groves and Hyde tried to ignore, which has to be done before her rezoning bylaws can be approved.

Groves and Hyde circumvented staff, council members and the public, hired two outside firms who happen to also be representing property owners in the subject lands, accepted dangerously unprofessional bylaws (written by a lawyer known to represent developers) as the mayor’s, then rushed to get them approved using strong mayor powers without engaging the public for the biggest development scheme in the municipality’s history.

Over the past week, The Pointer has asked why was Loopstra Nixon lawyer Quinto Annibale given the job to write the bylaws, despite his apparent conflict representing a client with an interest in one of the twelve parcels; what type of conflict of interest screen was completed for Mr. Annibale; was a similar scan conducted for consulting firm Macaulay Shiomi Howson Ltd. who was in attendance answering questions last week and is also representing a property owner in one of the twelve parcels; how were these external consulting firms chosen, were procurement rules followed and how much have Caledon taxpayers paid for this scheme?

No response has been received. 

“Clarity should be provided to ensure that any potential conflict is explained in detail,” Councillor Christina Early told The Pointer.

“When it was revealed that the Planning Firm hired by the Town to bring forward these zoning bylaw amendments, represented one of the landowners, I was very surprised,” Councillor Dave Sheen told The Pointer. “And when the legal firm said they also represented one or more of the land owners involved, but that they had been assured by the Town there was no conflict, I could not believe my ears. I don't know if there is an actual conflict of interest, but even the mere hint of conflict should have been avoided. Am I concerned? Yes. And I suspect there will have to be some follow up on this in the coming weeks.”

Neither firm nor the Town responded to The Pointer’s request for comment on how these conflicts of interest concerns were cleared to allow their work to begin. 

The Town said the consultants were hired because Caledon staff did not have the capacity to complete the work. This is despite the hiring of Eric Lucic, the Town’s commissioner of planning, in February, when the Town said he would play a “pivotal role” in Caledon’s future. 

The press release announcing the hiring of Lucic notes he brings a “wealth of experience”.  

“We are delighted to welcome Mr. Eric Lucic to the Town of Caledon, his demonstrated leadership and innovative approach will play a pivotal role in building the best of rural and urban life for all.” CAO Hyde, stated in the release.

And yet Lucic has barely played a role in the scheme driven by Hyde and Groves using outside firms. All public questions were directed to Groves, external consultant Elizabeth Howson from Macaulay Shiomi Howson Ltd., or representatives from the externally hired legal firm Loopstra Nixon. 

These were not the only questions that have gone unanswered. The repeated refrain from residents at Thursday’s meeting was quite simple: why?

“If you're going to destroy prime farmland, environmentally sensitive lands in the Greenbelt, shouldn't you have a really good reason for doing so?” resident Cheryl Connors asked.

It was claimed that Ontario is facing a housing crisis and Caledon is expected to undergo rapid population growth over the next 20 years. Under Bill 23, the PC government’s fast-tracked development legislation, Caledon has pledged to build 13,000 new homes by 2031. Many questioned why then is the Town rushing so quickly to approve 35,000. 

The Region of Peel found that the majority of the 12 parcels are not required for Caledon to achieve its housing pledge to the Ontario government. 

Ian Sinclair, a longtime resident of Caledon and former councillor, stated that each of the 12 zoning amendments reads like a blank cheque for the development industry, allowing them to build whatever type of housing they choose.

“They read just about every zoning permission imaginable … including a few kitchen sinks,” he said. “And it looks like developers could write their own tickets because of that.”


Former Caledon councillor Ian Sinclair berated his former colleagues for the ill-advised plan. 

(Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer Files)


Mayor Groves has repeatedly assured residents that holding provisions were in place in these bylaws to ensure more detailed planning and stipulations for affordable housing with time to plan “complete communities”. The reports from the Region of Peel show this is not true. 

The bylaws presented by Groves precede secondary planning which is supposed to come first, as a crucial part of the development process to ensure that community expectations are adhered to. Secondary plans must conform to the Official Plan, and zoning must conform to the secondary plans. But Groves’ blanket assurance that secondary planning will still take place and developers will be held accountable to such plans, was questioned.

Sinclair demanded to know who will be responsible for preparing the secondary plans, whether it will be internal town staff or external consultants. No response was offered. The Pointer asked staff the same question and did not receive a response. 

“The protocol exists, and I wonder why it's been set aside with this process?” Sinclair asked. “I've asked a number of questions and made a number of points and got no answers.”


(Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer Files)


Housing affordability, often used by Ford and his PCs as justification for their aggressive growth plan, was also repeatedly raised on Thursday.

One of the delegates, who works in real estate, noted the cheapest accommodation she could find for purchase was a one-bedroom condo for more than $600,000.

“Many people who have expressed support for this initiative, for it to go ahead, have done so with the understanding that one day they’ll be able to purchase a home in Caledon,” Sandra Scavone said, “I believe that to be absolutely false.”

Residents have connected the 413 Highway project being rushed forward by Ford and his PCs to many of the 12 parcels. Several of the 12 bylaws would rezone land within the highway corridor; something that would require provincial permission to do. 

Many of the same developers who own land along the Highway 413 corridor, are the same ones who have been named in connection to the 12 parcels being pushed by Groves. 

During the April 25th public meeting, Councillor Lynn Kiernan shared a partial list, which she claims she received from staff, showing three of the 12 plots are owned by developer-conglomerate ARGO, three are owned by Solmar and one is owned by Brookvalley. 

Despite commitments by Groves to be transparent, this information has not been shared. 

Kiernan demanded clarification around statements made by Groves.

The mayor claimed she contacted each of her fellow council members ahead of placing the 12 draft bylaws on the council agenda using her Strong Mayor Powers. She said none of the councillors opposed her plan. However, some of the councillors expressed in public and to The Pointer that this was not the case. 

“The take away from this, I think, is that the mayor believed a ten-minute conversation with me was sufficient for her to press ahead with her agenda, even if it meant using her Strong Mayor powers to do it,” Councillor Sheen said. “If Council input and support was important to her, we would have spoken much more than 10 minutes.”

The same sentiment was shared by Councillor Early and Councillor Kiernan. 

“She proceeded to say that using these powers was the only way to get this accomplished. I had not read the correspondence section (added Monday afternoon just before we spoke) and frankly thought she was referring to a single application, not 12 and certainly not 35,000 new homes which is within our 2051 plan,” Early said. 

Councillor Kiernan described her call with Groves as “very uninformative”. 

The Town has also been widely criticized for egregiously misrepresenting what happened at Thursday’s public meeting when more than 300 residents filled Town Hall and three-dozen delegated to voice wide ranging concerns over Groves’ plan.

According to several councillors, numerous complaints have been received refuting what the minutes show, which they described as being wildly inaccurate.

“This is unconscionable and completely undemocratic,” Crandall told council members and staff Tuesday, regarding the way the entire matter is being handled for the largest development plan in Caledon’s history.

“That the minority of council has the power to decide on something of this significance, is wrong. That the majority of council and the public will have no voice in the planning design of 35,000 homes, is wrong.”


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