Facing public backlash, Annette Groves promises vote on 35K new homes in Caledon won’t happen before fall; key questions still not answered
Feature Image Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer

Facing public backlash, Annette Groves promises vote on 35K new homes in Caledon won’t happen before fall; key questions still not answered

Caledon Mayor Annette Groves relented Thursday, pledging at a public information meeting that she would not bring 12 contentious zoning bylaws back before council until the fall.

While the concession was a win for the public, she continues to push forward with plans to approve 35,000 new homes, by far the largest development exercise in Caledon’s history, undertaken unilaterally by a mayor who ran on a responsible growth platform in 2022. Instead, her scheme has circumvented the usual transparent planning process meant to protect the public and the environment. 

“I hope that council will vote based on all the work that has been done by the Town. If I need to use strong mayor powers then that's also an option that's available,” Groves said publicly.

If Groves chooses to use her strong mayor powers, each of the 12 zoning bylaws, one for each parcel of land the mayor wants developed, could be passed with a one-third-plus one vote. Groves and three other councillors would be needed to pass the bylaws. Councillor Nick DeBoer has declared a pecuniary interest and will not be voting. Councillors Christina Early, Lynn Kiernan and Dave Sheen have told The Pointer they will not support the bylaws. Councillor Mario Russo told the Pointer he supports the bylaws. The remaining three councillors did not respond to a request to comment.

The proposed bylaws sparked a fierce public response after they appeared as a communication package on the March 26 Council agenda, with a letter written by development lawyer Quinto Annibale from the legal firm Loopstra Nixon. He wrote the proposed bylaws being pushed by Groves which read like directions from builders and disregard a number of Town, Regional and Provincial planning policies. 


Council chambers and several overflow spaces at City Hall were filled with residents for a public meeting addressing the proposed bylaws on April 25th.

(Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer Files)


The Town came under fire from community members at a statutory public meeting held April 25, with residents highlighting numerous problems including maps of the parcels showing the proposed developments will cut right through their homes.

Janet Eagleson, manager of Public Affairs at the Town of Caledon, addressed these concerns Thursday telling residents that mapping has been changed, even though the maps presented to the public were the same.

“In the April presentation, there was an error on one of the maps. And we fixed that already. But it was very misleading. That happens in the planning process,” she said. Residents voiced skepticism and wondered what else was wrong in the earlier presentations to the public. 

Groves has repeatedly claimed  her zoning bylaw amendments do not circumvent the planning process, rather “all this is doing is streamlining the process,” she said.

“It's important that the community understands what is happening and understands why this is being brought forward at this time,” she continued.

One resident described the comment as “patronizing”.

“[It’s] laughable in terms of the facts, how they continue to apologize about how they have not heard the public's concerns during the April 25 meeting, but they continue to fail again and again to provide proper communication about what their plan is and why this seems to be a good idea,” he said.

He asked to keep his name private. 

“We feel an omnipresent threat not to question it more. Almost all citizens begrudgingly omit further questioning out of fear,” he said. “It is commonly discussed amongst the public if the mayor's backlash is due to her incompetence, laziness, or ulterior motive.”

One of the concerns he, other residents and some members of council have raised is the perceived conflict of interest with the firm Loopstra Nixon. At the April 25 meeting, one of the delegates presented evidence that Loopstra Nixon was currently representing one of the developer groups seeking to build in one of the 12 proposed parcels. This was confirmed by a representative of the firm. 

The Pointer has reached out to both Mr. Annibale and the Town of Caledon but neither would comment on the matter or how the firm was cleared of a conflict even though it is representing one of the development groups and its lawyer wrote the proposed bylaws being aggressively pushed by Mayor Groves. On Thursday, Eagleson said Loopstra Nixon had declared to the Town that it conformed with all the rules surrounding conflict of interest and this declaration was “satisfactory” to the Town. No explanation was provided detailing how the arrangement is not a conflict. It is a basic practice that if a firm is representing a private entity seeking to earn a profit from a land development, that firm would not be used by the municipality to seek guidance on its decision making. It is unclear why Caledon officials did not make their own determination on a potential conflict before hiring Loopstra Nixon, as the onus was on the municipality to avoid any potential conflict of interest. It also remains unclear how the law firm was not in a conflict, while simultaneously representing the development group and making highly controversial recommendations on behalf of Caledon that would benefit its client.  

Representatives from Loopstra Nixon and consulting firm Macaulay Shiomi Howson Ltd. who answered the majority of questions at the April 25 public meeting, were not present at Thursday’s information session. 

“We have staff here, there isn't an external consultant along for the ride today,” Eagleson said this past Thursday. 

During the April 30 Council meeting Groves addressed what had happened the previous week when Elizabeth Howson, of Macaulay Shiomi Howson, answered the lion’s share of questions from frustrated residents, instead of the mayor. She acknowledged that an outside consultant who does not answer to the taxpayers and is not ultimately responsible for the decisions of elected officials who do represent Caledon property owners, should not have been put in front of them. 

“[Y]our questions were not answered,” Groves admitted during the Council meeting. She said “it is important that we need to listen, we need to provide the community with the information that they are looking for, we need to address all the concerns that you raised.” 

She added that the Town’s “own staff” needs to be in front of the citizens they answer to.

It is unclear if the consultant is still working on the controversial matter. The Pointer asked Town officials if the firm and Loopstra Nixon are still involved. No response was provided.

It remains unclear why the consultant was hired in the first place, a question many residents asked.

The Mayor has not explained why the bylaws were brought forward with little notice and without proper public consultation. The Region of Peel labelled them “premature” and raised concern over the lack of conformity with the Region’s overriding policies.

Victor Doyle, an urban planner who formerly worked for the province of Ontario presents to residents during a public meeting hosted by Democracy Caledon last month.

(Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer Files)


Groves has said the snap decision to push the bylaws through using her strong mayor powers is “proactive”, to get 35,000 homes built in preparation of the coming population, instead of only 13,000 currently mandated by the PC government out to 2031. 

Experts disagree.

Victor Doyle, a registered professional planner for over 30 years who framed much of the Greenbelt legislation, told The Pointer following a community meeting April 17 that this so-called “proactive” approach is actually “industry-led advice”. 

Doyle said to accommodate nearly three decades of growth at once is “irresponsible” because “things change”. The types of housing that were built in the past are not what is going to accommodate future demand. He said from his reading of the bylaws pushed by Groves, that everything being proposed is still relatively low density, an extension of Brampton north rather than the types of homes young people and newcomers can afford, or what future homeowners will want.

“There is an opportunity for Caledon to do something different here and try to do something different in terms of more walkable, 15-minute communities,” he said. “It's too bad. It's a wasted opportunity.”

On Thursday, residents asked Groves what other options were considered to accommodate growth in the Town. She repeatedly referred to the PC housing targets and the Region’s Official Plan which she claims dictate growth across Peel — although Groves herself voted against the Region’s Official Plan which included an 11,000-acre urban boundary expansion, which she did not agree with, arguing at the time for less sprawl. She has not explained why she changed her position.

She referenced the Town’s Growth Management Phasing Plan (GMPP), which the Town spent $400,000 on, to determine where growth should occur within the urban boundary. 

“These are not my recommendations. These are the recommendations by professionals that the town hired to do that growth management phasing plans So I believe that there is no other option,” she said, failing to mention that the Region of Peel has not accepted the Town’s GMPP.

“While the Region has viewed a draft of the GMPP, it has not been finalized,” one of the reports from the Region outlines. “To date, the Region has not found the GMPP satisfactory, nor does it reflect the requirements of the phasing plan and the outcomes of the identified opportunities and constraints.”

Many residents have expressed disappointment with Groves who campaigned on a promise to keep Caledon out of the hands of developers and in the hands of its residents, pledging that “Caledon will plan Caledon”. Her recent turnaround has prompted some residents to publicly voice their regret over voting for her in 2022.

“I have been a councillor here and for many, many years,” she said Thursday. “And I always took an adversarial approach to development, whether that be at the (Ontario Municipal Board), the (Local Planning Appeal Tribunal) and now the (Ontario Land Tribunal—the three most recent iterations of the province’s land-use arbitration mechanism). And it’s your taxpayer dollars fighting these developments. And most times it’s unsuccessful,” she said, suggesting her sudden pro-developer stance is a strategic way to limit concessions to builders.

But in trying to avoid the OLT, Groves is giving the developers a “blank cheque”, Ian Sinclair, a longtime resident of Caledon and former Town Councillor, said.


In 2022, the Region voted to expand its urban boundary 11,000 acres, but some of the lands in Caledon’s bylaws are outside these boundaries.

(Region of Peel)


The Region of Peel has formally responded to the bylaws Groves is trying to force through, highlighting the failure to include a minimum density requirement, and a lack of attention to required infrastructure and the excessive cost. The Region has calculated that in order for the Town to meet its housing pledge of 13,000 new homes by 2031, the associated costs for water and wastewater infrastructure would be $6.2 billion and $6.7 billion respectively. This does not account for the potential 22,000 additional homes that could be built under Groves’ bylaws.

An analysis of the Region’s communications by The Pointer found the majority of the 12 parcels of land are missing critical studies related to the environment, transportation and servicing. Nine of the 12 parcels of land are not needed to meet the Town’s housing pledge and 10 of the 12 do not conform with the Region of Peel’s Official Plan.

The Region of Peel made clear at the end of each of its 12 letters (one for each bylaw and corresponding parcel of land) that its comments and concerns were to form part of the public record and “be made available as part of any Public Meeting, Committee Meeting and Council Meeting on this matter”. 

Eagleson admitted that the Town did receive the pieces of communication from the Region prior to the April 25 meeting and noted that the language was quite critical of the bylaws. The Town has yet to make the letters public, failing to include them as part of any subsequent meeting agenda, or post them on the Town’s website.

“There's dozens of stakeholders who get asked for comments because we want to get it right. Comments come back all the time,” Eagleson said, noting that letters from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the Ministry of Transportation also have not been made public. “We don't share comments with council or with the public until they've been addressed into the context of the project. One comment may be misleading, or it could be inflammatory.”

Residents have said the Region and Province are not commenting agencies, they are the two higher levels of government that Caledon answers to. 

“We're in a bit of a transition period. So we don't exactly know what's gonna happen fully. We have an idea, but the province hasn't really laid it out,” Eric Lucic, Commissioner of Planning at the Town, told The Pointer following the meeting Thursday, referencing the uncertainty around services that may be downloaded to the lower tier municipalities under the ongoing provincial transition board’s work (the board was initially put together to dismantle Peel Region before that move was turned around by Doug Ford and his PC government). “We're waiting on direction from the province to tell us what's happening next. So while at present our Official Plan sits with the Region, they're reviewing it for completeness.”

Ten of the twelve proposed zoning bylaws do not conform with the Region’s Official Plan, raising questions about why Groves and Town officials, particularly her hand-picked CAO Nathan Hyde, are moving forward with a plan that is in clear violation of overriding policies and pieces of legislation.

Lucic claimed the Town has worked to address 95 percent of the comments made by the Region, but did not provide any explanation. Officials from the Region told The Pointer in an email statement that they have been in talks with The Town, but did not indicate the completion of any process to bring the bylaws into conformity. Much of the work required by the Region would take at least three to six months. 

Lucic did say addressing the comments made by the Region would change the bylaws and the accompanying mapping, but did not explain how drastic these changes might be.

“The idea is to slowly move it forward under the intent, but sometimes there's little tweaks that being needed,” he said. “There's been nothing that's come up that's actually said to us, oh, no, this can't be done or otherwise.” 

The Region also expressed concern with the move to rezone land prior to the completion of secondary plans. Secondary plans are more detailed and dictate neighbourhood design and specific features. The decision to rezone prior to these plans is unprecedented, but was repeatedly defended by Groves and Lucic.

“Doing the zoning or pre-zoning these lands, it's not going to happen tomorrow, there are holding provisions on there,” Groves claimed. 

Groves has vowed there are no developers in the background pulling her strings, but residents have expressed concern about the increasing secrecy behind the scheme. 


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