‘Anyone who votes for this Tuesday will be voted out of office in two years’: Caledon council set for snap decision to develop 35k new homes  
Feature Image Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer

‘Anyone who votes for this Tuesday will be voted out of office in two years’: Caledon council set for snap decision to develop 35k new homes  

Caledon resident Cheryl Connors has a warning for the town’s local elected officials ahead of the most significant vote in the municipality’s history:

“Anyone who votes for this Tuesday will be voted out of office in two years”. 

She and dozens of other residents are organizing ahead of tomorrow’s critical vote on Mayor Annette Groves’ decision to approve bylaws that would clear the way for the development of 35,000 homes, maybe more, across the southern third of the town, more than doubling Caledon’s population in one vote.


Caledon resident Cheryl Connors sees significant political consequences for councillors should they approve the controversial bylaw amendments on Tuesday.

(Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer Files)


Hundreds of concerned residents came out at an April 25 statutory public meeting filling Town Hall to support opposition to the surprise plan that Groves hatched at the end of March

In response, the Mayor made, then broke a promise to not bring forward the development approvals during the summer months, after initially planning to force them through in April, before facing the loud public backlash.

She has claimed the decision to renege on her promise was prompted by staff, who brought the bylaws for the decision forward now. This is not how the procedure works, with mayors and councillors directing when votes will be taken. Groves has already pushed the matter onto an agenda once previously, when she tried to force a vote in April, before she told residents at subsequent public meetings they demanded that no vote would happen because many people are away or distracted from the issues during the summer months. 

She also acknowledged that the process was rushed, lacked transparency and did not respect the role of taxpayers who are supposed to guide the planning process to shape their own community.

“[Y]our questions were not answered,” Groves admitted after residents confronted her, acknowledging that an outside consultant who is not accountable to taxpayers should not have been used to answer key questions from them, demanding answers that were never given. “[I]t 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 you raised.”

The Region of Peel and Queen’s Park have notified Groves that her proposed bylaws do not conform to their policies. The Region called them “premature” and pointed out dozens of issues including the failure to conduct critical environmental, transportation and engineering studies prior to bringing the zoning approvals forward for a vote.

Tuesday’s agenda already has about two-dozen delegations, with residents demanding a chance to question why the 12 proposed bylaws are being rushed to a vote after Groves promised nothing would happen before the fall, so crucial information can be brought forward. 

After claiming staff, not outside consultants and lawyers working with developers—which residents learned about after Groves used third parties to write and promote her proposed development bylaws—would guide the process going forward, Groves once again angered residents, using the same consultant to write the report put on Tuesday’s agenda offering justification for her move. 

Elizabeth Howson, the consultant, authored the report, which is usually written by staff directly responsible to the taxpayers who will bear the financial burden of any decision by council.


Caledon residents filled Town Hall on April 25th for a public meeting on the 12 zoning amendments.

(Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer Files)


Howson previously admitted that her firm represented one of the developers involved in the 12 land parcels Groves wants to open up for sprawling subdivision construction. Howson has made claims about the planning implications and financial consequences on taxpayers, guidance that staff are expected to make on behalf of taxpayers, using their internal knowledge of municipal policies and financial management.

The Pointer asked Caledon officials if Howson — or Quinto Annibale, the lawyer who wrote the original bylaws for Groves — were still working with the Town in any capacity on the mayor’s bylaws. “All updates to the by-laws are currently being done by staff”, a spokesperson wrote in an emailed response.



Screengrab of an email between The Pointer and the Town of Caledon. 


Howson, not staff, has written the recommendation for Tuesday’s decision, that council approve the 12 bylaws brought forward by Groves, pushing the development of over 5,000 acres, paving the way for 35,000 new homes. It is unclear how Howson was hired considering her apparent conflict of interest, working with one of the groups hoping to develop one of the parcels of land set for zoning approval.

Residents have also asked how Mr. Annibale, who has represented the Bolton North Landowners Group which is also trying to develop one of the parcels, was chosen by Groves to write her bylaws. Town staff have repeatedly stated that Annibale is required to follow Law Society rules regarding conflict of interest and has said he has done so. No explanation has been given as to how he or Howson were cleared of conflict concerns.

The report written by Howson on Tuesday’s agenda pushing the approval of zoning amendments to make way for the massive developments is being questioned by residents.

“This is not a staff report. No summary of each development. A recommendation to approve. It is more propaganda,” Connors told The Pointer. “It is irresponsible of Council to even consider voting on this tomorrow. The vote should be delayed.”

Three councillors have also spoken out in direct opposition to the bylaws: Lynn Kiernan, Dave Sheen and Christina Early. 

“If she obtains the votes she needs, 5000 acres will be rezoned ahead of any proper planning processes or public input. An additional 35,000 homes on top of the 13,000 we have pledged to build,” Councillor Kiernan stated in a mass email to residents which The Pointer was cc’d on. “No infrastructure, no secondary plans to identify schools, roads, parks, etc. Caledon is not anti- growth, but we need to plan our town carefully, with proper process and input from residents.”

Howson’s report claims no tax increases will be needed if the 35,000 new homes are approved, claiming “growth pays for growth”. But under Bill 23, legislation surrounding development charges has been significantly changed, and even with recent amendments through the just passed Bill 185, certain costs for affordable housing and land acquisition will be covered by taxpayers now, instead of developers who used to be charged for these expenses. This will leave a shortfall in funding, tens of millions of dollars possibly, for infrastructure. 

Sprawl development leads to significant costs borne by taxpayers who end up covering expenses to send pricey infrastructure such as water mains and roads out to far flung places. Howson, failed to include any supporting details to ensure the planning approvals she is lobbying for will guarantee taxes will not be used to cover the types of subdivisions developers might build, instead of complete communities with dense designs that actually do keep tax contributions to a minimum.

Groves has already warned that as a result of the downloading of services from the Region of Peel, Caledon residents can expect to see a 70 percent tax hike.

Residents have also questioned why Groves want to approve 35,000-plus homes when the Town’s own housing pledge to the PC government is only for 13,000 units. 


Caledon Mayor Annette Groves has gone back on her promise to not bring forward the 12 zoning bylaws for a final vote during the summer months.

(Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer Files)


“I clarified that the 13,000 Homes Pledge and the 35,000 Homes identified were not mutually exclusive but different directions of Council,” Eric Lucic, Commissioner of Planning at the Town, wrote in an email to Connors which she shared with The Pointer. “Some of the 13,000 homes target could be met within these lands up for consideration on Tuesday.”

There is nothing in Groves’ proposed bylaws that dictates what type of housing would be built and if any will be affordable.

The bylaws include blanket permissions for a wide variety of uses.

“The people of Caledon deserve to feel heard,” Groves said in the face of a mounting backlash, when she promised not to rush the process and wait until residents have all the information they need.

On Tuesday, she will once again try to push her developer-driven agenda through.



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