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Oro-Medonte poised to 'work' with Barrie on boundary dispute

'By working together, we can achieve a sustainable solution that is beneficial to the Township of Oro-Medonte and City of Barrie communities,' says Greenlaw
This map, created by the Township of Oro-Medonte, shows the area being considered by Barrie for boundary expansion in Oro-Medonte. The area in green stripes is a 'special policy area' intended for mixed-use residential purposes.

While Oro-Medonte council doesn’t support the City of Barrie’s proposed boundary expansion as it was presented at a November council meeting, the township says it is open to helping Barrie solve its shortage of employment land.

But only under one condition, according to a report prepared for council by township planner George Vadeboncoeur.

“The Township of Oro-Medonte is prepared to work with the City of Barrie to find an amicable solution to address its employment land needs based on a comprehensive planning process that works for Oro-Medonte, the City of Barrie, the County of Simcoe and the province,” Vadeboncoeur wrote in his report.

Township council will consider the report at its council meeting on Wednesday.

“The purpose of this report is to provide background in response to the proposal from the City of Barrie to expand its municipal boundary into the Township of Oro-Medonte for council’s consideration and to provide a recommendation from staff to inform potential next steps," Vadeboncoeur wrote.

Vadeboncoeur said township staff do not support the proposed municipal boundary expansion as the planning justification has not been completed to demonstrate that the proposed expansion has regard for matters of provincial interest or represents good planning. 

But, he added, there is merit to considering options for the provision of employment land in the spirit of co-operation and partnership. 

“The township has a need for serviced residential lands for the provision of affordable housing,” Vadeboncoeur said in the report. “All options should be explored in collaboration with the City of Barrie through a comprehensive process that provides information to inform important land use planning decisions.”

On Nov. 6 last year, Barrie Mayor Alex Nuttall made a presentation to the provincial standing committee on heritage, infrastructure and cultural policy, regional governance and Bill 124, that included a proposal to expand the boundaries of the City of Barrie into the townships of Oro-Medonte and Springwater.

Nuttall said the expansion was required because the city currently does not have sufficient employment land.

The proposed boundary expansion in Oro-Medonte would include land east of Penetanguishene Road, south of Gore Road, west of Line 1 South and north of the Shanty Bay rural settlement area. The area comprises approximately 772 hectares (1,907 acres) of land and includes active farmland and environmentally sensitive features. 

On Nov. 8, Nuttall attended Oro-Medonte council and presented the boundary expansion proposal

Council was not in favour of Nuttall’s proposal.

“The development of industrial and employment lands in this area do not align with the future of the County of Simcoe or the Township of Oro-Medonte,” Oro-Medonte Township Mayor Randy Greenlaw said at the time in a written statement.

“We are not comfortable with the planning aspects being suggested by our municipal neighbour at this time, as this does not align with the established residential developments of the area," he added.

At its regular council meeting on Jan. 10, Oro-Medonte council received a report outlining Simcoe County’s proposed submission to the provincial standing committee on heritage, infrastructure and cultural policy on the County of Simcoe Regional Review. At that meeting, council provided direction for the mayor and deputy mayor to make a presentation to the standing committee regarding Barrie’s request for a municipal boundary expansion. 

The presentation was made on Jan. 16 in Ajax. The following recommendations were presented: 

  • The City of Barrie shall undertake a comprehensive planning process through its Official Plan update and review to demonstrate its land needs following a collaborative process including open sharing of information, as demonstrated through a similar request with the City of Orillia.
  • No decisions should be made with the requested boundary expansion until the comprehensive planning process is complete..
  • The Township of Oro-Medonte will be consulted by the City of Barrie regarding the scope of work relating to a comprehensive planning process.

Two days later, Jan. 18, Oro-Medonte’s mayor and deputy mayor, along with representatives from the Township of Springwater and the County of Simcoe, met with Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Paul Calandra at his office to express their concerns with the City of Barrie’s proposal. 

“The minister indicated that municipalities and upper tiers of government are expected to work co-operatively together to reach fair and amicable partnerships regarding provincial housing and employment needs as well as municipal priorities,” Vadeboncoeur wrote.

On Jan. 22, Nuttall wrote a short letter to Oro-Medonte’s mayor and council, advising them that he heard Minister Calandra’s desire “for Barrie and Oro-Medonte to get back to the table to continue our discussions.”

In his letter, he said the "key principles" of the potential boundary realignment are based on the following:

  • environmental conservation 
  • value to each municipality, in addition to taxes from employment land and cost savings on infrastructure 
  • employment opportunities for all residents 
  • potential additional housing opportunities

Greenlaw responded to Nutall on Jan. 29.

“The township understands the challenges the City of Barrie is facing with employment lands,” Greenlaw said. “However, given that existing employment lands are already contained within the City of Barrie boundary, from our perspective, is it reasonable to conclude the predominate challenge pertaining to employment lands is not a lack of land suitable for industrial/commercial development, but a lack of financial resources to provide services (infrastructure) to existing employment lands with the city’s limits.”

Greenlaw’s letter continued.

“Without question, there is an opportunity for the City of Barrie and Township of Oro-Medonte to demonstrate co-operation and support of the province’s employment and housing initiatives,” he wrote. “By working together, we can achieve a sustainable solution that is beneficial to the Township of Oro-Medonte and City of Barrie communities.”

Vadeboncoeur provided Oro-Medonte council with an alternative option to consider to accommodate Barrie’s needs.

He said the township has about 860 hectares (2,100 acres) of employment land designated in its Official Plan along the Highway 11 corridor, minutes away from the Barrie boundary, that could accommodate the city’s requested land needs and be developed by any interested party seeking employment land. 

“Businesses and industries should be encouraged to locate on these lands that are already designated for employment uses,” Vadeboncoeur wrote. 

Additionally, he noted the township has identified a small special policy area adjacent to County Road 93 intended for future mixed use residential purposes. This area was identified because it is opposite an existing built-up residential area and is in close proximity to municipal services, such as water and sewers. 

“The township has identified the need for multi-residential and affordable housing that can only be developed on the basis of full municipal services,” Vadeboncoeur said. “There are only two locations in the township – adjacent the City of Barrie and adjacent the City of Orillia – where the township could access municipal services through a shared services agreement to facilitate medium-density housing.” 

A portion of the land on the east side of Penetanguishene Road, opposite the existing residential development in Barrie, could be used for residential purposes to meet the township’s need for affordable and medium-density housing, Vadeboncoeur said, adding that an inter-municipal servicing agreement would be required for the provision of water and sewer services to achieve the densities required. 

“If any development is to occur on the east side of County Road 93 in the special policy area identified by the township, it should be mixed-use, multi-residential and affordable housing to meet the township’s needs for this type of housing,” Vadeboncoeur wrote.


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Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Wayne Doyle covers the townships of Springwater, Oro-Medonte and Essa for BarrieToday under the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI), which is funded by the Government of Canada
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