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Ministry moving forward with releasing 407 lands

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

In response to a call from Oshawa city council, the province has let the city know they are moving ahead with the process that could see lands surrounding the newly developed sections of Highway 407 released for development.

During council’s final regular meeting of 2017, a motion brought forward by Mayor John Henry asking the province to release the lands that surround the tolled highway in order to initiate the process for companies to start developing in the area.

“The province has not identified their intentions for the employment lands located along Highway 407 East from Pickering through to Harmony Road in Oshawa,” the motion reads. “These lands can be utilized for job creation and growth within the Region of Durham.”

For that reason, the letter sent directly to the province requested the Ministry of Transportation release the employment lands adjacent to the tolled highway, and the extended section through Oshawa.

“It has been open for almost a year now…there’s no need for the province to continue to hold these lands,” Mayor Henry said at the time. “Now that the road has been built and is operating and the province still has control over those lands, it’s time to look at releasing them and creating employment opportunities for the residents of Durham Region.”

Now, the province has made it clear that they are taking the first step forward in the process to release the lands, but it is the first of many.

“As MTO moves towards releasing property adjacent to the Highway 407 corridor, there are a few matters that must be taken into consideration,” states Teepu Khawja, the regional director for the central region of the Ministry of Transportation, in a response letter to the city. “Firstly, any property being protected in accordance with the approved Environmental Assessment (EA) (I.e., future transitway or deferred interchanges) will be retained by the ministry. Additionally, there are lands required, outside of the Highway 407 transportation corridor, to meet the 1:1 commitment for forest and wetland restoration, and to satisfy the ‘overall benefit’ requirements of the Endangered Species Act permits.”

After those classifications have been made, the letter continues, then any surplus lands will be opened up to interested developers.

“Any property declared surplus to MTO will then be made available to other Provincial Ministries, Crown Agencies, and/or local municipality to determine their interest in the property. Should there be no government interest, then lands are offered to the general public,” the letter reads.

At this point, no timeline has been provided for the process.

The first phase of the extended highway, which opened in 2016, is seeing approximately 40,000 drivers a day, according to numbers from the province. The final phase, scheduled to open in 2020, will connect Highway 407 to Highway 115, and include Highway 418, which will connect the toll road north/south to Highway 401.