By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
New provincial land use rules designed to halt the creep of urban sprawl have city officials and land use planners shrugging their shoulders.
Recently, the city received a request for feedback from the province on its Coordinated Land Use Planning review, which is looking to revamp the guidelines for land use protection in the Greenbelt Plan, the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and the Niagara Escarpment Plan.
Under the proposed new rules, cities would be forced to develop their already “built up” areas and focus intensifying development along major transit corridors.
Among the requirements, which the province labels as working toward “building complete communities,” municipalities will be required to have 60 per cent of annual, new residential development occur within areas that have already seen development.
Municipalities will also be pushed to cluster public services to create community hubs and to identify and protect prime employment areas.
However, for Oshawa, the city’s urban areas can only stretch so far.
“We’re really bound now,” says Mayor John Henry, pointing to such natural boundaries as Highway 407 to the north and the municipal boundaries to the east and west. However, that should not be a major concern for some time, he adds.
“For us, we have set boundaries within the municipality that are there and we have lots of development that we can do for years.”
According to Paul Ralph, the city’s commissioner of development services, some of these lands have been sitting vacant for quite some time.
“We have a lot of pre-zoned areas in the city for intensification that was put in place in 1994 that no one has taken advantage of to date,” he says.
Now, along with the help of community improvement plans, which offer incentives for developers to build in certain areas, such as the downtown or the area near UOIT and Durham College in the north end, Oshawa has the available space to allow for the intensification the province is looking for.
“I think Oshawa is in very good shape right now and our planning department has done a very good job managing the land we have left to grow,” Henry says.
However, some in the development industry see the proposed changes as a stranglehold. The increased emphasis on increased intensification will mean more apartments, more condos and less single family homes, which will only continue to drive the economically high price of a home in the GTA even higher, says Brian Tuckey, the president and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association.
“The residential construction industry will adapt, as it has in the past – it is going to be the residents and new home buyers that are going to pay the price,” he states in a news release.
The proposed changes also include recommendations that could see communities become more walkable and see a greater emphasis placed on protected green space within municipalities.