Sustainable Vaughan’s Letter to the Province

Dear Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario, Hon. James Bradley, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Victor Severino, Housing and Assistant Deputy Minister (Growth Secretariat)

Sustainable Vaughan is a collection of concerned and active local citizens representing an organized and educated voice on issues regarding the environment, sustainability and growth within the City of Vaughan.

We are writing to alert you to the undemocratic, biased and unilateral manner in which the City of Vaughan is implementing its Official Plan. In addition to this we request that you do not approve York Region’s Official Plan, with the inclusion of an urban boundary expansion in Vaughan.

The City held its official Open House of its draft official plan on May 3rd (Volume 1) and is having a public hearing concerning the plan on May 17th. This gives citizens only two weeks to digest and understand a document containing over 300 pages. Additionally, there is a volume 2 of the official plan that has yet to be released. The condensed time frame for review and comments is neither fair nor democratic.

Our concerns are regarding the City’s proposed urban expansion onto white belt lands. The City has not proven to the public that the expansion is necessary or that it will not have a negative environmental or economic impact. There have been no environmental or economic studies available to prove this. These studies are requirements before urban expansion can be approved under the Places to Grow Act.

Sustainable Vaughan is not opposed to development and intensification. We do not dispute the numbers assigned by York Region for Vaughan. In fact we strongly believe that the intensification numbers used by the consultants are too low. We’ve consistently argued that the introduction of the Spadina subway line and Viva rapid transit system will allow the City to develop more densely, as was identified in the “Where and How to Grow” document in June 2009, and supported by proposed secondary plans. The official secondary plans along with the final intensification numbers for the Official Plan are yet to be released.

The growth numbers assigned to Vaughan (170,000 people) by York region can be accommodated, as has been shown in the “Where and How to Grow” document in 2009, without the need for white belt development. This was reinforced by the Hemson 2009 report and again in their Final Report April 2010. The city was given two choices, no urban boundary expansion and more intensification or less intensification and urban sprawl.

The City has chosen not to use the potential capacity claiming that the market for intensification type growth will not be realized. There is no market study to prove this assumption. A study has also not been provided to look at the viability of secondary suites (basement apartments) which there is a growing demand for. The intensification numbers for the areas that can accommodate sustainable, transit supportive growth are being lowered while they are also proposing to expand the urban boundary to allow sprawl. This defies the spirit of the Province’s Places to Grow Act.

At no time was the public involved in the decision to expand the urban boundary. The City of Markham is having a public debate over expanding its urban boundary and we in Vaughan have been denied the opportunity to discuss the two options available, expanding the urban boundary or increased intensification within the existing boundary. Markham has also conducted studies as to the cost implications of expanding the urban boundary. Why are two cities within the same region allowed to deal with this sensitive issue so differently?

We are not advocating for a food belt nor do we suggest lowering population targets. If development must occur in the white belt we want it to be dense, transit efficient and tax neutral. We refuse to allow precious farmland and ecologically sensitive land to be paved over by sprawling, low-rise subdivisions as presented at the City’s Open House (as 20 units /ha).

The entire process concerning expansion onto white belt lands has been undemocratic and rushed. We urge the province to step in and demand that York Region and the City of Vaughan establish a five year moratorium on expansion into the white belt lands in Vaughan. This proposal will provide the City with ample time to properly conduct a study concerning expansion and the resulting cost implications.

We also request a more open process where the public will be allowed to debate this very controversial and significant decision, similar to what the City of Markham has conducted. Until that time we do not believe the proposed expansion has been conducted in an open, consultative and democratic manner.

We request your involvement in this matter and that you do not approve York Region’s Official Plan with the inclusion of an urban boundary expansion in Vaughan as it provides for a premature and unjustified urban expansion.

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