Midland’s Community & Growth For 2024

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Your council has built a great team in our Community & Growth department (formerly known as planning) and given them some big tasks to achieve in 2024 and beyond. Not only are we working on unlocking more housing and economic development land in our community, we’ve re-built our relationships with our developers, we’ve been getting through the backlog of approvals and settling past legal appeals, getting our waterfront master plan and waterfront (former Midland Bay Landing) projects back on track with the changes the community elected us to make and we are working to correct Natural Heritage Designations that were misapplied in our official plan update last term. A comprehensive report is on our agenda this Wednesday evening, and I’d encourage you to review all that we are doing this year. Click here to review the Strategic Land Use Planning Initiatives Work Plan 2024 report.

2024 Strategic Land Use Planning Initiatives

  • Official Plan Natural Heritage System Review
  • Midland Bay Landing RFP
  • Balm Beach RFP
  • Housing Needs Assessment
  • Waterfront Master Plan
  • Official Plan Conformity Exercise (Phase 2): Site Plan By-Law & Process Review / Zoning By-Law Housekeeping
  • County Road 93 North Secondary Plan
  • Planning Application Program Purchase and Roll-out
  • Review of Municipal Heritage Register / Cultural Heritage Value Evaluations
  • Resolution to Official Plan and Development Application Appeals

I’ll share the details of the top two items that many in the community are eager to see us move ahead with.

Midland Bay Landing RFP

Midland Bay Landing is a strategically significant property that is owned by the Town. At its October 18, 2023 meeting, Council authorized staff to issue a new RFP for the entire Midland Bay Landing site, in an effort to secure a developer for site. To ensure this initiative is successful, its roll-out needs to occur after the Waterfront Master Plan. This is because the development of the Midland Bay Landing site requires a well-defined plan, conformance with the Town’s Official Plan and financial viability. Further, in order to make a viable proposal, the development industry will require certainty in the planning approval process.

Further, the amount of saleable land needs to be established to determine potential return on investment. With this information developers that bid on the RFP will understand whether increases in densities are required to ensure a high-quality public realm is provided. At minimum, the RFP should be released following the establishment of strategic goals of the WMP. That way the goals of the WMP can be used to guide the deliverables of the RFP.

Note: There will be ample rounds of public consultation once the RFP submissions come in. The community will help us review and choose the best submission and be part of every step in the process. Transparency and collaboration will be core tenants of this new process. We will ensure that the public access to the entire shoreline and the new requirement for dedicated parkland you demanded is part of every submission. Getting this RFP built right is our first priority. The quality of the submissions that come in rely on the accuracy of this document.

Budget: $100,000 for External Consultant
Lead: External Consultant, Planning Services Department and Environment and Infrastructure Staff
Start Date: Q2-Q3 2024
Completion Date: Q4 2024

Natural Heritage Review – Official Plan

The Town’s new Official Plan (OP) provides comprehensive land use direction on all matters, including environmental protection. The land use policies in the OP are applied through various land use designations, such as the Natural Heritage designation. Land use designations are applicable to lands throughout the Town as shown in OP schedules. In the years since the approval of the Town’s new OP, staff have, through its implementation of the policies, identified that the Natural Heritage designation and associated mapping are creating unforeseen administrative barriers to development. Specifically, the Natural Heritage designation policies and mapping are triggering a requirement to amend the Town’s new OP for a variety of minor development applications.

Typically, amendments to a municipality’s OP are only required when a development contravenes or cannot satisfy the land use policy framework approved for the Town by Council or when lands need to be re-designated to allow for urban uses/development. However, staff have identified that some of the development that has triggered an amendment to the OP do not meet any of the criteria outlined above. Rather, in most cases, the development is minor in line with good planning principles of intensification and compact built form and make efficient use of existing infrastructure. Further, these minor developments often occur on lands that are partially or almost completely developed, which leads to questions as to the accuracy of the Natural Heritage designation mapping.

To address the issues raised above, staff are going to complete a review of the Natural Heritage land use designation mapping and associated policies in two separate phases.

Phase 1 would review the Natural Heritage designation where it has been applied to urban lands (e.g. fully or partially developed) in small and isolated pockets. Phase 2 would consist of a more comprehensive review of the Town’s entire natural heritage system and the natural heritage designation policies in the Town’s Official Plan. The goal of phase 1 is to identify which lands, if any, that are subject to the natural heritage designation could be redesignated to allow further development or intensification to occur. Further, Phase 1 would introduce a natural heritage overlay.

This overlay would apply to any lands redesignated out of the natural heritage designation. The purpose of the overlay would be to ensure that should development occur, it would still be required to conform to applicable environmental protection plans (e.g. Source Protection) and policies (e.g. Provincial Policy Statement) but would not require an Official Plan Amendment. Rather, the applicant would be required to work with Town staff to evaluate a property for natural heritage features, and if none are found, the development could proceed. In the case of larger development proposals, and depending on the type of development proposed, site plan approval or a zoning by-law amendment, or both, may still be required.

In the case of a smaller development proposal, such as an alteration or addition to an existing structure, development could proceed directly to a building permit should it be determined that no environmental assessments are required. While the Town’s Official plan provides some direction as to when Official Plan amendments are not required (i.e. minor adjustments to the boundary of the natural heritage designation), the language does not provide sufficient criteria or direction as to when this is appropriate.

This ambiguity has caused frustration and concern that the natural heritage designation was applied inaccurately. More broadly, the natural heritage policies, as written, have triggered Official Plan amendments due to lack of clarity. Phase 1 of this initiative would attempt to resolve this situation.

The goal of phase 2 is to review the balance of the natural heritage designation to identify areas of the Town which make up part of a broader natural heritage system, so that it can be protected over the long term. In doing so, areas of the Town that are not part of a broader natural heritage system, or are intended for development over the long term, are identified appropriately and policies are put in place to allow their development following a detailed and site-specific environmental evaluation.

Budget: $75,000
Lead: Planning Staff & Consultants
Start Date: Q1 2024
Completion Date: Phase 1 – 2024 / Phase 2 – 2025

There are many more community & growth projects on the go this year and you can read more about them here.

In short, we are getting things done!