Barrie could be first in Ontario to use housing accelerator tool

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Ontario Construction Report staff writer

The City of Barrie could be the first municipality in Ontario to use a new planning tool designed to expedite key development applications. Councillors say they need to be ‘unapologetic’ to approve a 1,000-unit proposal that includes long-term-care beds and a retirement community.

The Community Infrastructure and Housing Accelerator (CIHA) was added into the Planning Act by the Ontario government recently, allowing municipalities to request the municipal affairs and housing minister to issue a zoning order for housing developments, infrastructure subject to approval under the Act, mixed-use projects and buildings that would facilitate employment and economic growth.

“A CIHA can be used to regulate the use of land and the location, use, height, size and spacing of buildings and structures,” Barrie’s development services director Michelle Banfield said at a council meeting last week. “The requesting municipality is responsible for providing public notice and undertaking consultation. In issuing the order, the minister can provide an exemption for other necessary planning-related approvals from provincial plans … and municipal official plans.”

Schlegel Villages submitted the development proposal on behalf of 2144176 Ontario Ltd., requesting rezoning to general commercial with special provisions to permit the following:

  • A Long-Term Care Facility with 192 beds
  • Two Retirement Home/Assisted Living Facilities with a total of 485 suites and 120 dwelling units.
  • Two Residential Apartments with a total of 360 dwelling units

Amenity areas and a range of commercial and related accessory uses would also be developed.

Councillors are calling the proposal “one of the largest long-term-care developers in the province.”

“That’s an opportunity that’s too good to pass on,” said Councillor Sergio Meralis. “CIHA still allows the proper processes to go through but it prioritizes the approval. I look forward to us leading Ontario … in getting more housing approved. We need to be unapologetic about rezoning.”

The CIHA is subject to fewer consultation requirements than a zoning bylaw amendment, but more than a Minister’s Zoning Order. And it can’t be appealed to the Ontario Land Tribunal.

“There is no prescribed timeline for the minister to issue a CIHA order once the request is made,” Banfield said. “However, it is expected that it will be quicker than a traditional zoning bylaw application. Without the ability to appeal, the decision will be in effect immediately.”

The city is accepting comments on the proposal in writing until Sept. 8. Those can be sent to Banfield at michelle.banfield@barrie.ca.

Council is expected to receive a report for consideration in September.

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