Council formally objects to Bloomington MZO

·4 min read

It has been subject to a war of words between Steve Clark, Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and Mayor Tom Mrakas, but objections to a Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO) to transform lands on Bloomington Road, just west of Yonge Street, into a housing development and long-term care residence now has the full backing of Council.

Lawmakers last week endorsed a motion from Mayor Mrakas calling on Council to state it does not and has never supported the MZO issued last August and the decision be repealed.

Despite a pre-emptive letter from the Minister to the Mayor responding to the motion, a letter which the Ministry released concurrently to media outlets, stating they have no intention of rescinding the order and will develop what they want on their own land, Council pressed forward with the motion.

“We were never consulted as a municipality in regards to this MZO being issued,” said the Mayor to his motion. “This is not about a long-term care (LTC) facility, I would welcome a LTC facility… and I think all of us sitting around this table would welcome a LTC facility, [but] the LTC facility could have been built on lands we previously zoned before the MZO was issued. This is not a question about allowing a LTC facility, what this MZO does allow…is our highest density single-dwelling attached homes. This is also not affordable housing because these homes, we all know, will be built and sold at a million dollars each. This would add, at minimum, 18 units per acre, an 800 per cent increase from what we did zone this area to a residential area [in the Official Plan] which only allows for two units per acre.

“If this application came before us [in Planning] saying they wanted to increase the units to 18 units per acre, we’d all say no and kick them out of our Chamber. We’re all disappointed…this was issued without any consultation with us and I think we need to send that message.”

Council agreed, voting unanimously in favour of the motion.

First to voice their support for the motion was Councillor Wendy Gaertner who said it was time for Council to raise its voice.

“It is important we speak up about this not only for our municipality but for other municipalities as well who have been negatively impacted,” she said.

Councillor Michael Thompson said he supported the motion and this is a view that has been “very consistent” around the Council table.

“We always want to be consulted when something is going on within our municipality, even if it is Federal or Provincial jurisdiction,” he said. “When it comes to cell towers, even though that falls under the Federal Telecommunications Act…municipalities have always said they should be part of the consultation process. As we have seen over the years, they amended that process to ensure municipalities have an opportunity for feedback even though the final say might rest with the Federal authorities. No different than Canada Post and the [community] mailboxes when they came to Aurora. There was great concern because we weren’t consulted on that either and Aurora took a stand on that as well.

“If you’re going to do something within the Town of Aurora, at minimum you need to consult with us. You need to inform us and have us as part of the process and not just move forward.”

Councillor John Gallo added that he too was “disappointed” the Province didn’t communicate with the Town, even if they didn’t have to “because it is their land.”

“It doesn’t matter, they should have and it would be nice to go through the proper process for us to have a thorough discussion on things that are being built in our community and I didn’t appreciate that,” he said. “Notwithstanding the idea is good in terms of long-term care, we all agree with that, but the process needs to be followed and I don’t believe it was.”

Also supportive of the motion was Councillor Rachel Gilliland who said she objected to the Province’s position that moving forward would make a difference in the shortage of “affordable housing” in this community.

“I am not so sure that would have changed anything,” she said. “I don’t like the term ‘affordable housing’ because that definition is very convoluted, but it would definitely open the market up for more people to say this is right and how this was done. I do understand there was also an environmental assessment that will occur and I am definitely going to make sure and fight for that as well because I think the overarching reason why the Official Plan had wanted to have lower density there was because of the environmental impact.”

Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran