Oro-Medonte eyeing mediation to solve Barrie boundary battle

Oro-Medonte council will decide this afternoon if the township should reach out to the province’s facilitation services for help regarding the City of Barrie’s boundary expansion plans.

During a special session, Oro-Medonte council will review a report from the township’s manager of planning special projects, which seeks council to authorize staff to contact the Provincial Land and Development Facilitator to request assisted mediation regarding the Barrie’s request to expand their municipal boundary into the neighbouring municipality.

“The Provincial Land and Development Facilitator’s role is to help the province, municipalities, developers, businesses and community groups resolve issues related to growth management, land-use and infrastructure planning, and environmental protection by providing impartial facilitation services or by acting as a negotiator on behalf of the province,” George Vadeboncoeur, the township's manager of planning special projects, wrote in his report to council.

“There is merit to considering options for the provision of employment lands in the spirit of co-operation and partnership with the province, County of Simcoe and the City of Barrie, that is beneficial to all parties," he added. "The township has a need for serviced residential lands for the provision of medium-density housing."

In his report, Vadeboncoeur also said all options should be explored in collaboration with Barrie and Simcoe County.

In January, officials from Oro-Medonte met with Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Paul Calandra, who told them municipalities and upper tiers of government are expected to work co-operatively.

At the Feb. 14 council meeting, Oro-Medonte council confirmed the township did not support Barrie’s proposed boundary expansion as presented. At the same time, the township said it was prepared to work with the City of Barrie to find an amicable solution to address its employment land needs based on a comprehensive planning process that works for Oro-Medonte, Barrie, Simcoe County and the province.

Council also authorized staff to prepare additional background documentation in support of the ongoing discussions with Barrie.

Since that meeting, letters were sent to Barrie and Calandra letting them know Oro-Medonte’s decision.

According to Vadeboncoeur’s report, informal discussions between Oro-Medonte Mayor Greenlaw and Barrie Mayor Alex Nuttall have occurred regarding the expansion proposal, but nothing concrete has emerged.

“In keeping with Minister Calandra’s comments, the Provincial Land and Development Facilitator could be of assistance to work with the parties to arrive at a solution that meets the goals/objectives of both municipalities and the County of Simcoe,” Vadeboncoeur wrote. “Township representatives have been advised that the provincial facilitator is available upon request to address these types of matters.”

The provincial facilitation process allows a third party to review the proposals and alternatives submitted by each municipality in an objective manner and can result in recommended potential solutions.

According to Vadeboncoeur’s report, this is a voluntary process and if Oro-Medonte council were to approve the request, Barrie and Simcoe County would be approached to participate.

Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BarrieToday.com