Phinjo Gombu
An Ontario Municipal Board hearing into a major employment zone off Highway 400 in Bradford West Gwillimbury is powering ahead despite calls to adjourn it until a Simcoe County growth plan is okayed.
Originally slated to last months, the hearing, which is expected to wrap up this week, moved swiftly yesterday as a lawyer led a planner through the project’s merits.
Until late last year, the province was ready to challenge the Bradford project and a second proposed employment zone farther north, in Innisfil, on the grounds they did not conform to a provincial plan for curbing urban sprawl.
Among other things, officials said there was already an excess of developable land. But after a deal secretly negotiated with a facilitator earlier this year, the province dropped objections.
“The appropriateness of Highway 400 (as an employment zone) has been thoroughly canvassed,” said planner Paul Lowes, acting for the developer. He pointed to a raft of municipal studies supporting it.
The deal doesn’t require public input, so the hearing technically has no issues to address. That leaves opposition to residents who are allowed to participate but don’t have official status as a party to the case.
David Donnelly, a lawyer for the residents, questioned the point of the hearing, saying: “There are 16 lawyers in the room making this look like a serious hearing on the merits of the proposal. But because the matter has already been decided, it”s going to be a very expensive paperweight.”
Municipal Affairs Minister Jim Watson intends to issue an “extraordinary zoning order,” allowing an exception to the growth plan.