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When public consultation really isn’t

Here’s the issue. The government can’t tell people where to live (at least not yet) so it is expected that a desirable location like Halton is going to double its population to 1 million people and create 470,000 jobs by 2041. So the question then is where to put all these people? As a result the Region of Halton is looking for input into possible revisions its official regional plan. The official plan determines where people can live, employment areas, green space and so on. Doubling the population will mean either extending the urban boundary, something that has been resisted in Burlington and Oakville or increasing density, which means high-rises—lots of them. The Region held a series of four open houses in September on ZOOM to discuss various aspects of the Plan. Topics included:

  • Climate Change: Thursday, September 3, 2020
  • North Aldershot Planning Area: Wednesday, September 9, 2020
  • Regional Urban Structure (Integrate Growth Management Strategy): Thursday, September 10, 2020
  • Rural and Agricultural System and Natural Heritage System (combined PIC): Thursday, September 18, 2020

Anyone who missed these virtual open houses can access the presentations here.

The same link will allow respondents to register for a virtual public meeting that will take place Wednesday November 18th. Also the link takes you to to five discussion papers totalling just under 400 pages. After reading the discussion papers respondents are invited to answer the following questions.

1. How can the Regional Official Plan further support the development of Urban Growth Centres?

2. Should the Region consider the use of Inclusionary Zoning in Protected Major Transit Station Areas to facilitate the provision of affordable housing?

3. Should the Region consider the use of the Protected Major Transit Station Areas tool under the Planning Act, to protect the Major Transit Station Areas policies in the Regional Official Plan and local official plans from appeal? If so, should all Major Transit Station Areas be considered or only those Major Transit Station Areas on Priority Transit Corridors?

4. From the draft boundaries identified in Appendix B and the Major Transit Station Area boundary delineation methodology outlined, do you have any comments on the proposed boundaries? Is there anything else that should be considered when delineating the Major Transit Station Areas?

5. How important are Major Transit Station Areas as a component of Halton’s Regional Urban Structure? What is your vision for these important transportation nodes?

6. Building on the 2041 Preliminary Recommended Network from the Determining Major Transit Requirement, should corridors be identified as Strategic Growth Areas in the Regional Official Plan? Is so, should a specific minimum density target be assigned to them?

7. Should the Regional Official Plan identify additional multi-purpose and minor arterial roads in the Regional Urban Structure, not for the purposes of directing growth, but to support a higher order Regional transit network?

8. Are there any other nodes in Halton that should be identified within the Regional Official Plan from a growth or mobility perspective (i.e. on Map 1)? If so, what should the function of these nodes be and should a density target or unit yield be assigned in the Regional Official Plan?

9. Are there any other factors that should be considered when assessing Employment Area conversion requests in Halton Region?

10.Are there any areas within Halton Region that should be considered as a candidate for addition to an Employment Area in the Regional Official Plan?

11. How can the Regional Official Plan support employment growth and economic activity in Halton Region?

12.What type of direction should the Regional Official Plan provide regarding planning for uses that are ancillary to or supportive of the primary employment uses in employment areas? Is there a need to provide different policy direction or approaches in different Employment Areas, based on the existing or planned employment context?

13.How can the Regional Official Plan support planning for employment on lands outside Employment Areas, and in particular, within Strategic Growth Areas and on lands that have been converted? What policies tools or approaches can assist with ensuring employment growth and economic activity continues to occur and be planned for within these areas?

14.Are there other factors, besides those required by the Growth Plan, Regional Official Plan or Integrated Growth Management Strategy Evaluation Framework that Halton Region should consider when evaluating the appropriate location for potential settlement area expansions?

15.What factors are important for the Region to consider in setting a minimum Designated Greenfield Area (DGA) density target for Halton Region as whole, and for each of the Local Municipalities? Should the Region use a higher minimum Designated Greenfield Area density target than the 50 residents and jobs per hectare target in the Growth Plan?

16.Are there any additional considerations or trends that Halton Region should review in terms of the Regional Urban Structure component of the Regional Official Plan Review?

Easy, eh? The obvious question is how could anybody but the most dedicated policy wonk, or a developer, or a planning consultant have any hope of making meaningful contribution to this process? It may be that planning is so complicated that it is simply impossible to make it more accessible to ordinary people. At the end of the day it may be nobody’s fault; but nobody should be under the impression that the exercise in which Halton is currently engaged is anything but inside baseball.

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