On Monday, planning and environment committee will consider a proposal from Deputy Mayor Josh Morgan to ignore planning staff's recommendation to refuse a request from Auburn Development to change an open space designation to a low-density residential designation.
The proposal was described as an "innovative land deal" by CTV London. If it is approved, it certainly would be an example of "let's make a deal" planning.
The first part of the deal is a good idea. It involves changing the zoning in an area South of Sunningdale Rd to allow for a new school. So instead of more low-density homes, which the area already has a lot of, a school could be built. Because it is in an area that is already serviced, construction of the school could happen more quickly than waiting for another school block in a new subdivision to become available. Funding for a new school in the Northwest has already been approved by the province.
[updated on 27 Sep] Although TVDSB staff write that the New Northwest PS would help to alleviate the significant over-enrolment issues at Sir Arthur Currie Public School, the approved funding for the New Northwest School is to alleviate the pressure on the students who are currently in a holding zone to X PS [formerly Ryerson] (see page 18 of the TVDSB June 2020 accommodation plan (excerpt below)). A permanent solution for enrolment pressure at Sir Arthur Currie PS is identified as a priority to be re-submitted to the province in the future. My understanding of that is that two new schools in the Northwest are needed, not just one, and that the one new school that is funded now may not address both the holding zone students and the over-enrollment at Sir Arthur Currie PS.
It's the second part of the deal that's a problem. It means ignoring the planning staff recommendation made earlier this year to refuse Auburn's application to change the official plan designation for its lands North of Sunningdale from Open Space to Low Density Residential. These lands are just inside the urban growth boundary but the adjacent lands to the West, North and East are outside of the urban growth boundary. The lands are currently agricultural.
Making matters worse, there's no comprehensive plan for the overall area North of Sunningdale or a servicing plan that will ensure that the lands can be serviced in a cost-effective way. Auburn has proposed temporary servicing, constructed at their cost, but it's the city and property taxpayers that are on the hook for the long-term costs of the servicing.
It's sprawl. And it comes with all the downsides of sprawl.
Solving the school capacity issue is a great idea.
Auburn selling some of their lands South of Sunningdale to the school board looks like a good way to accelerate the construction of a new school in the Northwest.
But not if it leads to premature sprawl development on farmland.
Here are the reasons planning staff gave for refusing the request from Auburn (emphasis added):
- The proposed amendment is not consistent with the PPS 2020 as it does not ensure an appropriate process can be undertaken prior to development which would allow for the integration of land use planning, growth management, transit-supportive development, intensification and infrastructure planning to achieve cost effective development patterns, optimization of transit investments, and standards to minimize land consumption and servicing costs, ensuring that necessary infrastructure and public service facilities are or will be available.
- The proposed amendment does not conform to the in-force policies of the 1989 Official Plan, including but not limited to the Secondary Plan policies, Urban Reserve Community Growth policies and Environmental Review policies.
- The proposed amendment does not conform to the in-force policies of The London Plan, including but not limited to the Key Directions and Secondary Plan policies.
- The requested amendment is premature. The site needs to be considered through a larger planning review process (a secondary plan) to determine its integration within a larger future neighbourhood, the applicable vision and character for the new neighbourhood, what an appropriate land use pattern is for the area, and other technical requirements.
- The subject site is at a key location within the broader planning context and its designation and potential future development without consideration of the surrounding lands is not "big-picture" or long term thinking and if designated in isolation of these land, it could result in future land use, servicing and road network issues.
You can read the full staff report here.
Back in May 2021, municipal council referred this matter to Civic Administration (the vote was 10-4, with Kayabaga, Helmer, Hopkins and Turner opposed and Salih absent) to allow for more discussions with the school board.
The proposal from Deputy Mayor Morgan as well as related letters and comments are available on the planning and environment committee agenda for 27 Sept 2021.