An angry Taylor said he had never voted against a budget or an official plan at local or regional level in 16 years as an elected official.
So this was a big deal.
Taylor warned his colleagues the Plan would encourage sprawl.
Regional Council ambushed with last-minute amendments
And he sharply criticized fellow members of York Regional Council for bringing large numbers of amendments forward at the last moment, precluding any detailed analysis or input from the regional staff.
“These significant amendments came forward largely with only a verbal explanation from a member of council. I cannot support this approach to planning. Some have even been brought back a second time to be expanded upon with still no written analysis. There are close to 20 employment land conversions not supported by staff and are largely unaccompanied by any analysis of any nature.”
Although Taylor was careful not to name anyone in particular it is clear he had Markham’s Mayor, Frank Scarpitti, and Vaughan's Maurizio Bevilacqua in his sights when he made the accusation.
Taylor believes the entire process has been subverted by the long list of pro-development eleventh-hour amendments to the plan.
Development will go to unserviced land, miles away from transit
Taylor told the meeting the Official Plan would open up 7,785 acres of land in the so-called Whitebelt for development. This land, which appears white in Growth Plan maps, lies between settlement areas and the Greenbelt and was seen as a reserve to accommodate growth in the long-term once existing settlements like Newmarket had been built-out with more intensive development.
The 7,785 acres identified by Taylor is about 12 square miles. The Town of Newmarket covers about 14.8 square miles. He told his colleagues they were choosing sprawl over intensification – and it was not sustainable, environmentally, socially or financially.
Taylor quoted a study in Ottawa which showed the costs of building infrastructure to service new developments in open country costs way more than within existing settlements. Taylor said the Hemson report showed:
“intensified forms of housing save a city about $600 per year, per unit. While new community housing or subdivisions cost the city around $450 per year per unit.”
Taylor said the final version of the Regional Official Plan was too flawed to get his support.
Newmarket’s Deputy Mayor, Tom Vegh, who relies heavily on contributions from developers to fund his election campaigns, did not speak in the debate but voted to endorse the plan, complete with all the last-minute amendments.
The Regional Official Plan now goes to the Regional Council on 30 June 2022 for final approval.
Read Taylor's speech by clicking below.
Newmarket Mayor John Taylor speaking in the Committee of the Whole debate on 16 June 2022 on the adoption of York Regional Official Plan
It has been a long process. This is the culmination of the process and we have a democratic right to vote yes or no. And it’s difficult as has been pointed out by others. Just my thoughts, I guess. And I’ve written these comments.
It is with much regret that I will not be supporting the 2022 Regional Official Plan. To put it in perspective I've never voted against the budget or an official plan of the Region or the Town of Newmarket in my almost 16 years on both councils.
I'm primarily voting against the official plan update due to the fact that it is built on and around council directed amendments and a 50% to 55% intensification rate with 55% intensification only being in effect in 2041.
Therefore, official plan approved intensification rate is 50% for the next two decades. I would point out that we are already basically achieving this number over the last number of years. I believe we should have a modestly aspirational target at the very least such as 60% or even 55% now. But we're not doing that.
So what does this number achieve? It achieves 3,150 hectares or 7,785 acres of Whitebelt lands being designated for development now.
For example, instead of 30% of East Gwillimbury Whitebelt lands coming into community lands 70% are doing so. Even though the land cannot be serviced until the yet to be built upper York sewage plant is expanded – twice. This is in my humble opinion a clear example that we're choosing sprawl over intensification.
The data, the math, the science is clear - sprawl is not sustainable, environmentally, socially or financially.
The Ottawa Hemson report recently established that intensified forms of housing save a city about $600 per year, per unit. While new community housing or subdivisions cost the city around $450 per year per unit.
We cannot afford to be so unambitious when it comes to intensification. Our own report today points out that growth under this plan requires 0.6% tax levy increase per year over and above planned increases. That's about $7 million per year additionally that we must raise from taxes.
I wonder what the required increase would be under a plan with greater levels of intensification. I only wonder this because we do not have the comparative financial analysis except through extrapolation of the Hemson report.
We're facing a climate crisis. Most towns and cities have formally recognized this. Yet we're not demonstrating understanding of this crisis through our planning documents.
Finally, we know that low density Greenfield development also known as sprawl does not provide housing for those most in need. It's very expensive. It generally lacks rental options and it is under-serviced by transit. This type of development is not socially sustainable either.
I will state that I am also voting against this official plan due to the large number of amendments that do not benefit from a staff analysis of either upper or the lower tier.
These significant amendments came forward largely with only a verbal explanation from a member of council. I cannot support this approach to planning. Some have even been brought back a second time to be expanded upon with still no written analysis. There are close to 20 employment land conversions not supported by staff and are largely unaccompanied by any analysis of any nature.
I accept that no budget, no official plan update meets every expectation or measure of any councillor and some have said that. However, for me on this occasion this final document is too flawed in my opinion to support.
The long-term implications of the intensification rate which forms the basis of this official plan is not in the best interest of our residents in my opinion.
Furthermore, the large number of employment land conversions and various modifications lacking written analysis also left me unable to vote in favour of this plan.
I believe we must act now to develop land use policies that are more financially, environmentally and socially sustainable and therefore I will not be supporting the recommendations today. I will of course continue enthusiastically to participate in council deliberations on all of our collective efforts to build a great Region for the future of our residents.
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