Ten out of ten to Newmarket Today for covering the Greenbelt story.

Here, King Mayor Steve Pellegrini tells Newmarket Today what really happened. My comments are in italics.

King mayor pushes back 

King Mayor Steve Pellegrini denied having any advance knowledge that the Greenbelt lands would be open for development. He said he has asked Stiles (the new NDP Leader) for a formal apology.

Just bluster… asking for an apology.

He said he has never spoken with Ford or Clark on the matter.

This is a red herring. No-one has ever suggested he did.

 Pellegrini said they have been looking for a new site for a Southlake Regional Health Centre since 2019, and had explored the area for that reason. He said a different landowner had offered land in that vicinity.

By 2021 it was common knowledge that Southlake was looking for a second (greenfield) site. How did Pellegrini go about looking for a suitable site in King? How did they “explore the area”? Who was involved in the search? Pellegrini says a different landowner had offered land in the vicinity? Who was that landowner and was he or she gifting the land to Southlake? Will Pellegrini disclose this information to the Integrity Commissioner if he feels unable to give details now?

The Land Registry map below shows adjacent parcels of land to the Rice lands. Were any of these parcels offered to Southlake?

Rice made the deal months before it closed in September 2022

When Rice bought the King Greenbelt lands in the summer, Pellegrini said they met to talk about it. He said there was no indication at that time the Greenbelt land would be opened for housing development, and Rice did not indicate anything like that.

Who asked for the meeting and when precisely did it take place? And what was its purpose – for Rice to tell Pellegrini that he had just bought land for land-banking purposes?  The Globe and Mail reports that Pellegrini said it was a routine meeting with a developer who had recently purchased land in his municipality. Pellegrini understood Rice had actually made the deal months before it finally closed in September.

“We met with them, we said, ‘Wow, you’re buying Greenbelt, you plan on farming?” Pellegrini recounted. “They came out and upfront and said ‘we have land holdings all over Ontario and Canada.’”

The Globe and Mail reports that Pellegrini says was it was him, not Rice, who suggested the site as a potential location for a new branch of Southlake Regional Health Centre.

“I asked Mike Rice, this is the whole thing, I asked him, would you donate land if we could get a hospital? And he said yes,” the mayor said. “That’s the only time I’ve talked to him.”

 They are doing what they all do: land bank

“Quite frankly, I just assumed they were doing what many others do, and land bank,” Pellegrini added.

It was only at that meeting – the first apparently of two - that Pellegrini discovered that some of the lands would be made available for a hospital.

But at that point, Pellegrini said he did ask Rice if some of his land could be made available for a Southlake site, and Rice said yes.

So… it was only after being asked the direct question that Rice admitted that some of his lands would go to Southlake. So coy. He was waiting to be asked.

Minister's Zoning Orders

Even though the land was still Greenbelt, Pellegrini said the province would have the authority to put a hospital there and keep it Greenbelt.

That’s just a statement of fact. Minister’s Zoning Orders can over-ride regional and local plans and decide on zoning.

 “A hospital is a provincial institution. It is permitted in the Greenbelt. We’re not asking for it (the lands) to be removed (from the Greenbelt),” he said. “We’re asking for a hospital. It’s no different than a highway or a transit.”Asked about that going against the spirit of the Greenbelt as untouched greenspace and farmland, Pellegrini said the province would have to factor that against other community needs.“You would have to weigh the health and wellness of the community, as well,” he said, adding that Southlake is “bursting at the seams.” 

True. Southlake is bursting at the seams. But there are locations where it could expand - outside the Greenbelt.

With Rice agreeing to provide some land, Pellegrini said they held a meeting Nov. 1 to talk about it with Southlake representatives. He said the timing of the provincial Greenbelt announcement Nov. 4 was coincidental, and they had no idea it was coming.

Who represented Southlake? On whose authority? When did Southlake first learn - and from whom - that land would be made available for a "nominal fee"?

Pellegrini said King is not in favour of lands being taken out of the Greenbelt. The township passed another resolution Dec. 12, stating it is not in favour of changing the Greenbelt boundaries and asking the province to ensure natural heritage areas remain protected and the development will have high environmental standards. It also asks for 25 per cent of the units to come there be dedicated as affordable housing. The township’s resolution on the Southlake site also specifies that it opposes provincial plans to redesignate a portion of King's Oak Ridges Moraine as a settlement area. That area is situated right next to the Greenbelt lands in King.“I’m just advocating, like any other mayor in the region, to have a hospital in their community,” he said.

Other questions

One other point I keep returning to... Is there a continuing financial relationship between Bob Schickedanz (who sold the Greenbelt land) and Michael Rice (who bought it) which would give the former a slice of the increased land value once the lands become developable?
Schickendanz could be a silent partner, investing some of his $80M in Rice’s private company. 
The question is: why would Bob Schickendanz accept $80M for land that he knew would be worth exponentially more just two months later as redesignated Greenbelt land, open for development?

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Update on 2 February 2023 from the Globe and Mail: King Township Mayor says he wasn't aware of Greenbelt plans in advance

From CTV Toronto 1 February 2023. and from Global News.