December 18, 2008
Media Release

Regional Council approves Growth Management policy directions based on feedback from public and stakeholders

Sustainability priorities central idea of feedback on managing future growth
NEWMARKET – York Regional Council today approved new policy directions to guide how The Regional Municipality of York will manage future growth.  The policy directions are based on the input of participants in the third phase of Planning for Tomorrow, the Region’s growth management initiative that held consultations across the Region this fall.
This phase of consultations focused on the preferred growth scenario of 40 per cent intensification endorsed by Regional Council in May as the basis for the Region’s growth management plan to 2031.  It also reviewed the policy directions that emerged from the previous phases, including a breakdown of population, jobs and new residential units by local municipality.
“As part of York Region’s Vision 2026 strategic planning exercise, York Region residents expressed a commitment to build strong, caring and safe communities that reflect the kind of community they want, both now and in the future,” said York Region Chairman and CEO Bill Fisch.  “Our residents also stressed ongoing stakeholder involvement and engagement, such as these consultations that our staff conducted over the past three years.”
The provincial growth plan forecasts York Region's population to reach 1.5 million people by 2031.  Adding 500,000 more people in two decades is comparable to adding the population of our two largest cities, Markham and Vaughan, combined.
“Residents were especially interested in the placement of intensification, affordable housing and high quality jobs in York Region,” said Town of Markham Regional Councillor Tony Wong, Chair of York Region’s Planning and Economic Development Committee.  “Discussions will continue with the local municipalities as they undertake their own growth management plans and official plan updates.”
To successfully implement the provincial growth plan, York Region must add 336,000 jobs to reach 800,000 jobs by 2031.  In addition, York Region must add 234,000 households to our existing 276,000 households.
The feedback from the Planning for Tomorrow consultations will be included in the infrastructure master plan updates for water, wastewater, transit and transportation and will guide Regional staff in reviewing and updating the Regional Official Plan.  The main issues heard throughout Phase 3 included:
Location and Form of Intensification
Residents expressed interest in where intensification would and would not occur, what it would look like and how it should fit aesthetically with the adjoining community.
Housing Preferences and Mixed Use
Residents questioned development such as big box, strip malls and single detached dwellings, while advocating more mixed-use development.
Better Community Design
Residents supported the creation of complete communities that are walkable, pedestrian-friendly and include local shops, bike lanes, piazzas and employment along transit lines.
Best Practices in New Development and Retrofits
Residents urged the use of best practices in new development as well as retrofits of existing buildings, requiring “green” technologies to increase the efficiency of electrical and water systems.
York Region needs more Affordable Housing
The lack of affordable housing in York Region is an issue.  Many people who work in York Region cannot afford to live here.  Second suites were suggested as a way to alleviate the demand for affordable housing and more community dialogue is needed to address NIMBY-ism.
Provision of Human Services
Residents expressed the need for adequate Human Services in York Region.  Sufficient funding is needed to enable these services to keep pace with the forecasted growth.  York Region was urged to plan for culture, diversity and heritage.
High Quality Jobs for all of York Region
Residents noted that York Region has a highly-educated work force and requires high-quality jobs across the Region, not just in the southern municipalities, to ensure short commuting distances.
Protection of our Natural Heritage and Agricultural Lands
Residents emphasize the need to preserve agricultural lands and protect natural heritage in York Region, especially the 69 per cent of the Region that is protected from development and in the green space corridors beside future developments in the Whitebelt.
Based on feedback from the public and stakeholders, the following policy directions are recommended as public input to update Regional Official Plan policies:
Protect and enhance the Region’s Natural Heritage System
The identification of an enhanced linked natural heritage system is underway and will be incorporated into the Regional Official Plan.  It will include the Greenbelt Plan, the Lake Simcoe Protection Strategy and additional natural heritage features.
Finalization of a detailed Intensification Strategy
Local municipalities will identify the locations of approximately 90,000 intensification units region-wide.  Identifying affordable housing will be encouraged.  York Region will assess our housing needs and update our Housing Supply Strategy.
Strengthen Regional Official Plan policies regarding community design with best practices
Feedback and recommendations from a Best Practices for New Communities workshop held this month will be used to update development criteria in the Regional Official Plan.  New communities will be more compact, more complete, include a new generation of sustainable community design and be fully integrated with infrastructure design emphasizing transit and walking.
Accommodate urban boundary expansion with Regional Official Plan amendment
To achieve the 2031 population and job forecasts, York Region will carefully phase new development into the whitebelt lands based on a new generation of community design and Region-wide targets of 40 per cent intensification and 50 people and jobs per hectare.
Identify Agricultural and Rural lands for long-term protection
This winter, consultations will be held to review long term agricultural and rural land designations.  Results will be incorporated into the Regional Official Plan via a Greenbelt Conformity Amendment.
For more information, please see the Region’s growth management website where staff posted the feedback and recorded results of each Town Hall meeting.
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Media Contact Tim Paleczny, Corporate Communications Specialist, York Region
 Phone: 905 830-4444 Ext. 1238, 416 297-9696 or Toll free 1-877-464-9675

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