A Downtown Development Project with Sustainable Intent

The past few months has seen a flurry of submissions for Ministerial Zoning Orders (MZO) in the City of Brampton. So the first refreshing thing about the new development being proposed for the southeast corner of Nelson and Elizabeth Streets is that the applicant, Greenwin + Sweeny Holdings, is not requesting fast-track consideration via an MZO.

The development checks boxes for many of the City’s Sustainable Community Development Guidelines including, compact form, mixed use, walkability and cultural heritage. The project plan includes two towers, 42 and 34 stories respectively that will provide a mix of 205 hotel suites, 694 sq m of retail space, and 771 long-term rental residential units, 40 of which will be affordable housing. The project’s location and building concept is designed to enhance walkability and to “attract residents who will want to live in alignment with ‘One Planet Living’ principles.”

Initially the buildings will provide 477 vehicular parking spaces on four floors, one below grade and three above. The three above grade parking levels, however, can be repurposed for additional commercial or residential space, as Brampton’s GO transit hub expands services and the need for personal automobiles lessens.

The project will conserve and restore the heritage property at 24 Elizabeth, once home to Brampton’s first Mayor, John Haggert from 1874-76. The house could be repurposed as a hostel or restaurant/café with an outdoor patio. Landscaping amenities including street trees and public art help flesh out the project description.

As details emerge we will be looking for the project to include innovative sustainability features in the final design such as, ground sourced energy for HVAC, solar panels and or green roof systems, grey water management systems and, bird friendly windows. 

The city is creating a Centre for Energy Transformation that will be operational in the next two years with the intent to make Brampton and Peel Region a world leader in energy management and carbon reduction. Imagine this development as a model of sustainable urban design in Brampton’s downtown.  We are excited by the possibilities!

Brampton Council rejects motion to reconsider highway 413 position

Heritage Heights Boulevard (artist interpretation)

During today’s meeting the motion to reconsider the City’s support for Highway 413 was defeated. A two-thirds majority vote was required to reopen the topic but the request put forward by Councillor Whillans and seconded by Councillor Santos was rejected in a 6-5 vote. Here’s how the vote went.

Councillor Bowman
Councillor Palleschi
Councillor Santos
Councillor Vicente
Councillor Whillans

Mayor Brown
Councillor Dhillon
Councillor Fortini
Councillor Medeiros
Councillor Williams
Councillor Singh

Check out last week’s post, Brampton Council to revisit support for the 413, for more background information. Council’s previous support for this highway was predicated on the boulevard option for Heritage Heights. The Province recently firmly rejected this option when the highway is built.

Why does this vote mean so much? It’s important for many reasons but here are the two key takeaways. First it gives the Conservative Provincial Government’s position to fast-track this highway a boost just as momentum and public opinion was shifting towards scrapping the project. Recent public opinion polls suggested more than 80% of people living in the 905 region did not want the Province to build highways that would negatively affect the Greenbelt. Municipalities from Markham to Mississauga have been passing motions stating their opposition. Brampton’s move, however, helps reinforce the Provincial Government’s position that this is a much needed highway that trumps environmental and other concerns.

Second, this vote indicates that Council is willing to compromise its principles of good city planning in order to placate its Provincial masters. This is worrisome because it means all of the statements and commitments made by this Council to date are nothing more than empty promises that the residents of this City can no longer count on. It’s the same old story all over again. Visions, plans and promises are mere candles in the wind, extinguished by a “puff” from a developer here and a “sigh” from our Premier there.

Those of us who hold dear Brampton’s 2040 Vision and who want desperately for this City to grow in prosperity yet grow green and sustainably, have reason to despair today’s decision. Remember this at election time, when the candidates come knocking.

Rogers Communications Inc. requests City Council support two Ministerial Zoning Orders

Less than a week after Committee of Council voted to refer the City’s use of Ministerial Zoning Orders to staff, Council is being asked to support two more MZOs.

The latest request is from Rogers Communications Inc. which is looking to build a new 200,000 square foot office/retail complex in Brampton’s downtown in the block south of Railroad St., east of Elizabeth St. N. and west of George St. N. The land in question is currently mostly open field and a disused surface parking lot.

8200 Dixie Rd. (Photo Google Maps)

Rogers is also seeking an MZO that would permit the conversion of existing space held at 8200 Dixie Rd. into 1.2M square feet for industrial logistics uses plus up to 25 acres for residential development along Dixie Rd with a range of housing types being proposed.

The Rogers proposal involves much needed investment in both housing and jobs in the downtown core. The Rogers downtown site would support approximately 3,000 employees relocated from the Dixie Rd. location and establish the downtown as a “transit-oriented” complete community. This would likely act as a catalyst for further downtown investments and strengthen support for extending the HuLRT up Main St. to the Brampton GO station.

What isn’t clear is why the need for an MZO that would effectively cut the public out of the planning process and limit the time available for staff to analyze the impact of these major developments on the City’s land use plans, sustainable development goals and environmental protections.

The development proposals may be just the right thing for Brampton at this time. But why the rush? How will the opportunity be affected by taking the necessary time to step through the City’s planning process? On the other hand, what’s the risk to the City of not taking the time to analyze the proposals impact? If these MZO are approved by Council, we may not know, until it is too late. It will be interesting to see if Council votes to support the MZO requests or if it will give staff the time to analyze and develop a process for MZO approvals. More information on the City’s use of MZOs can be found here.

Brampton Council to revisit support for the 413

Heritage Heights Boulevard (artist interpretation)

January 23, 2022

In an interesting move, two Brampton Councillors are asking that the City withdraw its support for highway 413. It was previously thought that the Provincial Government would support the City’s plan of a “Boulevard” option for the portion of the highway running through the Heritage Heights sub-division in the City’s northwest. More details about the Boulevard design can be found on the City’s website.

Evidently, the Ministry of Transportation has indicated they will not be incorporating the urban boulevard into their corridor planning, but rather will continue to plan on the basis of the entire corridor being a 400-series limited access highway.

Council is now realizing that, should the highway proceed as planned, it would split the Heritage Heights community in two and jeopardize Council’s vision for Heritage Heights as a complete community. Additionally the highway would “increase car dependence, contribute to low density suburban sprawl, increase greenhouse gas emissions, increase congestion, and prevent Council’s vision for northwest Brampton from being realized”.

While the revised Council resolution continues to support the urban boulevard concept, if it is passed, the City would now be strongly opposed to the current 400-series design currently being proposed by the Province.

The motion is set to be voted on at the January 26th, virtual meeting of Council. Residents wishing to speak to the issue can summit a delegation form to the cityclerksoffice@brampton.ca. Alternatively, letters in support of the motion to can be sent to MayorBrown@brampton.ca copying the City Clerk.

Nurturing Neighbourhoods Program Survey-Participate Today!

Nurturing Neighbourhoods
Nurturing Neighbourhoods logo

The Nurturing Neighbourhoods program provides residents the opportunity to play an active role in shaping the future of their neighbourhood! 

Complete the Nurturing Neighbourhoods survey and participate in the online mapping tool – this will allow us to capture comments from you; telling us what you love about your neighbourhood, what you wish was there, and where we could do better.

The survey is offered in multiple languages including Gujarati. Simply select your language at the top of the survey screen. Participants completing the survey by January 30, 2022, will be entered into a draw for a chance to win 1 of 10 prizes.

Learn more!

Future Ground Network Seminar for Environmental Organizations

We’re here to support you in building a strong and achievable strategy with your local group. Many of us have experience with strategies that feel too ambitious, under-resourced, unclear or just uninspiring. It’s time to switch things up!

Our strategy training is a 3-part series that will walk you through the steps to understanding your objectives, developing a concrete strategy to get you there, and planning a suite of tactics to help you strengthen your impact. Register here for Strategy Part 1: goals, strategy, and tactics on Wednesday, January 26 at 4pm Pacific / 7pm Eastern.

We’ve also got you covered on the digital side! Register here for our Action Network training on Tuesday, February 8 at 4:30pm PT / 7:30pm ET. You’ll be sending mass emails, launching online petitions, and tracking supporter engagement in no time.

One more thing — our 1-year anniversary is coming up! In March, we’ll be hosting a series of online events to bring our community together and learn from each other. We want to use this opportunity to spotlight your achievements. Help shape the series here (for an entry in our prize draw)!

Hope to see you soon,

Elizabeth Sarjeant
Future Ground Network Coordinator

The Globe and Mail invites you to a climate change seminar

Climate Change and the Private Sector: How can businesses and industries lead the response?

Free virtual event Thursday January 20, 2022 12:30-1:30pm EST

For more details and to register click here

Government policy has a clear role to play in Canada’s climate change response but equally compelling is the role of the private sector. Join The Globe’s Rita Trichur in conversation with environmental and business experts as they explore the opportunities and challenges facing Canadian businesses as they strive to make a greener future a reality

Sierra Club invites you to a seminar on Bison Conservation

Within a single human lifetime, tens of millions of bison were killed until less than a thousand individuals remained in all of North America. Despite over 120 years of hard work, many conservation challenges still face bison today. This is a story you don’t want to miss. It’s a story of twists and turns, from dramatic roundups by Blackfoot and Mexican cowboys, to epic train journeys, “lost” national parks, near-ruinous mistakes, and no small amount of luck.

When: January, 20, 2022 – 7 PM CT (5 PM PT / 6 PM MT / 8 PM ET / 9 PM ATL) 

Our presenter this month will be Lauren Markewicz, a member of our Prairie Chapter’s Executive Committee.

Lauren is a public historian who has come to specialize in the history of bison. She is the author of Through the Storm: Canada’s Bison Conservation Story, a book dealing with the twists and turns of the history of bison conservation in what is now Canada, in both images and text. 

She has worked at various historic sites and natural areas in Western Canada. She likes to spend time on the landscape, hiking and camping, and thinking a lot about the human relationships with and impacts on the land and the other creatures that live there.

Brampton’s Use of Ministerial Zoning Orders

Post Update: January 20, 2022

David Laing as Co-Chair of the Brampton Environment Advisory Committee delegated to Committee of Council on Wednesday January 19th. See video of the delegation and subsequent discussion starting at 1:01:38 . The outcome was that Council referred the matter and BEAC motion to staff to ask for a report back. See below for further information and history on this issue.

What is an Ministerial Zoning Order (MZO)?

A Ministerial Zoning Order, is an extremely powerful but blunt tool that purportedly helps cut red tape for much needed development proposals and brings them swiftly to the shovel ready stage. In doing so, however, it curtails much of the existing planning process, particularly for environmental protections,  it takes away the right of appeal, and eliminates public consultation. It also places much of the decision-making in the office of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, thus limiting involvement of City and Regional staff as well as the technical experts from the Conservation Authorities.

Historically MZOs have been used only in emergency situations such as the replacement for the one shopping mall in Elliot Lake after the roof collapsed on the existing building a few years ago. The use of MZOs has skyrocketed in the past few years under the current Provincial Government.

The Ministry justifies the use of MZOs, pointing primarily to the need for more affordable housing, and indicating that it is the municipal government’s responsibility for doing due diligence and receiving public feedback prior to an application being sent to the Minister’s Office.

The City of Brampton’s recently sent seven MZO applications to the Minister for approval with little or no public engagement. Some of these applications have little or nothing to do with affordable housing. And a review of some of the applications raises questions about the level of due diligence undertaken by Council and staff prior to making these applications.

Ultimately it is the citizens of this City who must hold our elected representatives to account. Up to now this Council has demonstrated a pretty good track record of savvy development process and environmental stewardship. Which makes these actions by Council, seemingly out of character and particularly puzzling.

The issue of MZOs was raised at the BEAC meeting December 7th. The following motion was received by BEAC members:

Whereas the Auditor General of Ontario has reported that actions of the Provincial Government indicate a bias prioritizing land development at the expense of environmental protections including species at risk and climate change mitigation,[1]

Whereas the Auditor General has reported, and the Ontario District Court has ruled that the Provincial Government has demonstrated an unlawful disregard for public consultation on environmentally significant decisions[2],

Whereas a spokesperson for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has stated, “it is our expectation that municipalities have done their due diligence and have conducted proper consultation in their communities before any request for an MZO comes to the Minister for consideration”,[3]

Whereas City of Brampton Council endorsed the Brampton 2040 Vision document in May of 2018 and in January 2020, approved an extensive community engagement strategy to assist in building the 2040 Plan,[4]

Whereas Brampton City Council has passed motions of support for submissions of seven Ministerial Zoning Orders (MZOs) to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing without first providing the substantive opportunity for public consultation[5][6],

Whereas it is the understanding of the Brampton Environment Advisory Committee (BEAC) that, if these MZOs are approved by the Minister, it effectively removes environmental protections related to the affected land, some of which contain substantial natural capital, environmentally sensitive areas, habitat for endangered species, and flood management issues,

Whereas In 2018 City of Brampton Council created the Brampton Environment Advisory Committee with the purpose to, “engage the community to advance the goals and actions of the City’s Grow Green Environmental Master Plan as well as to advise City Council on environmental planning policy and sustainability matters to promote the protection, enhancement, and management of the City’s natural and built environment”,[7]

Therefore, be it resolved that the Brampton Environment Advisory Committee recommends either:

City Council discontinues supporting the use of Ministerial Zoning Orders as a planning tool until the impact of these orders is better understood in relation to environmental protection and the ability of the City to fulfill the 2040 Vision and meet its carbon reduction targets or;

In the event City Council decides to continue using MZOs as a planning option then BEAC recommends the City create a procedural bylaw for MZOs mandating the preparation of a staff report accompanying each MZO request, including an analysis of servicing costs, an environment impact assessment of the proposal, as well as two public meetings, all to be completed before council votes on whether to send the MZO to the province or not. 

David Laing, as co-chair of BEAC, will be delegating to Committee of Council on January 19th, to ask Committee to endorse this motion and take immediate action. The public can watch a livestream of the Committee meeting at https://www.brampton.ca/en/city-hall/meetings-agendas/Pages/Welcome.aspx

[1] https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-ontario-automatically-approves-permits-for-developers-that-harm-at/

[2] https://mcmillan.ca/insights/divisional-court-confirms-environmental-significance-of-ministerial-zoning-orders-and-importance-of-consultation-under-the-environmental-bill-of-rights-1993/

[3] https://thepointer.com/article/2021-10-26/brampton-asks-queen-s-park-to-skip-public-consultation-on-massive-development-12-500-new-residents-as-mzo-mockery-continues

[4] https://weeklyvoice.com/brampton-council-approves-exciting-work-plan-and-engagement-strategy-for-citys-new-official-plan/

[5] https://thepointer.com/article/2021-10-26/brampton-asks-queen-s-park-to-skip-public-consultation-on-massive-development-12-500-new-residents-as-mzo-mockery-continues

[6] https://thepointer.com/article/2021-12-02/developer-invokes-new-peel-police-division-to-bypass-local-planning-for-large-brampton-subdivision

[7] https://www.brampton.ca/EN/City-Hall/meetings-agendas/City%20Council%202010/20181204spcc_Agenda.pdf