Good to Know

What’s the Hurry? Anger Building over Expedited Caledon Growth

House under construction
Submitted to Just Sayin' Caledon

What’s the hurry?

That’s the burning question as angry and frustrated Caledon residents try to understand why their mayor is rushing forward with plans for rezoning 12 development applications, totalling almost 35,000 homes, without what they feel is adequate public participation. Indeed, this could be the largest single expansion in the history of Caledon.

In the Correspondence section of the March 26th Caledon Council Meeting Agenda, was a letter from Vaughan legal firm Loopstra Nixon with direction to Council and town staff, from Mayor Groves. Included was a lengthy document outlining 12 proposed zoning bylaws, and instruction to Council to ‘consider passage’ of the bylaws at its April 30th Council meeting. It also informed them that, under Strong Mayor Powers (SMP), the bylaws would pass provided ‘more than one-third of the members of Council vote in favour’.

The Planning Act requires a Statutory Public Meeting, and the Town has announced it will hold that on Thursday April 25th. Just three business days later, on Tuesday April 30th, the matter comes to Council for vote.

This rapid-fire chain of events caught the attention of Caledon residents, including members of Democracy Caledon who hosted a citizen’s forum, attended by over 150 people, on April 17th. There were far more questions than answers.

Bolton resident Ken Yates who attended the Democracy Caledon meeting says he remembers, both during her campaign and since, the mayor railing against MZO’s, alleging lack of public input and transparency in the planning and approval process. “How is this rushed process for 12 sites any more transparent?” he asked. “In my opinion, it’s much worse.”

Yates also questioned the speed at which the process is being pushed through. “When the Town has already satisfied its commitment to the province, why does this rezoning have to be advanced so much, so fast?  Where is all the traffic going to go?  Can the infrastructure keep up?  What about grocery stores and rec facilities?  Environmental considerations?”

The Housing Pledge endorsed by Caledon Council last year reads that ‘the Town of Caledon commits to the Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to support the development of the assigned housing target of 13,000 residential units by 2031.’

Residents want to know, given that timeline, why is the mayor insisting this issue come to Council this month? It is they, and local businesses, who shoulder the tax burden. Surely there is adequate time for more public input and understanding.

Why, given that the pledge Caledon made was for 13,000 homes, is the mayor pushing to approve applications that total almost 35,000? What is the necessity to override normal public process if the additional numbers, as it would appear, are for beyond 2031? And, as they are substantially more than the number of homes pledged, are those excess numbers governed by SMP?

Another Bolton resident, former Councillor Rob Mezzapelli, said to him the meeting addressed two key and intertwined issues.

“The first was Mayor Groves’ intentions to rezone thousands of acres of Caledon’s best agricultural lands clear across our southern border, which is something she has sworn to protect. This greatly exceeds our required population targets, while using broad zoning classifications and foregoing much of the required preliminary works. And all while excluding the public and the whole of Council from participating in this unprecedented planning exercise” said Mezzapelli.

“The second related matter was the Mayor’s extreme willingness to utilize ‘Strong Mayor Powers’ to affect major change, while only requiring a minority of Council support in an expedited process that cuts planning corners and cuts the public almost entirely out.”

Indeed, the undemocratic nature of SMP was top of mind at the citizen’s forum, and while residents voiced their disapproval, the mayor would not be swayed. Asked directly if she would relinquish the SMP, as some mayors have done, she responded ‘No’.

Other serious questions remain about the consequences of the proposed bylaws being rushed through.

Who benefits by rushing this forward? Residents do not feel it is them.

How were these particular 12 chosen?

What assurances are there that these homes will address the affordable housing issue?

If our understanding is correct and the Settlement Boundary Area (SAB) maps are just high-level and not yet ground-truthed, what happens if, when it is, you find that there are errors? Or changes needed? Can the zoning maps then be refined? What would be the process?

A holding symbol is a zoning tool used to put limits on the development of land until certain conditions are met. Do all the required studies have to be completed before the holding symbol can come off?

What are the criteria for holding symbols to be removed? Who has the power to do it? Does the SMP give the mayor power to do it? Would a public meeting be required for that?

Mezzapelli concluded his thoughts with “Mayor Groves has repeatedly said she represents only the interests of the Caledon community. At that meeting she heard loud and clear, even from some of her strongest supporters, that we do not support what she is doing. Most, if not all, of Caledon’s Councillors were present too. Will they heed the will of our community and withdraw this Draft Zoning? And will Mayor Groves listen and permanently revoke her use of the undemocratic ‘Strong Mayor Powers’?”

Democracy Caledon is encouraging residents to:

–              Write your Councillors expressing your concerns. You can find your Councillor and ward map HERE

–              Ask that the April 25th meeting be held at a larger venue than Council Chambers, such as next door at the Caledon East Community Complex

–              Delegate, in person or online’ at the April 25th meeting. Register to delegate HERE

–              Ask that the April 30th meeting be delayed allowing more time for public consultation and input

–              If you cannot attend email your comments to the Town Clerk at agenda@caledon.ca and ask they be included in the Agenda’s correspondence

The Town’s Statutory Public Meeting will be held at 7:00pm on Thursday April 25th at Town Hall, 6311 Old Church Road, Caledon East. Priority seating will be given to those who register to delegate. Residents can also register to delegate virtually. Written comments can be submitted to agenda@caledon.ca

JSC Newsletter

Receive our stories and events directly to your inbox, twice a month.

Sign Up

About the author

Just Sayin' Caledon

Just Sayin’ Caledon brings you stories about Caledon people, places and events.

Leave a Comment


The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

1 Comment

  • The manner in which this issue has unfolded has been nothing if not disturbing. It has been disturbing in its breadth and scope as well as in its haste, and in the disregard–even distain–of public opinion by elected officials.
    The clear and dominant theme at the April 17th Democracy Caledon Forum was the public’s overwhelming disapproval of Mayor Groves’ use of strong mayor powers to “fast track” these zoning amendments and therefore the developments. Through it all, public opinion was brushed aside when the mayor confirmed that she would not give up strong mayor powers.
    That same theme carried over the April 25th public information meeting. Speaker after speaker–several of whom had some municipal experience–expressed concerns and criticism about the lack of process, lack of information, difficulty in finding information, lack of transparency, lack of public input, and most of all, the top-down dictatorship of the mayor, made even more offensive–both to the public and to the concept of democracy– by the backing of a few councillors.
    As some examples of comments made and public opinion expressed:
    Linda Pimm pointed out there was no secondary plan, no plan of sub-division and no infrastructure to support many of these subject lands, to name just a few faults.
    Ian Sinclair pointed out the same points as well as a total lack of any mention of public transit.
    Nicola Ross asked why there were printed sheets on some of the chairs outlining a previous brief phone conversation with Councillor Sheen. This was clearly an attempt by the mayor to publicly discredit councillor Sheen. Does the mayor really expect the public to be okay with this kind of a tactic? Really? This is the mayor’s idea of leadership?
    When Ms. Ross asked why only 20 days were allowed for public feedback, the mayor’s response that 20 days was required was draped with nothing short of undisguised contempt, as if the entire process was getting in the way of her day.
    Dan O’Reilly wanted to know why the planning process has been so “short-circuited”. Tony Rosa bristled when Mr. O’Reilly suggested that his own credibility would be jeopardized by supporting these zoning amendments.
    Cheryl Connors cited a lack of any mention of environmental protections, or any names of owners, customarily included on notices of zoning amendments. She challenged the seriousness of the meeting.
    I fully agree with all of these expressed sentiments.
    Given the complexity of these amendments, combined with the short time-line, the public meeting of April 25th was nothing more than a token gesture, a check-box on a list. The mayor’s obvious demeanor made it clear that anything anyone said was going to be ignored.
    At one point, the mayor gave a small history lesson by stating that some of these subject lands go back to 2004. So? That still does not answer the question of why these amendments all have to go through all at once and go through now. Why? If it is such a valid and logical decision, why does it have to be done under the dictatorship of strong mayor powers? Why would the amendments not stand on their own and pass? Nor does it answer why only 20 days were allowed? Why not 25 or 30? Why not 45? Some of these parcels have waited this many years, what difference would another few weeks or months make?
    With so many questions unanswered, with so much official obfuscation, and trying to do it all in such a hurry, I have to wonder what is the real agenda? As Cheryl Connors alluded, the handling of these amendments does not pass the smell test.