The County context
We have identified four categories of development in Simcoe County, including Barrie and Orillia.
Type A consists of infill and as-of-right developments within existing settlement areas. Type A developments do not alter the existing boundaries of settlement areas. All current developments in the cities of Barrie and Orillia are defined as Type A.
Type B developments represent contiguous expansion of an existing Settlement Area. These require a local official plan amendment. Secondary Plan Areas that expand Settlement Areas fall into this category.
Type C projects are permitted developments outside Settlement Areas and are generally small-scale country residential pockets of development. They also include adult lifestyle communities or recreation communities which are permitted outside Settlement Areas in land designated as Rural and Agricultural in the County Official Plan.
Local and County official plans provide for developments of Types A, B and C. We categorize the large-scale proposed developments described in this report as Type D. Unlike Type C developments, which are small-scale or Type B developments, which incrementally expand existing settlement areas, Type D development proposals aim to create large comprehensively planned communities.
At present, 72% of all pending and draft approved developments in the study area are taking place within existing Settlement Areas (see Figure 4). Although municipalities are required to designate a 20-year supply of land for settlement, a quarter of all developments are taking the form of settlement expansions (Type B). The percentage of developments taking place outside settlement areas (Type C) is minimal.
Figure 4: Profile of Pending Type A, B, and C Developments79
Number of units
Percentage of total
When the three largest proposals (Ontario Potato Distributors Inc. in the Town of New Tecumseth; the Bradford Bond Head Planning Area; and the Big Bay Point Resort in the Town of Innisfil) are included in Simcoe developments, they dwarf other types of development. For example, Type A projects -- those within designated settlement areas -- would drop from 72% to 31% of all pending and draft approved developments (see Figure 5.)
Figure 5: Profile of Type A, B, C, and D Developments
Number of units
Percentage of total
Of course, these unit proportions are not strictly comparable, due to the differing time horizons of each development. The developer of OPDI, for example, notes that phasing will depend on market forces. Commitments by the province to transportation infrastructure expansion will also affect the timeline of development. More applications of Types A, B, and C will be proposed, approved, and built during the time horizon of the Type D applications. The order-of-magnitude numbers shown in the table are simply included to illustrate the scale of Type D intervention in relation to "normal" Type A, B, and C development.
The regional context
The Toronto-Related Region Futures Study projected land consumption for the Toronto-related region using four different development concepts: "business-as-usual," consolidated, multi-centred and dispersed.81 Each one applied different assumptions regarding density of population plus jobs, transportation investment, water and wastewater infrastructure investment, and direction of population to established versus new areas. All but the consolidated concept assume extension of Highways 404 and 427, widening of the 400 and the construction of the Bradford Bypass.
Within Simcoe County, the amount of land needed varies depending on the development concept used. County-wide, the urbanized land area is projected to increase by between 38% and 49%. In South Simcoe, the area is greater -- between 42% and 54%. In South Simcoe municipalities, the business-as-usual, multi-centred and dispersed concepts yield similar results. Only the consolidated concept results in significantly less land consumption, as shown in Figure 6.
Figure 6: Projected Increase in Urbanized Land, 200382
Urbanized Land Area,
Projected Increase in
Urbanized Land Area, 2000-2031 (ha)
+ Barrie, Orillia
Bradford West Gwillimbury
At the lower-tier municipal level, the projections illustrate the possible options when Barrie becomes fully built-out within its boundaries. In the business-as-usual concept -- and even more so in the multi-centred and dispersed concepts -- Barrie would expand into Innisfil. In the consolidated scenario, however, Barrie contains much of its growth within its own boundaries. For this reason, land consumption in the consolidated concept is considerably less in Bradford West Gwillimbury, Innisfil and New Tecumseth.
The proposed 1,416-hectare OPDI development in New Tecumseth and the proposed 2,500-hectare Bradford Bond Head Planning Area would result in higher than projected land consumption in Bradford West Gwillimbury and New Tecumseth, respectively. As shown in Figure 7, the area of the Bradford Bond Head Planning Area nearly triples the estimated business-as-usual additional land requirement for the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury. Similarly, the OPDI proposal exceeds the estimated land requirement for New Tecumseth by 496 hectares.
The large-scale development proposals would urbanize land far in excess of the projections that underlie the official plans of their respective towns. Furthermore, they would attract growth to Simcoe County that could otherwise be accommodated south of the Moraine.
Figure 7: Land Consumption of Type D Development Proposals
Bradford West Gwillimbury
(A) Estimate of additional land requirement 2000-2031 (hectares)83
(B) Type D land area (hectares)84
Bradford Bond Head Planning Area
Ratio of (B) to (A)
As the three large-scale development proposals would urbanize land ahead of population projections, it can be argued that they:
- contravene the spirit of the PPS and local and County official plans;
- are of unprecedented population size for Simcoe County;
- would attract growth that would otherwise locate in designated settlement areas elsewhere in the Toronto-related region with the result of dispersing rather than concentrating growth.
The provincial context
At present, PPS is under review, and future provincial policy could either strengthen compact urban form or move toward permitting a more dispersed urban form. Today, and for the foreseeable future, however, the PPS clearly directs growth toward established settlement areas in order to preserve rural and agricultural land where possible.85
The proponents claim that their large-scale development proposals conform to the spirit of provincial land use policies by directing growth to established settlement areas. Further, by attaching the new developments to existing settlements, the proponents frame their proposals as expansions of existing communities, driven by growth pressure.
The character of the OPDI proposal, however, does not suggest a settlement area expansion:
- The plan specifies a "town centre" functionally unrelated to the existing centre of Alliston. The development is to be phased so that the town centre is built first and its neighbourhoods spread outward to eventually connect to Alliston.86
- At full build-out, the population of the expansion will be far larger than the population of Alliston.
- The population of the development is far in excess of projections, meaning that growth must be attracted from elsewhere in the Toronto-related region.
- The developers refer to OPDI as a new community.87 The submission began as a stand-alone town, but was later expanded to attach to Alliston by incorporating the Nottawasaga River lands. J.H. Stevens' peer review report found that the description of the development as an extension of Alliston is "contrived."88
The Provincial Policy Statement requires that settlement areas be incrementally expanded in step with projected growth. The Bradford Bond Head Planning Area goes beyond this. It seeks to designate urban land far in excess of projected population growth for the area. It also defies the notion of expanding a defined settlement area. The development expands Bradford and Bond Head to meet in the middle. Instead of a single community with a well-defined core (either Bradford or Bond Head), the result is a de-concentrated corridor of development centred on Highways 88 and 400 and a new "mixed node" between Bradford and Bond Head. It is hard enough to keep one downtown economically and culturally vibrant, and yet this proposal would require a corridor linking three.
In addition, the PPS specifies that prime agricultural land will be protected for agriculture and related uses unless there is no other place for growth to take place.89 Both the OPDI and the Bradford Bond Head Planning Area proposals are located on prime agricultural land. Many "reasonable alternative locations" (to use the language of the PPS) exist south of the Moraine.
The extent to which new large-scale developments conform to existing plans and policies is limited. While their internal form and mix of uses is compatible with stated provincial planning goals, their scale, locations and the timing of their implementation put them at odds with the spirit of public planning policies. Where the developments do not conform to land use policies, the proposals themselves demand the attention of public officials and may serve to influence revisions of public land use plans and strategies.
* * *
Understanding what is happening in Simcoe County means answering three main questions: (1) Why is growth on such a large scale being directed north of the GTA and the Oak Ridges Moraine? (2) Why are the proposals taking the form of such large-scale developments in Simcoe County? (3) What do these proposals tell us about planning in Simcoe County and in Ontario as a whole?