In addition to these two large-scale development proposals, Simcoe County is also the focus of several large-scale adult lifestyle and seasonal development proposals.
Province-wide, the market for adult lifestyle units has grown from 300 sales in 1986 to 10,000 sales today.65 Catering to a small but rapidly growing market, they do not in principle require a full range of services. Seniors and empty-nesters do not, for example, require schools, though they may require other infrastructure such as accessible community buildings, roadways, and sidewalks.
Big Bay Point, Innisfil
The proposed Big Bay Point Resort is on the shores of Lake Simcoe in Innisfil. Geranium Corporation, which is working with Florida-based Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, describes the proposal as a "world-class adult-lifestyle resort."66 The development would have between 3,200 and 3,500 residential units, an 18-hole golf course, three theatres, and a Venice-inspired marina. At full build-out, the 234-hectare development will house approximately 7,500 residents67 (see Map 8). Geranium Corporation has previously developed similar projects in Niagara Region. The rationale for the Big Bay Point Resort is contained in 18 technical and needs assessment reports that analyse market needs and review alternative sites.
The Town of Innisfil and Simcoe County are concerned about the long-term implications of approving large-scale recreational developments. The Innisfil Official Plan states that "it is the intention of the Plan that the Shoreline Policy Area shall maintain its residential and recreational character. Commercial and community services beyond those in existence shall generally not be permitted unless a demand is proven to the satisfaction of the Town" (s. 5.11.2).
Residents and municipal staff have expressed concern that future Big Bay Point residents may begin to demand more commercial and community services as the resort grows and becomes, in effect, a complete town. The same issue arises with the Rural and Agricultural designation sought by the proponent under the Simcoe County Official Plan. In response, Geranium has proposed to limit residents' demands for services such as schools by designing housing that deliberately does not meet family needs. The target resident for the development is the empty-nester or retired person who would buy a unit as a second or seasonal home. Units in the resort will be small, with little individual outdoor space. Many will be high-priced apartment units. Geranium argues that, for a comparable price, families can purchase single detached multi-bedroom homes in nearby areas with generous outdoor space. In addition, the condominium ownership structure of the entire resort area locks out any unplanned commercial activity.
The preliminary servicing plan submitted with the application for Official Plan Amendment proposes to link the Big Bay Point Resort to Innisfil's water and sewer system in Alcona through trunk lines. The expansion of existing systems would supply the required capacity. The report concludes that "the connection to the water distribution system and installation of a pump station and sanitary trunk sewer will adequately service the Big Bay Point Resort Community. Detailed analysis to determine upgrade requirements to the existing Water Treatment and Water Pollution Control Plant will be performed."68
If water and sewer lines are brought to the development site, surrounding properties and those that lie along the path of the lines will also be brought onto full services. Geranium Corporation proposes to pay for the cost of integrating 39 properties along the trunk line route.
An Official Plan Amendment application was submitted to the Town of Innisfil in July 2002 to re-designate 100 hectares of land from Agricultural to Shoreline. Simcoe County received an Official Plan Amendment application in September 2002 for a Rural and Agricultural designation, which permits seasonal dwellings.69 Geranium and Duany Plater-Zyberk engaged in several community consultations, including design charrettes in late 2002 and early 2003. The corporation maintains a detailed website on the development through which they are seeking letters of support for the development from the community.
A ratepayers group has mobilized in opposition to the proposal. InnisfilAction, part of the Innisfil District Association, has retained the advice of a planner and an environmental specialist to evaluate the Geranium proposal. InnisfilAction's concerns include management of population growth, the manner in which planning is carried out, and the impacts of growth on the quality of life and the natural environment.
The Town of Innisfil has retained consultants to review the application. As of January 2004, no decision on the Official Plan Amendment had been taken. Deputy Mayor Barb Baguley is clear that Innisfil Council intends to approach the development proposal cautiously. She insists that they will not be pressed into a quick decision and that it will serve the community well to have Council fully explore all options before proceeding.70
Briar Hill Area, New Tecumseth
Along Highway 89, between Alliston and Highway 400, four developments are proceeding or proposed:
- Green Briar, which is fully built out;
- Briar Hill, which is about half built;
- Briar Hill West, the most recent expansion;
- Belterra Estates, a pending development.
Together they represent a total of about 4,000 units. The Briar Hill developments are an adult lifestyle community catering primarily to retirees and empty-nesters. Briar Hill includes a golf course and ground-related housing and is considered by the Town to be "an urban area on its own."71 Asked if the Town's acceptance of Briar Hill conflicts with his opposition to OPDI, Mayor Mike McEachern said no. He believes that, while the OPDI proposal represents a profound deviation from the town's character, Briar Hill, with its focused demographic, neither helps nor hurts the integrity of Alliston's main street core.72
Nevertheless, growth in the Briar Hill area has taken place faster than the rate anticipated by New Tecumseth's 2002 Growth Management Study. This report projected that at full build-out, all Briar Hill area developments would include 2,400 units.73 The most recent information indicates that build-out will most likely be in the range of 4,000 units.
The Alliston Industrial/Commercial Secondary Plan has played a role in the development of Briar Hill. Covering an area on the east flank of Alliston, this 405-hectare secondary plan connects Briar Hill and Alliston, creating a continuous urbanized area.74 The Briar Hill developments therefore represent an expansion of the Alliston settlement area.
The developments of Green Briar, Briar Hill, and Briar Hill West have received approval and are either completed or under construction. An amendment to approve the Belterra Estates Secondary Plan, which calls for 1,950 units, was passed by New Tecumseth Council in June 2003 and is awaiting County approval. Until the servicing scheme for Belterra Estates can be finalized, which depends on the assimilative capacity of the Nottawasaga River, the development will not receive County approval.75
The Township of Springwater, as part of its Growth Management Strategy, identifies adult lifestyle communities as a fourth category of development, after growth within settlement areas, expansion of settlement areas, and rural infill. For Springwater, adult lifestyle communities "comprise a unique component of the residential growth envisioned over the next 20 years."76
In 2002, Springwater Council approved the development of an 800-unit adult lifestyle development outside Craighurst.77 This development, which is not located within an existing settlement area, required a local and County OPA. The scale and staging of the development requires few community infrastructure investments from Springwater.78
As in the case of Big Bay Point, there is a concern that these adult-lifestyle developments, while designed for a specialized clientele, may evolve into normal communities, at which point retrofitting the full range of educational, social and other services may prove expensive and difficult.