Province sets new 2051 growth targets for Barrie: population of 298,000 and 129,000 new jobs

An update on the City’s new official plan is to be presented to planning committee, Tuesday.

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The Province has new growth targets for Barrie, and they are throwing a bit of a wrench in the City’s development of a new official plan.
Under its Places to Grow policy, which designates Barrie a growth centre in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region, the City was supposed to work towards a population of 253,000 by 2041, with almost 60,000 new jobs to support the increase. Now, the plan calls for a population of 298,000 by 2051, and 129,000 jobs to support the growth.
In September of 2018, the City began a Municipal Comprehensive Review (MCR) as part of its preparation of a new official plan. The work included a Land Needs Assessment report using the Province’s existing Land Needs Assessment Methodology for the 2041 targets.
In a July 29 letter to Sandra Bickford, Ontario Growth Secretariat, Michelle Banfield, Director of Development Services, said the City was disappointed that the amendment for the new growth targets did not contain any transition policies, despite the City being asked by Ministry staff earlier in the year to provide such language.
“Instead, the amendment requires conformity exercises to use the new planning horizon of 2051, new … population and employment growth forecasts, and a new Land Needs Assessment Methodology (LNAM), the details of which are not available for review and comment,” she wrote.
“Without any transition policies the City will be required to redo work already completed as part of the MCR which will cause delays in getting an approved new official plan in place,” she wrote then.
The Province’s amendment to the growth plan was finalized on Aug. 28, as was the new LNAM. The 2051 density and employment targets are minimums, according to a memo to planning committee, which also provides an update on the official plan and how the changes impact it. 
During consultation, the Province provided only a summary of the changes, indicating the methodology would be outcomes based, leaving room for local municipal characteristics and considerations in planning for growth, reads the memo. Few other details were provided. Staff is reviewing the new methodology and the few changes to it the Province made after receiving comments.
“Finally, despite the extension of the planning horizon and the shift to a new Land Needs Assessment Methodology, the amendment has not provided any extension to the deadline for municipalities to bring their official plans into conformity with the changes. The conformity deadline remains as July 1, 2022.”
The City had requested “transition provisions” that would allow municipalities that had substantially completed growth management work as part of their MCRs to be allowed to use the existing 2041 planning horizon and population and employment targets. 
“Unfortunately, the Province has not included any transition provisions in the amendment,” reads the memo, meaning staff might need to “undertake conformity work,” resulting in additional input from the consulting team, which had by the middle of June produced the first full draft of the new official plan and urban design guidelines for staff to review.
“Significant resources have been invested in the … project, particularly regarding growth management and the drafting of the new official plan. With the COVID-19 pandemic measures in place, the draft documents were not released for public review at that time,” reads the memo. “All of this would mean additional time and consulting costs, in addition to staff resources.”
However, staff isn’t recommending doing the additional work.
“The analysis that has been completed to reflect growth to 2041 is sound and has already been provided to council and to the Province. The preferred approach is to count on a future MCR and official plan update to assess the 2041-2051 growth.
“To ensure conformity occurs in a timely manner, staff propose that the text of the draft new official plan include language which calls for a conformity exercise to be completed within five years after the new official plan is approved.”
Planning committee will receive an update on the new official plan on Tuesday (Sept. 15).