The four-term Mayor of King, Steve Pellegrini, believes a new hospital can be built anywhere in the Greenbelt if that’s what the Province decides – even if it goes on irreplaceable prime agricultural land.
Pellegrini is quite simply wrong.
Until the rules are changed, Ontario’s established planning regime would direct a second Southlake to an existing urban area within the Greenbelt.
Indeed, King’s own Official Plan (OP) would not have allowed a hospital on prime agricultural land. On 10 September 2020 York Region approved King’s OP which addresses the Township’s long term planning requirements to the year 2031. Then, as now, it conformed with Provincial and York Region land use policy direction.
The Mayor, Steve Pellegrini, made it clear everyone had an opportunity to contribute:
“This was a long process. Tons of involvement in the community. It lasted over five years so there is ample opportunity for input…”
Nowhere does the plan mention major institutional uses such as a new hospital being located on prime agricultural land in the Greenbelt.
Searching for a site since 2019
It was only after the Government’s announcement on 4 November 2022 that it intended to open up for development certain lands in the Greenbelt that Pellegrini told the press he had been looking for a new site for Southlake for years:
“I have been moving this idea forward since 2019 – on different lands with different landowners.”
If the Township’s Director of Growth Management, Stephen Naylor, believed a new hospital could be built on prime agricultural land – despite everything said in King’s Official Plan and in the Town’s Zoning By-law for the Countryside which was approved only seven months ago - he should say so now and give his reasons. (photo right) He cannot shelter behind Pellegrini whose understanding of planning law is severely limited.
Experienced, Skilled, Strong, Focussed
Naylor has been Director of Planning and Development at King – and now Director of Growth Management – since July 2018. His linked-in profile describes him as an experienced Director of Planning and Development with a demonstrated history of working in the government administration industry. He is:
“Skilled in Customer Experience, Sustainability, Zoning, Land Use Planning, and Land Use. Strong business development professional with a Masters of Environmental Science focused in Land Use Planning from York University.”
I wrote to Mr Naylor a few days ago to ask him to explain the planning justification or rationale for allowing a new hospital on prime agricultural land. A report from Naylor to King councillors updating them on King's Official Plan in August 2020 made no mention of this even as a remote possibility.
I wait to hear from him.
(Click “read more” below to see my email.)
The story so far: In 2022 the Mayor of King, Steve Pellegrini, had a series of meetings with the developer, Michael Rice, who had bought a vast 2.78 sq km track of Greenbelt land in King, south of Miller’s Side Road and west of Bathurst, on 15 September 2022 for $80M.
Pellegrini says that when they met there was no indication that the Government was going to open up parts of the Greenbelt for housing development. He says Rice did not indicate anything like that. Instead, off his own bat, Pellegrini asked Rice if would make some of his land available for a new hospital and, on 1 November 2022, at a meeting with Southlake’s CEO, Arden Krystal, Rice said he would, for a nominal fee. Pellegrini said he met Michael Rice only once – at that 1 November 2022 meeting - but that was untrue.
Pellegrini says he has been scouring King for suitable land for a new hospital since 2019. But the Township has no records showing how landowners were approached to see if they would be willing to offer land for a new hospital. There is no information on the process or mechanism King put in place from 2019 onwards to identify lands in King which might be suitable for a new hospital. And the Township tells me the Director of Growth Management, Stephen Naylor, did not undertake any searches for land which may be suitable for a new hospital. It looks like Pellegrini was flying solo. But did he rely on professional advice from the Township’s chief planner, Stephen Naylor? And, if so, what form did it take and what did it say?
Pellegrini and Stephen Naylor met Michael Rice and John McGovern (Senior Vice President Policy and Planning at the Rice Group) on 17 October 2022 in a pre-meeting to discuss the proposed second Southlake. Pellegrini has insisted hospitals can be built anywhere in the Greenbelt if the Province so decides. Of course, the Government can redraw the Greenbelt boundary to allow a hospital (or any other form of development) but that is not what Pellegrini has been saying. He has been claiming hospitals can be built anywhere in the Greenbelt under existing laws. And that is false. A professional planner such as Stephen Naylor would have known this. Indeed, King’s Official Plan – only recently adopted and chiming with York Region’s and Provincial policy – would not allow a hospital on prime agricultural lands such as those owned by Rice.
Minister's Zoning Orders
In late 2021 the Ford Government amended s47 of the Planning Act to specify that while the minister could ignore provincial planning policies and plans when it issued Minister’s Zoning Orders it could not ignore such policies and plans – for example, the Greenbelt Plan - when issuing MZOs for lands within the Greenbelt.
Pellegrini has never sought to explain his meetings with the developer, Michael Rice, by saying he thought the Ford Government was about to change the Greenbelt boundary in King to exclude the Rice lands.
On 1 November 2022, Rice offered land to Southlake for a nominal fee. Pellegrini celebrated this in a motion to King Council on 7 November 2022 which was approved unanimously - and which opened up a Pandora's Box. Neither King nor Southlake say they have any records of this hugely consequential 1 November 2022 meeting.
Note 1: email to Stephen Naylor dated April 23, 2023
Dear Mr Naylor
I write as a resident of Newmarket who is interested in planning and development issues in York Region.
For some months now I have been trying to understand the sequence of events which gave rise to the Council resolution of 7 November 2022 on the Southlake Regional Health Centre, moved by Mayor Pellegrini, which stated that the
“landowner (of the lands south of Miller’s Side Road and west of Bathurst) is committed to providing the necessary lands for the Southlake Regional Health Centre site for a nominal fee.”
You would of course have been present at the pre-meeting on hospital expansion which was held on 17 October 2022 and at the meeting on 1 November 2022 when Mr Rice made the commitment referred to in the Mayor’s motion above so you will be familiar with all the issues.
Would it be possible for you to explain the planning justification or rationale for permitting an institutional use such as a hospital on agricultural land in the Greenbelt given the planning regime in force before 4 November 2022 when the Government announced that certain areas of the Greenbelt were to be opened up for development?
I can see nothing in King’s Official Plan nor in the Zoning By-law for the Countryside which was approved by your Council on 24 September 2022 that would permit such a development. Nor can I see anything in the commentary from York Region as the approval authority that would suggest such a development would be permitted.
On 10 September 2020, York Region approved King’s Official Plan which had been adopted by the Municipality on 23 September 2019. At the time the Plan was described as a comprehensive and long-term vision which addressed the Township’s long term planning requirements to the year 2031. The documentation said the Plan conformed with Provincial and York Region land use policy direction.
Attachment 4 in the bundle of documentation presented to the Regional Council makes it clear that the Township’s Official Plan conformed with the Greenbelt Plan 2017 and with the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan 2017. In the light of this I do not understand how a major institutional use such as an acute hospital could be sited on prime agricultural land in the Greenbelt or in the Oak Ridges Moraine outside a settlement area.
I have been in correspondence with Mayor Pellegrini and Mr Timm about the 7 November 2022 resolution and matters that flow from it and as a courtesy I am copying this letter to them.
I am grateful and I look forward to hearing from you.
Note 2: King Official Plan and the Greenbelt Plan (2017) and the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, 2017. As presented to York Regional Council on 10 September 2020 (Attachment 4):
The King Official Plan, as proposed to be modified, conforms with the Greenbelt Plan, 2017
The Greenbelt Plan, 2017 identifies where urbanization should not occur in order to provide permanent protection of the agricultural land base and ecological and hydrological features, areas and functions occurring within its Plan area. The Greenbelt Plan identifies settlement areas (Towns/ Villages and Hamlets) with supporting policy direction for achieving complete communities that are healthier, safer, more equitable and more resilient to the impacts of climate change. It also provides for a diverse range of economic activities associated with rural communities, agriculture, tourism, recreation and resource uses which King Township encompasses. The Greenbelt Plan provides protection of these resources from urban development.
The vast majority of Township of King is within the Greenbelt Plan Area. The King OP is the Township’s first conformity exercise with the Greenbelt Plan and contains appropriate policies supportive of the natural heritage and agricultural system that make up the identified Protected Countryside. Minor modifications are outlined in Attachment 1 to address conformity with the Greenbelt Plan regarding natural heritage, servicing, infrastructure and various definitions.
The King Official Plan, as proposed to be modified, conforms with the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, 2017
The Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, 2017 (ORMCP) is an ecologically based plan that provides land use and resource management direction and establishes a policy framework for protection of the ecological integrity of the Oak Ridges Moraine. A large portion of the Township is located within the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan Area. The King OP carries forward the ORMCP’s four land use designations: 1) Natural Core Area; 2) Natural Linkage Area; 3)
Countryside Area; and, 4) Settlement Areas, and their associated policies. The ORMCP also sets out other restrictions and policies regarding environmental protection, agricultural system, infrastructure, landform conservation, groundwater protection, natural resources, and cultural, recreation and tourism, which are reflected in this new Official Plan.
Modifications to the adopted King OP are proposed in Attachment 1 to provide clarity and further address conformity with the ORMCP related to secondary residential units, site alteration and tree by-laws, vegetation protections zones servicing, infrastructure.