Corp Comm Connects

Parkland dedication by-law - Balancing act

May 27, 2015
By Edward LaRusic

Newmarket’s draft parkland dedication by-law may be a double-edged sword. Intended to help the town meet its parkland obligations for future residents it may however deter developers from intensifying if the rate is deemed too high for them to build on the lands they own in Newmarket.

Town senior policy planner Marion Plaunt said that municipalities have a responsibility to ensure that there is adequate parkland for current and future residents.

“We did a very thorough analysis based on our parkland needs and the effect of the [Planning Act] parkland standard,” she said.

“You have to balance whether it’s going to impede or slow down development ... We’re putting a lot more people into a lot less area, and those people aren’t going to have back lawns. As a municipality, you have to look carefully at those long-term needs.”

The town has identified a need for an additional 104.8 ha of parkland to meet it projected population to 2031 at a standard of 2.2 ha per 1,000 residents (which is equivalent to 1 ha per 203 units). Determining that town parks could be acquired using other financial tools, the service level standard for the park dedication by-law was reduced to include only community and neighbourhood parks. With a parkland shortage staff has recommended the maximum alternative rate of 1 ha per 300 units.

Plaunt said that while developers may not be happy with the town using the maximum rate under the Planning Act, it is necessary to ensure that Newmarket is providing adequate parkland to its residents.

The by-law would have its greatest impact in the town’s intensificcation area-its urban growth centre- which permits buildings of up-to-17 storeys in height and with density bonusing allows up-to-20 storeys. Approved April 9 by York Region, the secondary plan for this area is currently under appeal.

“It’s going to be a problem in Newmarket to have the maximum alternative rate in the town’s intensification areas,” solicitor Ira Kagan (Kagan Shastri LLP) told NRU.

Kagan said the problem with using an alternative rate like 1 ha per 300 units is that it looks at the number of units on a piece of land, not how many people are actually living there. He noted that a building with half the units but taking up the same footprint would pay half the parkland dedication or cash-in-lieu, in effect encouraging inefficient use of the land and frustrating efforts to redevelop the property.

“The Provincial Policy Statement and growth plan actually encourage the provision of more units and more affordable units,” said Kagan. “In the GTA, the way you get more units and more affordable units with a limited land supply is by building on average, smaller units. [With the rate tied to the number of units,] ... the very same size building you had before, your parkland dedication now increases.”

To make it more appealing to landowners who could proceed with their development in the near future, staff is proposing that the draft parkland dedication by-law be phased in over a year period: 0.6 ha. per 300 dwelling units until January 2016 and 0.8 ha until January 2017 when the full rate would take eff ect.

While Newmarket’s official plan with its parkland dedication policy of 1 ha per 300 units was approved by York Region in 2012 without appeal, the same standard in Richmond Hill’s official plan policy was appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board. In its decision the board imposed a 25 per cent cap on the land or cash-in-lieu that could be conveyed to the town. Richmond Hill is currently appealing the decision to the divisional court. Parkland dedication by-laws cannot be appealed.

The town will be consulting with stakeholders, including the industry, on the draft parkland dedication by-law throughout June. Plaunt said staff would be reporting back to council in August or September.