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1st MZO deputation for high-density development outside Vaughan planning process irks councilors

Councillors question need for urgency on decision
Jan. 22, 2021
Dina Al-Shibeeb

Representing Solmar Development Corp., Rino Mostacci made a presentation Tuesday, Jan. 19 for Vaughan councillors to give “favourable consideration” for a ministerial zoning order (MZO) of two projects.

Mostacci’s five-minute presentation is considered the first deputation to take place outside the City of Vaughan’s planning process, Coun. Marilyn Iafrate said.

Mostacci borrowed his full weight from Premier Doug Ford's government’s call to accelerate supply of housing amid high demand. Most importantly, Mostacci said that council already approved an MZO in late October, and that’s where his first project needs to be.

“So essentially, we'd like to request an amendment to the (October) MZO to fill the hole in a doughnut,” Mostacci said of Solmar’s Park Avenue development at 9095 Jane St.

“All the land surrounding part Park Avenue are now zoned for development, and it would be appropriate to extend zoning approval for Park Avenue concurrently, including Park Avenue into the existing MZO,” he added.

Mostacci explained how this will “expedite the development process by approximately 12 to 18 months at a time when there is a demonstrated need for more housing supply in the city of Vaughan as well as supporting our communities economic pandemic recovery.”

The other MZO Mostacci is requesting is for Bellaria II at 9291 Jane St to have 36 storeys. There is already a public hearing scheduled for Bellaria in eight weeks, Iafrate said. And Solmar already had some settlement agreement with the city about this years ago.

Councillors React

Mostacci’s presentation incensed some city’s councillors, who grilled Mostacci over why there is such a need for urgency.

Iafrate in response had three motions, which were all carried, that the council doesn’t accept the MZO request, staff to “tighten” presentation’s rules so other developers don’t use it as a way to “bypass the public planning process,” and third is that staff to bring full report on the history of Ballerina and the settlement.

Councillor Tony Carella also infused a fourth motion -- read by Iafrate -- that this “resolution be circulated to all of the GTA municipalities.”

“Nothing so far I heard needed expedited action by the city,” Carella said. “I still don't know why this one is so special that (it) lets you jump the queue."

“We’ve got a fairly decent planning process in place,” Carella added after citing how there are 481 active development applications where only 70 were “appealed.”

Carelle further lamented how the “local planning process is being abandoned, turfed, destroyed, set aside, take your adjective feature verb, by the province. This is not appropriate.”

Councillor Alan Shefman also questioned Mostacci and asked him that at least in the October MZO the developer promised 10 per cent affordable housing units, while Solmar is saying about 30 affordable units if the MZO request is approved.

When councillors endorsed the Cortel Group’s MZO in October, the developer promised 10 per cent of the units to be affordable ones. This promise for affordable units was the key factor behind Iafrate’s and Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua’s support for the MZO.

While accelerating the economic engine was key for councillors at the time in the midst of the pandemic to accept the October MZO and on the backdrop for shortage of affordable housing development applications, it seems there is some change, as more people are leaving downtown Toronto for cheaper locations, for example.

“I don't think right now, we have that degree of urgency for affordable housing, because there (are) a lot of units that are starting to open up,” Iafrate said.

“I just want to say that as elected officials, we stand for transparency and accountability. This process is not providing, neither the MZO, nor the deputation process.”