From ‘a new kind urban’ to ‘centrepiece of York Region’: Here is how Richmond Hill plans to achieve new vision
April 19, 2022
Three years after Richmond Hill changed its status from a town to a city, it is now taking its ambition to another level -- becoming the centrepiece of York Region by the year 2041.
The city incorporated the new vision -- first in a February report -- in a 52-page amendment to the draft official plan released on April 7.
Titled “vision and city structure,” the amendment updates the city structure, clarifies where intensification is expected and adds a new mobility hierarchy.
It also changed the city’s previous vision statement from “Richmond Hill -- a new kind of urban” to “By 2041, the City of Richmond Hill will be the centrepiece of York Region and one of the most prominent, complete communities in the Greater Toronto Area.”
A complete community, the document says, contains a "diverse mix and range of land uses, is transit supportive and includes a balance of housing types, employment, services, amenities, parks and urban open spaces.”
To achieve this vision, it provides guidance on land use and development through the city’s structure from centres and corridors, employment areas, neighbourhood area to the greenway system.
Given that Richmond Hill’s settlement area is nearly built out, most development in the city will occur through intensification in order to achieve the population target.
With an estimated population of 213,700 in 2021, Richmond Hill is expected to be home to 319,600 people in 2051, providing 122,800 jobs, according to Patrick Lee, Richmond Hill’s director of policy planning.
Residential intensification has been a constant source of conflict between Richmond Hill council and residents over the years, who often do not agree with how and where the intensification is occurring across the young city.
In 2019, a majority of council members approved the name change to the City of Richmond Hill, touting it as a way to improve competitiveness and push for the subway extension.
The amendment says that development should occur in due order with the Richmond Hill Centre -- an area around Yonge Street and Highway 7 -- given the highest priority.
Key development areas such as Yonge Street and Bernard Key Development Area and Yonge and Carrville/16th Key Development Area, and the Yonge Street and Highway 7 regional corridors would be the next priority.
The document points out that certain portions of the regional corridors will not be developed or intensified in order to either protect the greenway system, to be maintained for employment uses only, or to maintain its predominant neighbourhood function.
While neighbourhoods that are generally low- and medium-density residential areas are expected to play a role in intensification, they are placed as lower priority. Opportunities for small-scale infill development are expected to bring about some change to neighbourhoods.
Meanwhile, the plan also updates the definition of greenway system, which is generally comprised of rural, agricultural and environmental lands, as well as urban open spaces.
“This plan protects and enhances the Greenway System over the long term,” it reads.
The city is expected to increase tree canopy cover to a minimum of 30 per cent of the city’s total land area by 2041, according to the document.
The plan lays out the direction for the city’s future transportation prioritizing walking and cycling, followed by micromobility like electric bikes, scooters, and skateboards.
Public transit, goods movement and shared vehicles are the next priorities. Single occupant vehicles are the last priority.
This hierarchy is required to be applied to the planning, design and construction of transportation infrastructure.
This amendment is part of the ongoing policy development of the official plan update throughout 2022 to 2023, subject to the approval of York Region’s Official Plan.
The public is invited to share their thoughts on the official plan update at a virtual public open house scheduled for April 26 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Please register at RichmondHill.ca/OPUpdate.