Corp Comm Connects
Vaughan ready for business: PRESTIGE EMPLOYMENT

By Edward LaRusic
May 28, 2014

A recent Ontario Municipal Board decision has opened the door for 975 gross hectares of some of the most lucrative employment lands in the GTA to be developed, with the first major project already in the pipeline.

In an April 10 decision, board member Jason Chee-Hing approved, in part, a settlement between the city and landowners within the West Vaughan Employment Area Secondary Plan area. The primary issues related to seven appeals the city received concerning the location of local roads and the province’s GTA west corridor protection area.

The secondary plan includes policies relate to transportation, environment, parks and open space, land use and built form.

Ward 2 councillor Tony Carella said that he’s always thought of this area as the “crown jewel” in terms of Vaughan’s employment development.

“[The lands are] the biggest chunk of serviced, ready-to go employment lands in the GTA... [the upcoming Highway 427 extension] is going to bisect it, [Highway 407] crosses it just south of [Highway 7], you have the [Canadian Pacific] intermodal yard, and the airport’s 10 minutes away. As an employment area, it’s second to none in the GTA.”

Vaughan planning commissioner John MacKenzie told NRU that planning for the lands began in the 1990s, with steps to formalize the area for employment uses through studies and the 1994 York Region official plan.

The latter was a “key milestone,” he said. What hasn’t been approved by the OMB is site-specific issues, but he stresses that the “majority of landowners in the area are fine with the policies” for the West Vaughan Employment Area.

“We haven’t gotten to a meeting of minds with some landowners. Some of the key issues are related to natural heritage. We have a natural heritage network and we have policies related to protection of our watercourses and features... We’ve also had a couple of site-specific issues related to open storage and the degree of open storage that is permitted within an area, because as we get closer to arterial roads we like to see more prestige-type uses with storage of any trucks or parking of trucks buffered.”

The first major application for lands in the employment area has been put forward by Two Seven Joint Venture Limited, 1308595 Ontario Limited, and DiPoce Management Limited. They have plans to construct a 24.3-hectare FedEx distribution centre.

“It’s going to be planned as one of the first catalysts for the area. Fresh off the heel of the OMB, we’ve got this application for this fairly major facility,” said MacKenzie.

The remaining challenges largely involve new infrastructure projects planned for the area, according to MacKenzie.

TransCanada Pipelines Limited has announced it is planning to build the King’s North Connection natural gas pipeline, which is proposed to cut through the secondary plan area.

Also, the province has plans for the Highway 427 extension to have interchanges at major roads such as Major Mackenzie Drive and Rutherford Road. MacKenzie says that mid-block connections also are needed.

“If all of these utilities can use the corridors that have already been set, we can maximize the amount of employment land.” Carella said that one of the opportunities offered by these new employment lands is a “breather” for Vaughan taxpayers.

“Over the last 40 years, we’ve bought a lot of infrastructure, and sooner than later, that infrastructure needs to be replaced,”Carella said.

“The more employment lands you have, you get some development charges, but you also get assessment. And that assessment is going to reduce the burden on the taxpayer when it comes to replacing infrastructure.”

Carella said that the biggest challenge is that Highway 27 abuts Woodbridge, a low-rise residential community to the east extending roughly from Major Mackenzie Drive to Highway 7.

“I think the traffic is the biggest thing. I would say that’s the one I’ve heard most frequently,” said Carella.

“That’s why the [Highway 427 extension] is key. That can absorb a lot of that traffic. None of that truck traffic is going into those residential areas, but because the highway abuts residential, that’s been a concern that some people have expressed. Hopefully with the [Highway 427 extension], that problem will solve itself.”

The staff report on the public meeting regarding the FedEx site was adopted by Vaughan Council at its May 6 meeting.

Meanwhile, staff is reviewing the application, along with the associated block plan. MacKenzie said that staff is going to be initiating an environmental assessment for an east-west road connection in the secondary plan area through the hydro corridor, with an initial public information centre in June.

The plan comprises two parcels of land which connect slightly at Major Mackenzie Drive. The northern portion is roughly bounded by Nashville Road to the north, Highway 50 to the west, Major Mackenzie Drive to the south and a utility corridor to the east. The southern portion is roughly bounded by Major Mackenzie Drive to the north, Huntington Road to the west, Langstaff Road to the south and McGillivray Road to the east.