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Kawartha Lakes council concerned about potential impacts of Bill 23

DAN CEARNS, The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: City of Kawartha Lakes councillors have made their concerns known about the Ontario government’s Bill 23, also known as the “More Homes Built Faster Act.”

Discussion on the act started at a meeting on Tuesday, November 22nd, when correspondence was included in the meeting agenda from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO).

“Preliminary analysis of the Bill indicates the transfer of up to $1 billion a year in costs from private sector developers to property taxpayers without any likelihood of improved housing affordability. Similarly, the Bill’s provisions designed to reduce environmental protection will benefit developers in the short term, with costs to the public and homeowners that cannot be calculated,” a letter from AMO president Colin Best stated.

The plan includes 50 actions and, according to an Ontario government press release, is intended to “address the housing crisis by building 1.5 million homes over the next ten years.” The release adds the government will do this by “reducing government fees and fixing developmental approval delays which slow down housing construction.”

However, there were portions of the plan which concerned council members.

“This is a far-reaching bill. I don’t believe there’s ever been a [planning] Bill like this which changes the whole planning situation in Ontario. It’ll affect all sorts of things. One of the main effects will be on the environment. We will not be allowed to reach out to Kawartha Conservation or our conservation authorities to comment on certain policies,” Ward 2 Councillor Pat Warren said.

Ward 5 Councillor Eric Smeaton stated he feels this bill “greatly reduces prime agriculture” lands and stressed the importance of conservation authorities for planning matters.

Ward 1 Councillor Emmett Yeo took issue with the province’s commenting period for this Bill. “My biggest concern with this is the commenting period runs out next week.”

Ward 3 Councillor Mike Perry explained he heard from residents during the municipal election who want their voices heard more on local issues.

“Bill 23 really does take an incredible amount of power away from municipal-level governments to make local decisions,” he stated.

Two examples he noted include the Ontario government imposing a five percent limit of any new development projects “being set aside at affordable rates” and the government taking away some development charge opportunities from municipalities.

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