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TBM council eyes development freeze for affordability's sake

Council wants to explore its options for an interim control bylaw to pause development unless it includes affordable or attainable units
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The Blue Mountains council is considering implementing an interim control bylaw that would halt all development in the community, unless they contain units for affordable/attainable housing.

Dubbed the “nuclear option” by Coun. Rob Sampson, council is seeking more information about an interim control bylaw (ICBL) as the affordable housing crisis in the community deepens.

Council discussed the ICBL option at back-to-back council and committee of the whole meetings held on June 6 and 7. The town is currently in the midst of a five-year review of its Official Plan, a process that will include adding affordable/attainable housing provisions to the town’s policies. However, members of council were concerned that developments will continue to come forward under current guidelines without affordable/attainable units included.

Sampson said the town should consider a “timeout signal” on all development until new policies around affordable and attainable housing are in the Official Plan.

“Developers are anxious to avoid attainable housing. Maybe we should be considering taking a version of what Collingwood did and have an interim control order,” said Sampson, who added he would like to see such a measure include exemptions for developers who do come forward with proposals that include attainable and affordable units. “We need staff to look at that and come back with what a timeout would look like, if possible.”

Mayor Alar Soever said he is concerned the town will see a rush of applications for developments to get into the pipeline before the affordable/attainable housing policies are added to the Official Plan.

“We will get a spate of applications that will want to be deemed completed before the changes,” said Soever, who suggested a quick report from staff on the options. “I think we do need to consider this.”

The mayor noted that he recently observed a sign in a town business advising customers to be patient and kind as the business was short-staffed and said the staffing issue for local businesses is only going to get worse as housing prices continue to rise.

“The community will cease to be functional,” he said.

Members of council were interested in knowing more about an ICBL, but wary of the potential fall out.

“An ICBL can have unintended consequences. It does set off a few ripple effects,” said Deputy Mayor Peter Bordignon.

Councillors Paula Hope and Jim Uram said another option council could consider is immediately bringing forward an amendment to the town’s Official Plan to add policies for affordable and attainable housing. Although, both noted it would take time to get such an amendment passed and approved.

“The time is now for us to pull this together. It needs to be very specific,” said Hope.

Uram said council could use the Southern Georgian Bay housing study as background information for such an amendment.

“It may get appealed, but all it’s doing is introducing a number based on a report we already have,” said Uram.

CAO Shawn Everitt said staff would report back on options at a future meeting.

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About the Author: Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Chris Fell covers The Blue Mountains and Grey Highlands under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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