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TBM, Grey Highlands leaders say higher-density development good

'It's density or taking farmland,' said Grey Highlands Mayor Paul McQueen

A Grey County plan to increase dialogue with the public about the need for higher density development projects has received thumbs up from country representatives from The Blue Mountains and Grey Highlands.

At county council’s meeting on May 12, Manager of Planning Services Scott Taylor presented council with a pair of reports prepared for the county by students from the University of Guelph Masters of Rural Planning and Development program. One of the reports entitled: ‘Density is Not a Dirty Word Guide”, was eye-opening for the county.

In preparing the report, students did a lot of research into density-related issues and conducted interviews with planners, municipal staff and developers across the country to gain their perspectives on density and density-related policies.

“There is definitely a need for more education on this topic,” said Taylor, who noted that the students heard about “fears” in the community about density. Taylor suggested the county planning staff could do a better job communicating about density and how it relates to efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Taylor’s comments found support around the council table, although members of council said the conversation needed to be a two-way street.

“In my mind, it’s a failure of the community to listen to what is being said. Density is a good thing,” said Southgate Deputy Mayor Brian Milne.

Acting Warden and Grey Highlands Mayor Paul McQueen said rural areas are facing tough choices.

“It’s density or taking farmland,” he said. “Farmland is getting gobbled up. (Density) is a change and we have to get used to that change.”

Grey Highlands Deputy Mayor Aakash Desai said the “NIMBYISM” around density is concerning to him. (NIMBY refers to an attitude of "not in my backyard.")

“It’s important we do this education around why density is good,” he said.

The Blue Mountains Deputy Mayor Peter Bordignon noted that his dad’s farm is now a subdivision.

“Either you go out or you go up,” he said, adding that density had to be managed to ensure housing units are attainable. “We have to make sure some of those units are attainable. We also have to look at how we control that density.”