Ajax has come out strong against a proposed tourism and entertainment centre in Pickering, which according to Ontario government, will help promote economic growth and create more than 10,000 jobs.
Durham Live is a major tourist and entertainment destination. Yesterday, a Minister’s Zoning Order was made at the request of the City of Pickering, and with the support of the Regional Municipality of Durham, to expedite construction of the project.
“Our government has been clear that we are going to bring shovel-ready projects online faster, to start us down the road to economic recovery during this very difficult period,” said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “We are proud that this project – which will create more than 10,000 jobs – has the support of the City of Pickering and the Regional Government in Durham.”
The 240-acre development will include a casino, performing arts centre, film studio, hotels, restaurants, convention centre, mixed employment zone and a warehousing and logistics zone.
“This is a game changer for residents of Pickering and Durham Region. This decision will help produce high quality, well-paying jobs including, once fully built out, the largest film studio in Canada,” said Peter Bethlenfalvy, MPP for Pickering-Uxbridge.
Through a development agreement, the City of Pickering, the Region of Durham and the proponent have rectified concerns related to traffic congestion and overpass issues. As a result, the proponent will undertake traffic studies and complete the required intersections and the Notion Road overpass, said a provincial statement.
“The minister’s decision to support the Durham Live development will be a great economic driver for Durham Region. Durham Live is expected to bring 10,000 jobs in total once completed. Intersection improvements, traffic studies and affordable housing components are just some of the other benefits of this development. We are excited to see this development come to fruition, with support from the province,” said John Henry, CEO & Regional Chair of Durham Region.
“The City of Pickering, Members of Council, and residents thank the Government of Ontario for its continued support of the Durham Live project. Now that the outstanding traffic and environmental concerns have been satisfactorily addressed, we are eager to move forward on this transformational project, which will become one of the province’s most significant drivers of tourism, entertainment, economic development, and job creation,” said Pickering Mayor Dave Ryan.
“Durham Live is a project that has created over 2,500 jobs to date. Additionally, there will be 1,500 new jobs at Tribro Studios. This MZO lays the foundation for thousands of more jobs. Thank you to our Durham Regional partners and the provincial government for providing the runway for us to create these opportunities to stimulate the economy,” said Steve Apostolopoulos, Managing Partner for Triple Group of Companies.
The Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and the proponent have also signed an agreement for compensation that, pending the outcome of an assessment, would lead to the creation of ecological benefits that meet or exceed any loss to the natural system, with priority given to lands within the Frenchman’s Bay and the Duffins Creek watershed, said the statement.
Say No to Durham Live MZO: Ajax
However, Ajax says no to the project.
Pickering Developments Inc. (Durham Live developer) has requested a Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO) that would allow up to 4 million square feet of warehousing/distribution space (and 1,650 residential units) on a Provincially Significant Wetland, said a statement from the town.
In order to issue an MZO, the wetland has to be reclassified by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF). TOA says the TRCA does not support development within wetlands.
What is an MZO? An MZO is a tool in Ontario’s Planning Act and allows the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to make a ruling on how a piece of land is to be used in the province, with no chance of appeal by municipalities, citizens or environmental groups.
Why is Ajax concerned about/opposed to an MZO for a property in Pickering?
- TOA already had significant and unresolved traffic concerns with the Durham Live development, including five urgent projects that continue to be postponed. These projects are Brock Road and Bayly Street, Squires Beach Road and Bayly Street, Church Street South and Bayly Street, Westney Road and Bayly Street, and Notion Road/Squires Beach overpass.
- Nevertheless, Ajax continued to work with all of the parties in hopes of finding resolutions to longstanding and new traffic concerns, as well as significant environmental issues.
- The MZO would effectively overrule an existing OMB/LPAT decision for the Durham Live site, wasting $1m of Ajax taxpayer’s money.
- The MZO allows for 4 million sqft of warehousing space (in addition to 1,650 residences and commercial) on a Provincially Significant Wetland.
What is at stake if an MZO goes through for this property?
- Significant traffic congestion and delays.
- Complete removal of 57 acres of key natural heritage and hydrological features, including Provincially Significant Wetland. Further, the landowner’s planning consultant has stated that the project would result in the removal of the wetland and upland habitats in their entirety.
- No public consultation or mechanism to provide feedback (including those in nearby historic Pickering Village, or those with interest in protecting significant green spaces).
What has the Town done to oppose the MZO?
- Mayor Collier has sent a letter to Hon. Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to outline our concerns and opposition
- He also sent a letter to the Hon. John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry about our environmental concerns (and correcting a letter he sent to the CEO of the TRCA)
What are other people saying?
- Environmental Defence co-signed a letter with Ontario Nature, Wilderness Committee, David Suzuki Foundation, Ecojustice, and Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition to Ministers Clark and Yakabuski opposing the reclassification of the wetlands and the MZO
- The Green Party of Ontario leader MPP Mike Schreiner asked a question about this issue in the legislature on October 29. The GPO also released a statement(External link)
What should concerned residents do?
- Complete the below comment form and let us know how you feel about paving over wetlands.
- Join Environmental Defence in taking action against this project at https://act.environmentaldefence.ca/page/70194/action/1?ea.url.id=4978834&forwarded=true(External link).
- The required intersections are on track to be completed by Fall 2021, and the Notion Road Overpass is scheduled to be completed in 2024.
- The Planning Act authorizes the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to make zoning orders for regulating the use of land and the location, use, height, size and spacing of buildings and structures. This zoning order was requested by the City of Pickering and with the support of the Regional Municipality of Durham.