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Guelph’s Dolime Quarry project receives MZO approval from Ontario government

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Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark has issued a minister’s zoning order (MZO) to speed up development on the former Dolime Quarry lands.

Clark was in Guelph for an early morning news conference at city hall on Monday and also signed off on the city’s request to officially include the quarry lands in Guelph’s municipal boundary.

Read more: Ontario using frequent Minister’s Zoning Orders to fast-track development, says auditor general

“Young families, seniors and all hard-working Ontarians are desperate for housing that meets their needs and budget. As Ontario enters a period of economic recovery, we are working hard to protect our progress and increase the supply of housing our province needs,” Clark said.

“I’m proud to grant the City of Guelph’s request for a minister’s zoning order to help build more homes faster, all while protecting the drinking water for the people of Guelph and Eramosa.”

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Clark said the MZO and the boundary adjustment would both come into effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

Plans for the Dolime Quarry have been in the works since 2019 when the city announced that the quarry would shut down and the site, currently in Guelph-Eramosa Township, would be brought inside Guelph’s municipal boundary.

Along with a mixed-use neighbourhood, Guelph would also take over control of the quarry’s water supply and build an on-site water management system.

The city said the quarry diverts about 11 million litres of water per day and the plan is essential in protecting Guelph’s drinking water.

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Along with Guelph city council, the boundary change received unanimous support from Guelph-Eramosa Township and Wellington County, and the official request, along with a request for an MZO, were sent to the province in July.

MZOs are a contentious land-planning tool used to fast-track development and circumvent normal planning processes.

They were originally intended to be issued in special circumstances, but just last week Ontario’s auditor general said the current government is using them as a tool to overcome potential barriers and delays to development.

An audit by Bonnie Lysyk’s office said the government issued 44 minister’s zoning orders between March 2019 and March 2021, when in the past, about one was issued per year. In 2017 and 2018, there were none.

In its request to the province, council moved a motion to have the MZO include assurances for a thorough planning process that would include the usual studies around environmental and transportation impacts.

The city said on Monday that the province was unable to include council’s direction around the requirement for a full planning process, but an agreement has been signed with the quarry owner that commits to a “thorough planning process for the new development.

“Together, the Minister’s Zoning Order allows for residential development on the lands in principle, and the agreement between the city and Red Valley Development Inc. articulates the requirement for a planning process, similar to a secondary plan, to determine the specific residential uses that are appropriate,” the city said.

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The city added that planning will include “environmental impact and other required studies and define development limits, road networks, parkland allocations, natural heritage buffers, and servicing needs for water, wastewater and stormwater management.”

Read more: Advocates, opposition slam Ontario government’s move to strengthen minister’s zoning power

The community will still be able to have its say through some sort of engagement process.

The agreement also assures planning requirements would still apply to future property owners if the land is sold.

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