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Inspired by Sarjeant, Bradford creates MZO application process

‘I understand the reason for this report is to create a process where we can leverage more for the town, which is good — it just feels like we’re inviting MZOs,’ says councillor

Following the recent success of Sarjeant Co. in gathering Bradford council’s support for a Ministerial Zoning Order (MZO) in late December, the town is working on creating a formal process for all applicants.

A report from town chief administrative officer Geoff McKnight laid out a protocol to ensure consistent submission requirements, and committee of the whole recommended council endorse them, during a meeting Jan. 16.

Deputy Mayor Raj Sandhu emphasized the importance of having “one guideline for everyone,” and Mayor James Leduc agreed with taking inspiration from Sarjeant’s application, calling it “quite well done,” and “quite thorough.”

The new process will require applicants to submit a series of four briefs, each addressing different aspects, including:

  1. Planing justification — explaining the purpose of the project, the reason for the request and an explanation of why an MZO is needed instead of alternatives
  2. Servicing and stormwater management — explaining how the project would be serviced and how stormwater would be managed
  3. Environmental impact and archaeological analysis — explaining any potential environmental issues and mitigation strategies, identifying species at risk on the site, and any known archaeological resources there
  4. Community benefit — explaining how the project will benefit the community in addition to mandatory fees, charges and parkland dedication

Ward 7 Coun. Peter Dykie also wanted to ensure residents would have “a fair opportunity to speak openly,” and share their concerns over developments granted an MZO.

While McKnight acknowledged MZOs themselves have not traditionally included public consultation, he also noted the province is reviewing the process. Regardless of the outcome, he says, council still has the authority to approve or deny site plans and plans of subdivision/condominium, at which time residents would have a chance to provide feedback.

That still didn’t satisfy Ward 3 Coun. Ben Verkaik, who said he opposes MZOs in principle.

“I understand the reason for this report is to create a process where we can leverage more for the town, which is good — it just feels like we’re inviting MZOs,” he said.

Ward 6 Coun. Nickolas Harper said he understood the concerns, “but when people are calling municipal governments gatekeepers in terms of housing ... these are solutions we have to adapt to actually increase building.”

In August, the province tasked Bradford with building 6,500 new homes by 2031.

In addition, applicants will be required to pay an application fee, which McKnight proposed to be $2,000, and while he agreed with the concept, Ward 2 Coun. Jonathan Scott felt that fee was too low.

“The entrance fee needs to be higher,” he said. “An MZO is meant to be a bit of an end run around to the process, so there should be a financial barrier to entry.”

Scott tabled an amendment to increase the fee to $10,000, which was seconded by Ward 1 Coun. Cheraldean Duhaney.

Ward 5 Coun. Peter Ferragine agreed that setting the fee too low could send the wrong message and asked for clarification on how the amount was determined.

McKnight explained it was based on the effort required by staff to evaluate applications and make recommendations to council, and is “an educated guess” based on similar fees.

Sandhu said he couldn’t support the $10,000 cost.

“These people that are coming with these applications ... they’re also investors in our community,” he said, pointing to the community benefit aspect of the policy.

Leduc echoed that sentiment.

“This, to me, is not an inviting document. This is not saying ‘Hey, we’re open for MZOs,’” he said, emphasizing the community benefits must be in addition to obligatory contributions. “It is about going over and above here.”

Scott and Duhaney agreed to reduce the amended increase to $5,000, which was then voted through.

An MZO can be issued by the provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to override local planning and consultation requirements as a way to expedite rezoning an area of land and prevent the ability to appeal the rezoning.

Municipal support is not required for the minister to issue an MZO, but it can be influential, and in his report, McKnight anticipates the town will see more requests in future.

Recommendations from committee of the whole are considered for approval at the next regular meeting of council.

Michael Owen

About the Author: Michael Owen

Michael Owen has worked in news since 2009 and most recently joined Village Media in 2023 as a general assignment reporter for BradfordToday
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