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Residents push back against developer at public meeting

The informal meeting was hosted by Malone Givens Parsons Ltd., on behalf of Bradford Highlands Joint Venture, to allow residents to ask questions and provide feedback on what they would like to see as part of the development

A community meeting on Thursday evening regarding the former Bradford Highlands golf course property turned ugly, as residents expressed their anger and frustration with the owner's plans to develop 950 homes on the 60-hectare parcel of land, encompassing 23 Brownlee Dr. (the former golf course) and properties at 2820 and 2848 Line 5. 

The owners of the property – ICG Golf Inc., Bayview-Wellington (Highlands) Inc. and 2523951 Ontario Limited – want to expand Bradford’s urban area as outlined in the Official Plan to include the 60 hectares and change its zoning from rural to residential in order to accommodate their plan for a new subdivision. 

The informal meeting was hosted by Malone Givens Parsons Ltd., on behalf of Bradford Highlands Joint Venture, to allow residents to ask questions and provide feedback on what they would like to see as part of the development. 

The handout prepared by Malone Givens Parsons Ltd. noted that the county of Simcoe forecasts an increase in population by up to 7,500 by 2031 (when the town's Official Plan expires) with plans to help meet this demand by providing a housing mix, including low-density housing options. 

Residents and members of council didn't hold back on the opportunity to share their feelings on the application. 

"The level of growth that is coming into Bradford is going to require a significant amount of land, not just this property but other properties as well," Don Givens of Malone Given Parsons told the group of around 60 residents. 

But Coun. Gary Lamb, who was in attendance, said the town is not done filling in the lands in its Official Plan yet. 

"I find your argument bogus because we're not there yet," said Lamb. "We need as a municipality to fill in where we are in Bond Head and we also need to fill in the urban area of the former Town of Bradford that also includes Green Valley (Estates) which was designated under the old township."

"You may say we need it (the development)...but we haven't finished inside the town yet," said Lamb, pointing out that the evening's meeting was not about "design" as the developer had suggested, but rather about "moving the line" in hopes of expanding the current urban boundaries. 

Some of the residents in the crowd, already living in the Bayview Wellington development next to the properties in question, complained that the developer has yet to complete its current community in Bradford. 

"What has the developer given to us here? Nothing," said  one angry resident, noting there are no parks or trails in the developer's existing community in town.

In a recent meeting of council Coun. Peter Ferragine echoed the same sentiments. 

“For everything that they’ve accomplished in this town so far, I haven’t seen much from this developer so far, other than the minimal they have to produce when they create a planned subdivision," he said. 

Resident Stephanie Sinclair questioned why the developer has not maintained the property since the golf course closed in October 2021, allowing weeds to pile up over the season. 

Conveniently enough, the developer had just cut the grass that day, Givens answered. 

"Keep complaining and you'll get it cut," he encouraged. 

Coun. Peter Dykie also spoke against the developer's application. 

"As you can see everybody is upset about this, and everybody will fight you tooth and nail (against it)," he said. 

One resident shared his frustrations on behalf of 70 residents who have signed an online petition speaking out against the application. 

"The general sentiment is that no one in the community we spoke to wants this," he said. "Not a single person had a positive thing to say about developing these lands and I want to make that very clear to everyone involved."

He noted that changing the zoning for this developer would "set a precedent" and cause a "cascading effect" on the surrounding rural properties. 

However, Givens said that his client's application would not be the cause for the "snowball effect" of development, but rather the town's independent review of how much land will be needed for future growth.

"We understand what you are trying to present," the resident reasoned. But noted, it was important for the developer to "work with the community, not against it". 

"If everyone in the community is against this, you should find a different route," he said.

Despite the negative feedback received, Givens was confident his client's plan would eventually be approved. 

"We're here to talk about is inevitable the plan will be approved at some point," he warned. 

"The plan is just preliminary," said Givens, who added they hope to bring an "extensive trail system" to the subdivision in lieu of a golf course. 

Deputy Mayor James Leduc, and Councillors  Raj Sandhu and Peter Ferragine also attended the meeting, but did not speak up. However, in the recent council meeting discussing the application, Leduc did note the developer had a right to come forward given the growing pressures put on the municipality by the province. 

“We didn’t ask for that growth: the province demanded it on us,” Leduc said. “This council has put resolutions forward to reduce that. We don’t want that growth; we’ve done a great job of planning that growth. But this application – whether it’s premature or not – they had the right to bring this to us.”

In the same meeting, Sandhu voted against expanding the urban boundary and said he will do so again because he doesn’t see any information to justify doing so that is different than what was available in 2017.

Down the road, council will have to make decisions about what land will be required to meet the demands of the province’s population figures.

But not immediately. At this stage in the planning process, town staff have not made a recommendation to councillors on the application and no decision has been made on the application. 

The town will be holding an in-person public meeting on the OPA later this year, where residents can provide further comments on the application. 

-with files from Patrick Bales

Natasha Philpott

About the Author: Natasha Philpott

Natasha is the Editor for BradfordToday and InnisfilToday. She graduated from the Media Studies program at The University of Guelph-Humber. She lives in Bradford with her husband, two boys and two cats.
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