Open Letter - Ramara Must Officially Rescind Request for MZO

Ramara has requested a MZO for developments in the Rama Road Corridor. Without an official letter from the municipality rescinding that request it remains in play.

Dear Mayor and Council.

As you are aware, we have grave concerns about the power of Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZO) – how they cut out public consultation and undermine the role that environmental studies play in ensuring developments don’t result in a net loss of value to the public, being two key issues.

The use of a tool that is as blunt and powerful as a MZO is especially concerning in places where landscapes and watersheds are shared, with their ecosystems or flows extending beyond a single jurisdiction.

Image showing the watersheds in and surrounding Lake Simcoe and Simcoe County.
Image showing the watersheds in and surrounding Lake Simcoe and Simcoe County.

Return to the Planning Process

To ensure development provides a benefit to the community, by which we mean both our human communities and the natural communities that we are a part of and rely upon, it is crucial that they meet a high level of rigour in determining their ‘fitness’ in a given location. Projects such as what is proposed for the Rama Road Corridor must, at minimum, meet the requirements set out under the Planning Act process.

MZOs Cause Inconsistency and Confusion

Confusion remains, however, regarding whether a MZO has been requested by Ramara for projects in the Rama Road Corridor. Our coalition was relieved to hear, during the Orillia special meeting this week, that Ramara does not want to proceed with a MZO request.

It is important to be very clear that the Township of Ramara has initiated a MZO request, and that until and unless Council officially rescinds this request with a letter to the Minister, this request stands.

Ramara Has Requested a MZO

The fact that Ramara has initiated a MZO request, which is all that is required since there is no formal application process outlined under Section 47 of the Planning Act for MZOs, is evidenced by the following:

First, a motion was passed by the Township of Ramara on November 2, 2020. In item 6.1 of the agenda council passed a motion to allow Mayor Clarke to sign a letter to accompany the Rama Road Economic Employment District package. Although the letter does not mention a MZO application in its body, within the package the request for a MZO for this project was bluntly stated:

“The municipality is requesting that the Minister ​enact​ a Minister’s Zoning Order for the three proposed developments in order to commence the growth and development within the Rama Road Corridor.”1Township of Ramara. Minutes of the Committee of the Whole Meeting Dated: Monday, November 2, 2020.​ ​(Emphasis added.)

With a motion of council to endorse this package, it most certainly can be considered an official municipal request for a MZO. Further, it doesn’t state it wants to explore a MZO discussion or open up the feasibility of a MZO, but enact one.

Simcoe County Has Backed This Request

Second, a request was made by the Township of Ramara to the County of Simcoe Council to endorse Ramara’s MZO request.

It first went to the Committee of the Whole on November 10, 2020. Mayor Clarke moved a motion “that the County of Simcoe supports the letter dated November 3, 2020, titled Rama Road Economic Employment District.”2County of Simcoe. Minutes of Committee of the Whole Meeting Dated: Tuesday, November 10, 2020.​ As a reminder, this letter accompanies the ​Rama Road Economic Employment District package which explicitly requests a MZO to be enacted.

Screenshot of the section of the Rama Road Corridor Package that requests a MZO.
Screenshot of the section of the Rama Road Corridor Package that requests a MZO.

Next, this recommendation was brought forward to County Council at a Joint Committee of the Whole and Council Meeting on November 24, 2020. From there, Resolution 2020-705 was passed by County Council which resulted in a letter dated December 7, 2020 to MMAH Minister Steve Clark from the County of Simcoe. The body of this letter further outlines that, in fact, a request to enact a MZO was made by Ramara Township AND that County Council supports their request:

Recommendation CCW-132-20

“That the County of Simcoe supports the letter dated November 3, 2020, titled Rama Road Economic Employment District.”

The County of Simcoe is pleased to inform you [Minister Steve Clark] that County Council supports the above proposal within the Rama Road Corridor, in the Township of Ramara, and their request for a Minister’s Zoning Order.”3County of Simcoe. Letter to Minister Clark – Subject: Township of Ramara – Rama Road Economic Employment District: Request for Ministerial Zoning Order (MZO

Only Approval Left Is By Province

Ramara’s MZO request now has two – township and upper tier – of the three approvals it needs to proceed. ​The only approval authority remaining is the province.

Evidently, if Ramara is reconsidering its MZO request for the Rama Road Corridor, then it is clear that the procedural motions that have been put in place need to be rectified.

Officially, regardless of intent, two levels of government have endorsed this MZO request. Saying otherwise is disingenuous to the process both councils have undertaken since November 2, 2020.

Ramara Must Rescind Its MZO Request

Public platitudes about intention do not rectify the official acts of council that have been completed thus far. Therefore, we are requesting that the Township of Ramara rectify this situation officially to align with its comments publicly that a MZO was not applied for. Specifically, the Township of Ramara should reopen the issue before council and pass another motion to send written correspondence to the province directing it to disregard its Rama Road Economic Employment District package and that Council will proceed with these lands through the standard process outlined in the Planning Act, not through a MZO.

Further, since the County of Simcoe is the recognized planning authority in the region, its endorsement of the MZO must also be rescinded. We suggest that a recommendation be made within the Committee of Whole for County Council to notify MMAH that County Council is revoking its support of the Rama Road Corridor MZO letter it sent to Steve Clark dated December 7, 2020. From there, County Council must adopt this recommendation and send formal written correspondence to Minister Clark.

In Conclusion

We hope that the Township of Ramara does not break faith with its public comments in the media and in front of a neighbouring council about not wanting a MZO for these properties. By not officially undoing councils’ actions, this MZO request will still be considered by the province. Further, the developers of this project will still have two levels of endorsement for their projects under a MZO and therefore the province could proceed with the MZO request without further input from either the County or Ramara.

Finally, we must go on record that regardless of the MZO application for the Rama Road Corridor, this project, as it stands, is incompatible with a net benefit for Lake Couchiching, Ontario’s significant wetlands, climate, residents of the Lake Couchiching area or the long-term fiscal health of Ramara Township.

We appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to council actions that ensure this MZO application does not proceed.

How Can You Get Involved?

  1. Send a message to Council using our form.
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Send a message to Council

Ramara Letter

Dear Mayor Clarke and Ramara Council.

Please end the confusion regarding use of a MZO in the Rama Road Corridor and send a letter, passed by Council, to the Minister that officially rescinds any possible outstanding request.

The proper route to proceed with development is through the planning process, ensuring that it includes full and transparent public participation done in good faith.

Sincerely.

Orillia Letter

Dear Mayor Clark and Orillia Council.

Please take a stand to protect the health of Lake Couchiching and the water that we rely on for drinking as well as for recreation.

I ask that you send a letter to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing stating that Orillia opposes the use of a MZO in the Rama Road Corridor.

Sincerely.

Links to Further Reading

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