Developers who worked closely with the city in the Ontario Municipal Board process that approved the aerotropolis are already proposing a large residential and commercial development. The concept plan circulated to councillors last week by the Twenty Road Landowners Group West is framed as a “mutually beneficial solution” that helps the city deal with the reduced size of the aerotropolis and avoids “protracted litigation at the OMB” hearings expected next fall, but it could also significantly increase the servicing costs for any eventual industrial development around the airport.
It would see 70 hectares of residential subdivisions on the developers’ lands south of Twenty Road between Upper James and Glancaster and about 20 hectares of commercial development along the extension of Garth Street. Along with required parkland and stream buffers, it essentially occupies all of the group’s property that is outside the airport’s noise exclusion area and therefore potentially useable for residential purposes.
The six–owner group holds 172 hectares in the aerotropolis lands between Twenty Road and Dickenson Road, but their concept plan covers more than twice that area (361 hectares) and also shows large blocks for industrial uses mainly on lands they don’t own. This includes designating as “prestige industrial” the area along Glancaster Road currently occupied by existing homes.
The landowners’ group submitted evidence in last year’s OMB hearings including their consultant’s report that concluded the rate of city use of industrial lands is so slow that there was no justification for any aerotropolis boundary expansion. But it subsequently withdrew that report and struck an agreement with the city for a reduction of the aerotropolis need by about 170 hectares.
In the covering letter for the proposal, the group reminds councillors of that history and “that our group was the sole private interest to participate in the court appeal and filed materials with the court supporting the city in defending the OMB’s decision on the Phase 2 hearing.”
If the group succeeds in convincing council, or if it achieves something similar in phase three of the OMB hearings scheduled for late next year, its development proposal may have a profound impact on the cost of servicing the aerotropolis. A residential–commercial development of this size could use up most or all of the excess water and sewer capacity that is supposed to allow the first part of the aerotropolis to be developed without construction of new 25–kilometre trunk sewer and water mains to the Woodward Avenue treatment facility.
That excess capacity was expected to service about 130 hectares primarily located on lands owned by these developers. If that is used instead for residential and commercial development, it would significantly raise the cost per hectare to service the new industrial lands – a problem already exacerbated by the decision to reduce the total size of the aerotropolis.
The city estimates $351 million for internal servicing of the aerotropolis lands without trunk water and sewer pipes costing over $100 million each. Now down to 555 net hectares, the price tag could approach $1 million per hectare and make reuse of bayfront industrial land a more attractive option.
The city officially opposes residential lands inside the aerotropolis, but the authors of this development proposal say they share “the city’s objective to accommodate new greenfield employment land” on some of their lands close to the airport. And they argue that their lands can and should be excluded because of the reduced size of the industrial expansion.
City planners promise to release their own proposals for the aerotropolis boundary in mid–January and allow a one–month public comment period before finalizing it on February 18. V