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Taking a closer look at the Mobility Orbit, with Innisfil's Director of Growth

Town plans to ask for a Ministerial Zoning Order to expedite development of the Orbit
2020-10MobilityOrbit125M
Drawings showing potential high density development within 125 metres of the proposed GO train station.

Discussion of the Mobility Orbit – a planned community that would be built around a new GO Train station and transportation hub on Innisfil’s Line 6 – has raised a number of questions, and Director of Growth Tim Cane was approached for some answers.

The Town of Innisfil first requested a GO train station two decades ago. Initially planned for Line 5, as part of Lefroy’s expansion, it was subsequently moved to Line 6 under a previous council.

The site is located on lands owned by numbered companies associated with Cortel Group, which has committed to paying for the GO station, in return for higher dwelling unit densities on the surrounding lands – a model introduced by the current provincial government.

Innisfil is asking for a Ministerial Zoning Order (MZO) to expedite construction of the Mobility Orbit, a concentric, planned city surrounding the GO station and transit hub. The MZO would set densities and land uses within a core ‘Centre of Mass’, in a 425 metre radius around the station, avoiding the need for lengthy and costly Official Plan and Zoning Bylaw Amendments.

The MZO would also set the boundary for the overall Orbit, involving a number of different landowners – which could bring the population of the Orbit to 150,000, on build out.

Currently the lands are designated Agricultural and Rural.

While all of the land within the first 425 metres is held by numbered companies associated with Cortel Group, Cane denied that the project was initiated by the developer.

“The town has, and continues, to drive the vision as an alternative form of long-term growth,” he said. “Cortel, as the primary land owner is a key stakeholder and has been involved in the process from the beginning, along with Metrolinx and other stakeholders.”

In Wednesday’s virtual meeting of council, the cost of the station as shown in an artist’s rendering by consultants PARTISANS, was given as $29 million – substantially more than the $15 million initially estimated by Metrolinx.

The design shows a futuristic station at grade, covered by a rail park, and elevated roads.

Cane was asked what’s included in the $29 million price tag.

“At this stage, the number would include portions of the rail park above the station and amenities as part of the station,” he said. “This number doesn’t include infrastructure (e.g. the bridge) required to implement the surrounding Centre of Mass.”

The tallest buildings and highest concentration of non-residential uses and amenities will be concentrated within the first 225 metre diameter ring around the station, where building height is a minimum of six storeys. No maximum has been set, but Cane acknowledged in council that the images shown in the artist’s drawings could be 20 storeys, or more.

Densities are reduced within the next ring, 225-425 metres, to 150 dwelling units per hectare– including not only multistorey buildings at least four storeys tall, but also three storey townhomes and lane suites.

On build-out, the 56-hectare central core of the Orbit is envisioned as adding 7,000 dwelling units, and 20,000 people – a compact high-density development around the transportation hub.

“The Orbit will require the expansion of the sewage treatment plant,” Cane acknowledged. “There is an existing environmental assessment for the plant’s extension. Based on existing housing demand, the next stage of the plant expansion (Stage 3) is currently being designed and will likely come online around the same time as the GO station and first phase of the Orbit.”

Stage 4 “will be needed for subsequent phases and potentially moved up as demand and market uptake are assessed from Orbit and the wider community,” he added.

Just prior to the decision to pursue a MZO, the Town of Innisfil signed a front-end financing agreement with Cortel Group and other developers in Innisfil, to up-front 60 percent of the cost of a new pumping station, that will service part of Cortel Group’s Sleeping Lion subdivision, the GO station, the Orbit “and other catchment areas further upstream, including Alcona and the Town Campus,” Cane said.

He acknowledged that the Orbit lands lie outside of the Alcona settlement boundary, but insisted there would be no impact on the Development Charges paid by all developers. In fact, the Orbit “potentially, because of less sprawl, could actually reduce future DC rates for all developers,” he suggested.

Cane summed up, “The MZO request is to advance the opening of the GO station, provide an Orbit boundary to help with longer-term planning, and provide certainty for the developer prior to paying for new infrastructure (like the GO station).”

But, as he told councillors on Wednesday night, “by no stretch is this a rubber stamp.” The MZO will go to Simcoe County for approvals, before being sent on to the Minister of Municipal Affairs – who can amend or refuse the MZO.

The Draft MZO is available on the town website; click here to view. The public comment period has been extended to Nov. 4. Residents are invited to submit comments on the Get Involved Innisfil webpage, or email to orbit@innisfil.ca.

Residents are also invited to attend a virtual Open House, “Ask a Planner: The Orbit” on the Town’s YouTube channel on Monday, Oct. 19 at 6:30 p.m.

Cane acknowledged that to be considered in the final version of the MZO, comments would have to be received by Oct. 26.

“With extra resources in place, that date will provide sufficient time for staff to consider comments and include them in the staff report back to council for Nov 4. Any comments received after Oct. 26 will also be considered but will have to be responded to closer to council’s consideration of the matter on Nov. 4, due to the timing requirements of the council agenda release.”

He added, “As always, staff are open to making appropriate changes to the draft MZO after reviewing all public comments.”

In the council meeting, Mayor Lynn Dollin noted that there had been a strong response to the long-term plan for a city of 150,000.

“People are in shock and awe when you say 150,000 people. We’re not talking about tomorrow,” Dollin said.

“I think it was Claire Malcolmson who said we have a commitment to the future, and that’s what this is,” she said, adding that growth is coming, and the town needs to take steps to absorb that growth. “We are thinking of the future. I believe this is the antidote of sprawl.”

 




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