Opinion Editorial

How Barrie grows over next two decades is crucial

This map shows areas annexed from the Town of Innisfil by the City of Barrie in 2010. (SUBMITTED GRAPHIC)

This map shows areas annexed from the Town of Innisfil by the City of Barrie in 2010. (SUBMITTED GRAPHIC)

How Barrie's growth has been planned during the last 20 years is arguably the city's most important story during this time.

Where people live, where they work, how they live and play, how they get around and the cost of living here have all been affected.

But today the city is, at long last, looking ahead.

On Monday city council approved its growth management update, which is largely about the former Innisfil land, now part of south-Barrie. It includes an agreement with property owners there on infrastructure implementation and approvals of the Salem and Hewitt's secondary plans.

These plans are designed to accommodate a city of 210,000 people and 101,000 jobs by 2031. New communities will be interconnected, offering a wide range of housing types with easy access to transit and green spaces. Future employment land is to be protected.

One-third of the former Innisfil land is to have a natural heritage designation.

Perhaps most importantly, growth is to pay for itself; there are to be a series of new financing tools requiring additional investment by developers.

Developers are to pay for all growth-related costs in the former Innisfil, including debt, using tools such as development charges, a per housing unit fee and front-ending infrastructure costs.

In other words, the 'little old lady on Queen Street' won't be stuck with the bill.

There's an infrastructure plan to renew and repair existing city roads, buildings, pipes, etc., as well.

The total price tag to 2031 is $3.1 billion.

“The goal was to plan for growth in a unique way,” said Mayor Jeff Lehman, of growth paying for growth. “The agreement reached is unprecedented in that regard.”

Lehman noted before there's been an unprecedented level of co-operation between the city, developers and landowners – tens of thousands of hours of work to get this deal done.

It was one of this council's goals to plan for future growth, in this case the next 20 years, when it took office in late 2010.

That goal has been met.

Now it's up to the next council, and the ones after it, to ensure the growth plans are implemented.

Growth must pay for itself, and also allow Barrie to prosper in the years leading up to 2031.

Both must happens for these plans to be a success.

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