The Government of Ontario has again announced two new transit-oriented communities (TOCs) at future stations on the Yonge North subway extension in the Thornhill area of Markham and the Langstaff area of southern Richmond Hill. (The Province previously announced its intention to develop the projects near the stations in September 2021.)
The wrinkle in this second announcement is that Ontario has also confirmed that it's building a fifth station on the subway extension at Royal Orchard, possibly as a gift to help ease local anger over the proposal to build the subway under the nearby residential neighbourhood. It's also using a controversial planning tool to help kick-start the developments.
In its most recent news release about the projects, the government explains that, when complete, the two communities at High Tech Station — north of Highways 7 and 407 — and Bridge Station — south of the highways — will supply as many as 40,000 new homes in York Region. The projects will also support as many as 19,000 new jobs.
It says the TOCs at Bridge and High Tech stations will bring new housing, parkland, commercial, retail and community spaces all within walking distance of transit. By building more homes through these high-density and mixed-use communities, it claims that it can also offset the construction costs of Royal Orchard Station through the funds that it receives from the developers of the TOCs.
At future High Tech Station, Ontario has designated two sites for a mixed-use transit-oriented community. The sites, east and west of GO Transit's Richmond Hill line, stretch between Beresford Drive on the north and Highway 7 on the south; Yonge Street on the west and Red Maple Drive on the east. The transit-oriented community at future Bridge Station lies between Highway 407 and Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery on both sides of the rail line.
The future subway, GO trains, and York Region Transit's Viva bus-rapid transit service would all provide transit service to the communities, while Highway 407 offers motorists easy access to and from the sites.
Although the Province says it's working with the cities of Markham, Richmond Hill, Vaughan, and the Region of York to develop the sites, it is using Enhanced Minister's Zoning Orders (EMZO) to speed up the approval process for the projects. The Planning Act gives the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing the authority to control any land in the province. The minister can issue an MZO to protect a provincial interest or to help overcome potential barriers or delays to critical projects. If a minister’s zoning order and a municipal bylaw conflict, the MZO prevails. The municipal bylaw remains in effect in all other respects. In the case of the Enhanced version, the municipality is also removed from oversight of the Site Plan Control part of the process.
According to Ontario Yours to Protect, an initiative of organizations supporting clean water, farmland, biodiversity, and healthy communities, with an MZO, the Province can "override local planning authority to approve development without expert analysis, public input, or any chance of appeal."
In April 2019, Premier Doug Ford announced that Ontario would build four priority rapid-transit projects in Toronto, including the Yonge North extension. In March 2021, the Province proposed dropping at least two of the original seven stations for the Yonge line — and revising the route so that it no longer operated under Yonge Street in the Thornhill / Langstaff area. Among the stations it suggested it would remove from the proposal were Cummer-Drewry in Toronto and Clark and Royal Orchard in York. In July 2021, Ontario announced that it would proceed with a station at Clark. The province also said it was working with municipalities "to explore the possibility" of funding two more stations at Cummer Avenue-Drewry Avenue, and Royal Orchard Boulevard.
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What do you think of the plans to extend the Yonge subway and to build transit-oriented communities near the two stations. Add your comments to the form on this page, or join the discussion on our Forum:
- High Tech Station transit-oriented community discussion thread, here; and
- Yonge North subway extension discussion thread, here.
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