Here you can find out how a Municipal Comprehensive Review (MCR) process affects community growth.
The Growth Plan is a provincial growth management plan that provides a framework for planning our communities. Regional and local governments implement the provincial plan by updating their official plans.
Some municipalities have a two-tier system: a regional or county government, and local municipal governments. In two-tier municipalities, first the region (upper-tier) amends or revises its plan, and then municipalities (lower-tier) carry through changes in their own plans that reflect the decisions made at the upper-tier level.
Some Growth Plan policies – like those related to climate change or complete streets – can be implemented through official plan amendments. But certain key policies have to be implemented in an integrated manner through an official plan review process – this is called a Municipal Comprehensive Review (or MCR). The policies involved in this integrated (MCR) planning process are the policies related to growth management, which is at the heart of the Growth Plan.
There are several attributes of an MCR process. These include:
- The allocation of population and employment growth to lower-tier municipalities.
- The identification of growth centres and major transit station areas destined for intensification.
- Setting intensification and density targets.
- Calculation of the land budget, which determines how much new land will be needed to accommodate growth.
- The identification (if needed) of any specific expansion areas.
The outcome of the MCR process brings regional (upper-tier) official plans into conformity with with the Growth Plan. At the regional level, that means figuring out where growth can be placed to provide a range of housing types, transit, public services (like schools and hospitals), sewage systems; and determining how the urban built form works best. Municipal decisions on how we grow and where we grow affects rural areas too: local farming, wildlife habitat, water and natural heritage systems, travel patterns; the future of our region.
To determine how to accommodate people and jobs in urban areas, a number of background studies and strategies must be prepared by the municipality in order to make decisions throughout the MCR process.
Although the province doesn’t require public consultation on most of the background strategies, municipal councils will likely want to get citizen input on them given their importance to shaping growth for decades to come.
The MCR studies include:
- An intensification strategy that identifies areas that can accommodate further development within an existing urban area, such as vacant lots, underutilized land, basement apartments, laneway housing, and converting strip malls into mixed use developments.
- An employment strategy, that determines what types of businesses, and shops the community can attract and retain.
- A housing strategy, that identifies the current housing mix and what type of housing is needed.
- An analysis to justify why employment areas might be changed to non-employment uses.
- An analysis to justify any loss or changes to the Natural Heritage System or Agricultural System due to a boundary expansion.
- Infrastructure plans for water, wastewater and transit.
- Transportation demand management.
Settlement Boundary Expansions:
Expansions to settlement boundaries can only happen as a result of an MCR process. The expansion will be restricted to the amount of land required for the population and growth to 2041. The provincial Land Needs Methodology must be used for this analysis.
There are a number of tests that must be met prior to a municipality including a boundary expansion in their Official Plan. Specifically, changing the boundary must be justified by undertaking a number of studies to determine if there is existing or planned infrastructure capacity and if required, upgrading the infrastructure and determining if it is financially viable. Additionally, an environmental assessment may be required.
A boundary expansion should avoid the natural heritage systems and prime agricultural areas where possible. Once the MCR process is completed, the region will need to submit their plan to the province for approval.
Citizens should contact their regional municipalities to be kept informed of the MCR process regarding boundary expansion.
Close the Loopholes:
If implemented correctly, the Growth Plan is going to move us towards smarter growth, but there are a few loopholes that need to be closed. In the outer ring, beyond the GTA, the Growth Plan continues to allow low density . The Neptis Foundation research shows how these loopholes will facilitate expensive growth that is not consistent with smart growth.
Climate Change and the Official Plan review:
The Official Plan review is an opportunity to take climate change action.
Under the newly revised Growth Plan, municipalities are required to bring climate change policies into their Official Plan. Climate change action can happen throughout a municipality as part of engineering and facilities management (buildings, pumps, vehicles), parks and parking. But planning also plays an important role in making the urban form more climate resilient and energy efficient. As Official Plans identify goals, objectives, and policies, the more directive the Official Plan is on an issue we need action on, like climate change, the better. For example, see how the City of Guelph Official Plan policies include climate action.
Ask your municipality to bring in policies such as:
- Green infrastructure requirements to minimize floods.
- Renewable energy goals that encourage district energy infrastructure.
- Urban form policies, for example, streets should follow a short grid pattern not curvilinear.
- Adopt a “complete streets” policy that requires cycling and walking options.
- Require new buildings to follow a Green Building standard or LEED Gold certification.
- Set an urban tree canopy goal, for example 35% of cover.
- Reduce building parking requirements where there are transit options.