Town of Innisfil seeks MZO to help achieve sustainability goals at massive development

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

Innisfil council says it needs a Ministerial Zoning Order (MZO) to ensure developers planning the massive Orbit development are committed to sustainability goals.

Council recently voted to support the concept of “district energy” as a plan to reduce the town’s future carbon footprint and directed staff to confirm financial viability and corporate structures in time for inclusion into the GO Station and initial phases of Orbit development.

The system would use renewable energy from a central source to power buildings, allowing an easier transition to renewable sources that does not require several buildings to retrofit.

The town requested an MZO in November 2020 to speed the massive development which includes a GO Transit station.

According to a staff report, “a project as unique as the Orbit warrants a likewise uniquely tailored process for Site Plan Control to ensure development of the Orbit lands is sustainable, balanced and future-focused.”

The Orbit Site Plan process is being uniquely positioned through:

  • concurrent processing
  • collaborative design review teams
  • inclusive community consultation
  • early and continuous sustainability planning

“We’re starting out a little more carbon intensive than we’d like to, but still better than status quo and then gradually phasing those out and leaving them on standby for redundancy if we ever need them once the renewable systems come online,” Tim Crane, Orbit director, told council on June 23.

In response, council requested a checklist of minimum standards for developers in the Orbit to ensure carbon reduction and water resource protection.

“I was quite impressed with the report. It started to feel real to me when I read this, if that makes any sense at all,” Mayor Lynn Dollin said at the council meeting. “It’s great that we’re using all this technology, but, really, at the end of the day it’s about making people’s lives easier. As long as we focus on that, we are going to have great success.”

The town will ask for a new requirement to be included in the MZO — language that requires builders to maintain properties to the standards of the Orbit sustainable development plan and checklist.

“We can’t make the minister do anything, but I think it’s important for him to understand where we’re going,” Dollin said.

Cane says the goal is to tie the MZO to Innisfil’s official plan policies and “make it more implementable.”

“This is more or less a belts and suspender type of provision,” Cane said. We are just seeing things that we can do to make it even more clear as part of that MZO request . . . just to add in references.

Council expects to see the first design drawings for the GO Station in the first week of July.