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‘Finally, there’s some action’: Long-awaited provincial decision allows Newmarket and Aurora future growth

November 7, 2022

Posted on: November 7th, 2022. By: Lisa Queen,, Original Article. 

Mayors upset provincially mandated $100 million spent on rejected Lake Simcoe project won’t be reimbursed

Even as they gnash their teeth over the provincial government’s years of foot-dragging and wait for more details moving forward, Newmarket and Aurora officials are relieved Queen’s Park has finally made a decision that allows future growth in the communities.

The province has killed plans for the Upper York Sewage Solution on Lake Simcoe, instead saying wastewater from future growth will go to Lake Ontario.

“Finally, there’s some action,” Paul Bailey, an owner/partner of the 2,500- to 3,000-home Shining Hill subdivision in northwest Aurora and west Newmarket, said.

“Aurora, Newmarket, East Gwillimbury were really running out of the ability to build anything, including industrial/commercial.”

In the midst of a critical housing shortage, more homes are needed to accommodate residents, including newcomers settling in the Greater Toronto Area, Bailey said.

Michael Braithwaite, CEO of Blue Door, which has shelters in Newmarket and East Gwillimbury and hopes to operate a future shelter in Aurora, wants to see some future growth dedicated to affordable housing and rent-geared-to-income units.

“We’re seeing more and more new people enter into homelessness who are what is sometimes termed as the working poor or people with jobs that simply can’t afford rent (especially amid ballooning inflation),” he said

“We’ve been at a crisis level for years, to be honest. It wasn’t as much of a headline until it hit the middle class.”

Social service agencies are working together on initiatives to house people, both short- and longer-term, he said.

Determining where wastewater goes is required to allow growth because development can’t take place if people can’t flush their toiles, take a bath or shower, use their washing machines and clean their dishes in their dishwashers or kitchen sinks.

A formal Liberal government told York Region to find a local solution within the Lake Simcoe watershed to handle future growth for Aurora, Newmarket and East Gwillimbury.

The region embarked on plans for the UYSS on Lake Simcoe to handle 153,000 future residents and employees in the three communities.

It spent $100 million — from development charges, the fees on new homes and buildings — toward a state-of-the-art sewage treatment facility.

However, the Chippewas of Georgina and others raised concerns about the impact of the facility on Lake Simcoe.

After the region submitted an environmental assessment in 2014, approval for the project languished at Queen’s Park for eight years as the Liberals dragged their feet on making a decision and then the Progressive Conservatives last year put the brakes on and appointed an expert panel.

All the while, the three communities edge toward not being able to grow.

On Oct. 25, the day after the municipal election, the expert panel recommended wastewater from the three communities go to the Duffin Creek sewage treatment plant on Lake Ontario in Pickering as the more environmentally sound and less expensive option.

On the same day, the province introduced the More Homes Built Faster Act to pave the way for 1.5 million new homes to be built by 2031. Critics warn the legislation could see the province steamroll over local planning decisions.

Saying the UYSS process was one of the most frustrating he’s experienced, Newmarket Mayor John Taylor is pleased there is finally a decision.

“We’re coming up against a wall. The fact of the matter is, whether people find growth challenging or annoying or causing traffic congestion or construction impacts, which are all valid and I can appreciate that, the fact of the matter is we have a housing shortage, we don’t have enough types of housing, we certainly don’t have enough rental housing and we don’t have enough affordable housing and we need to move forward,” he said.

However, Taylor and Aurora Mayor Tom Mrakas are upset the province won’t reimburse the $100 million Queen’s Park mandated York spend on the UYSS, money that could have gone to other necessary projects.

The region is still reviewing the implications of the UYSS decision and will provide updates after discussions with the province and Durham Region, spokesperson Patrick Casey said.