PC government changes building code rules to speed Lower Don Lands flood plain redevelopment

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GTA Construction Report staff writer

Ontario’s new Progressive Conservative government has made one of its first moves to reset the land use and development rules to make them more “developer friendly” by allowing construction to start on Toronto’s Lower Don Lands redevelopment before flood protection infrastructure is completed.

“By reducing Ontario’s regulatory burden we’re smoothing the way for the first of many projects in the Lower Don area,” Steve Clark, the minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, announced in a July news release.

The new rules are specific for the area near the Don River’s mouth. Waterfront Toronto, an agency created by the provincial and federal governments and the City of Toronto, is redeveloping the area east of downtown.

Redevelopment plans include new urban neighbourhoods, parks, green infrastructure and an integrated GO/SmartTrack station.

The ministry says in the statement that development will create more than 50,000 jobs and “add an estimated $5.1 billion to the Canadian economy.”

However, while the building code amendment allows construction to proceed before the flood risk is resolved, they cannot be occupied until it is safe, Clark said.

Waterfront Toronto says that The Port Lands area is in a floodplain, and for years has remained “effectively undevelopable and economically underutilized until the flood risk is removed.”

Plans are in place – with a $1.25 billion budget – to revitalize the area while mitigating flood risk. The flood protection plan will create a new naturalized mouth for the river, Waterfront Toronto reported in 2016.

Under the changes, there will be “two additional outlets for the Don River, which ultimately will be surrounded by new parks, green space and public realm enhancements before and as development occurs in the area.”

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