Seaton Land Development: Jobs and Houses for Pickering and Ajax

The Ajax-Pickering News Advertiser, our local what’s up paper, has has recently given space to what is going on with the development of the Seaton Land.

Seaton barnAbout 1500 acres of public land was given to developers in exchange for the land that they couldn’t develop at Oak Ridges back in 2001.  You may remember the uproar that took place when Richmond Hill saw the dollar signs and allowed the sensitive Oak Ridges Moraine to be stripped for development.  To settle the outburst and pacify the developers, the province exchanged land with them.

Seaton has long been on the books as a potential town for development.  The ducks are getting into rows for things to start happening.

It will be a while before anyone can call Seaton home.  Here is the latest on what is happening:

  1. General consensus on Seaton: jobs first 

    PICKERING — Not one toilet will go in Seaton without a job first, says Regional Chairman Roger Anderson.

    “Jobs first is first and foremost as far as the Region is concerned,” he said.

    The Seaton Advisory Committee met last week and Mr. Anderson made a special visit, grilling Provincial representatives and consultants on their plans. He believes the Ontario Realty Corporation “is the player at this table” and asked general manager of acquisitions, Graham Martin, how many employment lands have been sold.

    Mr. Martin said none, but the ORC is embarking on negotiations with the City and the Region to create a game plan and hopes to include the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade in a marketing strategy to help get as wide a market as possible. He said the ORC wants the right mix of jobs to sustain the community and assured everything will be in place.

    “Your message has been consistent and loud and clear from day one,” Mr. Martin said.

    Mayor Dave Ryan wants jobs first, but doesn’t want the first one at a box store, and hopes the employment is pristine.

    “We demand that and we deserve it,” he said. “Anything less than that is not acceptable.”

  2. Pickering receives first Seaton subdivision applications

    PICKERING — The first set of subdivision applications for Seaton are in, but it’ll be a while yet before shovels hit the ground, says a Durham Region senior planner.

    In late December, the City of Pickering received four subdivision applications from one of the developers who exchanged lands in Richmond Hill for lands in north Pickering after the Province halted development of the Oak Ridges Moraine.

    However that doesn’t mean houses will start going up any time soon.

    “There are many studies that are required to be undertaken before the shovel hits the ground,” said Dorothy Skinner, a senior planner for the Region.

    They include a fiscal impact study that will consider all the costs for the Region– including roads, water supply, sewers, transit, public health, police, EMS and social services– for the development of the Seaton lands.

    As well, there’s an environmental assessment for Regional infrastructure such as roads and sewers, a natural heritage system management and master trail plan, a transit study and more.

    “Once those studies are done, then I believe would be the time to seaton fieldconsider plans for subdivisions,” said Ms. Skinner, adding the Region’s EA will take one to three years. She estimates the earliest the shovels could hit the ground would be 2011 or 2012.

    So far, the subdivision applications have come in on the low end of the density targets set by the Province, which prescribed 70,000 residents and 35,000 jobs in Seaton.

    The conceptual land use plans prepared by consultants representing the Seaton developers would see an initial population of 54,000, upsetting to some councillors.

    “The way I read this is the developers simply want to do a standard low-density cookie-cutter subdivision that we would have done five or 10 years ago,” said Mayor Ajax Mayor Steve Parish at a committee meeting.

    But, Ms. Skinner reports the Province is sticking to its target of 70,000 residents and 35,000 jobs.

    And jobs are key, said Pickering Councillor Rick Johnson.

    “Pickering cannot sustain more houses being built … we need employment lands first,” he said.

    Whitby Coun. Don Mitchell said the Region already has examples of what happens when employment isn’t created when subdivisions are built.

    “We now have 20,000 people in Brooklin who have to get out of town to go to work,” said Coun. Mitchell, adding he doesn’t want to see the same thing happen in Seaton.

    Another problem for Durham is the uncertain fate of the Pickering airport plan. If the airport is constructed on the federal lands north of Seaton, infrastructure running through the community like roads, sewers and water has to be large enough to handle it.