The Doug Ford government is starting the process of returning two properties back into the Ontario Greenbelt after learning developers quietly listed the land for sale to be used as a “business park” rather than housing.
Both properties combined, at 765 and 775 Kingston Road East in Ajax, Ont., were one of 15 sites chosen to be removed from the Greenbelt in 2022. According to the auditor general, the main developer responsible for the Ajax site – taking up 133 acres – is Buena Vista Development Corp.
The premier said earlier that, at some point during the 30-day consultation process, the properties were listed for sale by developers.
“At no time was the intention to sell or change the ownership structure disclosed to the government’s Office of the Provincial Land and Development Facilitator despite active and ongoing discussions,” government officials wrote in a news release issued Wednesday.
“This lack of transparency raises serious concerns about the owner’s ability to meet the government’s expectation that homes be built in a timely manner, including the need to show meaningful progress before the end of year.”
Additionally, the province underlined that any attempt to sell Greenbelt lands or “otherwise profit from this decision without building the homes Ontario residents rightly expect” goes against its intentions and subsequently will not be tolerated.
The decision comes on the same day the province’s integrity commissioner found both Housing Minister Steve Clark and Ford were largely uninvolved in their government’s decision to remove roughly 7,400 acres of Greenbelt land for development.
The idea at the time was that 50,000 homes would be built on these 15 sites, with construction slated to begin no later than 2025.
In a report released earlier on Wednesday, Integrity commissioner J. David Wake found Housing Minister Steve Clark broke the Member’s Integrity Act by “failing to oversee the process by which lands in the Greenbelt were selected to development.”
The report outlined a “chaotic” decision making process, indicating Clark didn’t know which sites would be removed from the Greenbelt until he was briefed at the end of October, just before cabinet signed off on the choices.
The 166-page report also found Clark’s failure to do so led to “the private interests of certain developers being furthered improperly.” The integrity commissioner found Clark contravened two sections of the act, which cover conflicts of interest and the use of insider information.
The premier’s office stood behind Clark in a statement, saying the minister will “continue to work towards delivering on our promise to build at least 1.5 million homes and ensure public trust and confidence is maintained every step of the way.”
With files from CTV News Toronto’s Katherine DeClerq
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