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Monday, April 24, 2006

Georgina business park expected to get go-ahead (details on the 404 extension also)

Georgina business park expected to get go-ahead




The public last week got a close-up look at the final proposed design for the Keswick business park, expected to generate up to 7,500 jobs when it is completed.
Town planners and consultants answered questions before the crucial mandatory public meeting at council May 8, where the business park secondary plan is expected to get the green light.

Located on 560 acres of primarily farmland on the east side of Woodbine Avenue, the business park is also vital to addressing the serious shortfall in commercial and industrial tax assessment that is placing a tax burden on homeowners, Mayor Rob Grossi said.

The plan's approval comes after the province announced last week the four-year construction schedule for the Hwy. 404 extension to Ravenshoe Road and funding to build the four-lane expressway to Queensville Sideroad.

Mr. Grossi said council will be pushing hard to have the extension continue to Glenwoods Avenue, where an interchange and crucial access point adjacent to the business park is planned.

In addition to the potential employment bonanza, planning consultants were quick to point out the people-friendly aspects of the plan including a linked greenlands system with "high-quality landscaping", large stormwater ponds that can be used for recreation, parks, walking and cycling trails and a tree preservation and planting program.

Attention will also be paid to enhancing the health of the ailing Maskinonge River that winds along the east and north boundary of the business park, the audience was told.

"The greenlands system policies are aimed at protecting and enhancing the existing natural features focused on the valley system of the Maskinonge River," the planning report states.

A large portion of the south end of the development will remain environmentally protected land, the public was told.

Paul Harpley, president of the South Lake Simcoe Naturalists, disagrees with the plan, saying the town has enough potential commercial/industrial land on the west side of Woodbine.

"This is sprawl development," he said, adding there is enough industrial land for businesses in the south end of the region. "Why would they want to move all the way up here?"

Mr. Harpley scoffed at suggestions Hwy. 404 will reach Keswick in as little as four years.

"It's probably more like 15 years. You have to remember this highway is going through the provincial greenbelt and will have to cross five or six streams that are headwaters of the Maskinonge and Black rivers."

The town should focus on other priorities, he said.

"Instead we have town staff busy running around with this business park that is many, many years in the future and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars doing it. From what I've seen here today, I have even more concerns."

After the expected council green light, the plan will then go to York Region for final approval, expected before the summer.

Full details can be found on the town's website www.town.georgina.on.ca

While the plan has the full support of the Georgina Chamber of Commerce, environmental groups continue to oppose it. York Region's official plan has set a target of 22,000 jobs in the town by 2026, when the population reaches the 75,000 mark.

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