GO Train Station staying in Lefroy

Miriam King

Innisfil's future GO Train station will stay in Lefroy.

It was a side issue at a public meeting, held to present a revision of the Town's Official Plan Amendment #1 - an amendment that, when first adopted in 2006, would have increased Innisfil's target population to 105,000. As a result of Provincial Places to Grow Policy, the County of Simcoe's Growth Management Strategy and new Official Plan, expansion plans have been revised downward - to a target population of only 65,000.

But it was the clause in OPA #1 that would have moved a future GO Train station from the 5th Line to the 6th Line of Innisfil - from a site within walking distance of the village of Lefroy, to an area in the midst of future development lands - that brought out most of the audience at the Dec. 10 meeting, and sparked 79 letters, 23 emails and a 351-name petition in opposition.

Dozens of residents wearing "Save Our Station - Keep the GO in Lefroy" buttons were pleased when consultant Paul Lowes of Sorensen Gravely Lowes suggested dropping the change.

"I don't think the OPA turns on whether you move the GO station or not," Lowes said. "I think it's logical to pull that out... That's probably a separate matter that can be dealt with on its own."

For Lowes, who prepared the original OPA #1, the more important issue was the allocation of growth and development. Innisfil's Official Plan, recently adopted by the County, proposed a population on build-out of 55,000. The County allocated an additional 10,000 new residents, to 2031 - and Innisfil's revised OPA #1 looks at where that growth should take place.

The County Plan also recognizes the Innisfil Heights area at Hwy. 400 & Innisfil Beach Road as an "Economic District", but not a Settlement Area; and demands "a much higher rate of intensification." Simcoe County has stated that 40% of Innisfil's new population should be accommodated not only within the existing urban boundaries, but within the already built-up area - which Lowes termed unrealistic. Instead, he urged a target of 22%.

"We don't see any logical place to put more intensification," he said, arguing that 40% intensification would require 2,400 residential units in Alcona's downtown - the equivalent of twenty 7-storey apartment buildings. "That's a heck of a lot of units, and we feel it's inappropriate for that area - and frankly, we don't think the market will deliver."

He recommended expanding the existing Alcona urban boundary to include an additional 235 hectares of Residential lands, in Alcona North and Alcona South - and dropping all Residential development planned for the Innisfil Heights Economic District, while expanding the serviced employment lands.

The recommendations generated complaints from landowners who had properties slated for development in the original version of OPA #1, but who now found their lands excluded - and praise, from those still within the expanded boundaries, including the Cortel Group in Alcona South, and Pratt, in Alcona North.

As for the GO Train station, John Hurd reminded Council that both the Town's Official Plan and Innisfil Action 2010 Plan identify the 5th line as the preferred site of a new GO Train station. "We'd like to hold Council accountable for what they said they would do," Hurd said, adding that to move the station to the 6th Line would be "one of the biggest modern-day train robberies." The joke did not amuse Mayor Brian Jackson.

On Dec. 17, Innisfil Council referred the public input to Staff for review, and a recommendation to Council at a future date.