Changes made to Peterborough Official Plan could impact future Trent University development

An aerial view of Trent University, showing the Otonabee River, Bata Library, and the Student Centre.
A view of Trent University. Photo from the Trent University website.
Edward Sweeney - CFFF - PeterboroughON | 08-11-2023
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Ontario’s Minister of Municipal affairs and Housing Paul Calandra made an announcement on Oct. 23 that could potentially impact Trent University’s long-term development plans. The announcement reversed changes made to several municipalities’ Official Plans in April.

On April 11, the provincial government approved the City of Peterborough’s Official Plan, the City’s long-term development plans until 2051, with 61 non-negotiable changes. These changes were made to support the government’s goal of building 1.5 million homes in the province, but, according to Calandra, “failed” to maintain and reinforce “public trust.” This led the government to reverse the changes made to Official Plans, including Peterborough’s.

These events could have long-term implications for the development of Trent University because of the changes to Peterborough’s urban boundaries. When the City of Peterborough first submitted the final draft of their Official Plan, Trent University found issues with some of the land designations. Much of the University-owned land would have been designated as Rural Transitional Area, which, according to the City’s proposed Official Plan, was intended to “protect the potential for future urban development” of these lands, beyond the scope of the Official Plan to 2051.

In a letter from Trent University planning consultants Bousfields Inc, dated Jan. 4, 2022, they write that “the Rural Transition Area designation freezes the lands and excludes them from redevelopment in the time horizon of the Official Plan. The University’s lands should not be down-designated in this way. Given that the University has already completed a detailed plan for their lands.”

The letter also indicates that “ensuring that there is permission to develop housing on the University lands will help to alleviate student-based demand for off-campus rental housing with on-campus student housing options.”

The changes made by the provincial government in April included altering land designations, including Rural Transitional Areas. After the changes, these areas would now be considered Designated Greenfield Areas, which, according to Peterborough’s Official Plan, “are intended to accommodate a portion of the City’s anticipated residential and employment growth” to the year 2051, opening up these lands, including the Trent University lands, to redevelopment.

Now that the provincial government has reversed their decisions to change Official Plans, it is uncertain what the future of these university lands will be. But Trent Radio requested a statement from Trent University about this announcement, received on Oct. 30, which reads:

“It is not clear what the implications might be arising from the province’s plans to introduce legislation that could reverse official plan decisions for several municipalities. We will continue to present the Trent Lands Plan as our official intentions for our campus and advocate for policies that permit us to advance this plan.”

If the original Rural Transitional Area land designation from Peterborough’s Official Plan is again in effect, it could make it difficult for Trent University to properly execute their Trent Lands Plan until 2051.

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