A Plan to Fix More of What We’ve Got…and Grow Smarter

Last week, Council gave initial approval to a development strategy that will guide the way Barrie grows for the next 20 years. By 2031, Barrie will be home to 210,000 people and 101,000 jobs.  This plan, years in the making, includes six infrastructure master plans for the whole city, plus a new financing strategy to pay what seems like a dauntingly large number:  $3.1 billion in infrastructure over 20 years.

This plan is fundamentally different from the last plan, in the 80s, when almost all growth was on the edges of the city. This is a plan where nearly half of the growth is within the existing urban area, and much of the infrastructure investment is also within the existing city.

As Councillor Brassard put it, we’re essentially building two cities the size of Orillia—one within Barrie’s old borders and the other in the former Innisfil land. This is a huge undertaking for our City, and one that carries a significant cost—which brings me back to the 3 Billion dollars.

In terms of annual spending, 3.1 Bn over 20 years is about $155 million a year. These costs are not just for the cost of growth, but also to fix our existing infrastructure. The $155-million annual price of the strategy will cover capital expenditures, which include $90 million for growth and $65 million for infrastructure renewal (road reconstruction, replacing water and sewer pipes, etc.).  Our current annual city capital budgets are in the $130-million range, of which $30-$35 million is infrastructure renewal. So this plan doubles what is spent on infrastructure renewal, will help us to do a lot more of what our residents want—fix aging roads, pipes, sidewalks, and buildings.

It’s no surprise that growth comes with a cost, but I don’t believe that our existing residents should have to pay for it, and the certainly doesn’t have the fiscal capacity to do it. This is why we will be asking the development community to make an extra contribution.  It is asking a lot of developers, but it’s the only way it’s going to get done. What we’re asking is not unprecedented, but it is new for Barrie and is the right thing to do.

To be clear:  developers already pay a lot.  In fact, they pay most of the costs of growth.  They also – especially many members of the Barrie Homebuilder’s – do incredible charitable work in our community and are pillars of our community.  Ultimately, higher City charges are passed on to new homebuyers, who will see homes get more expensive as a result of higher city fees.  But without them, the City would need to either borrow money, or bring in very high tax increases, to fund the infrastructure.  Both of those actions will also drive up the cost of home ownership.

So we will also need the federal and provincial governments support. Over the next 10 years, Barrie will hopefully be successful in securing senior government support, including drawing on the new $70 Billion dollar Federal infrastructure plan, which we will be pursuing in the coming months.

This plan has been three years in the making, and to this point, the development community and the City have worked collaboratively, very well together.  That needs to continue, to get the land use, infrastructure, and financing plans across the finish line.  That will be good for the economy, good for business, and good for the taxpayer.

Our City was once again given a stable rating from Standard and Poor this year, and we intend on maintaining it—regardless of growth. We will grow and develop while paying down our debt. In 2031, Barrie will be a City of 210,000 people who all have access to safe drinking water, a clean and healthy environment, walkable neighbourhoods, connected communities and convenient access to transit with manageable debt and tax levels. I think we have a very good plan—one that provides us with a roadmap for growth and how we will afford it over the next 20 years. It requires creativity and support from our development community and governments, but it is definitely achievable and will ensure smart and sustainable growth for the future of our great City.

For more on the plans for growth, click here.

About jefflehman
Jeff Lehman is the 46th Mayor of the City of Barrie. The Ward 2 Councillor for the City of Barrie from 2006 to 2010, he was the Chairman of the Finance Committee of Council, chaired the City’s Growth Management Working Group, and created the Historic Neighbourhoods project, a new initiative to protect and revitalize Barrie’s oldest neighbourhoods. Jeff has lived in Barrie for most of his life, having grown up in Allandale and attended Barrie Central Collegiate. Jeff holds a B.A. from Queen’s University, and a Master’s Degree with first class honours from the UK’s prestigious London School of Economics. He was hired to teach at the LSE following his graduation, and lived and worked in London for two years as an academic. Since that time, as an economist, he has worked with cities across Canada to manage redevelopment and invest in their urban infrastructure. In 2005, he established the Growing By Degrees Task Force to assist in expanding university education opportunities in Barrie, and has volunteered his time with many organizations in the City. Jeff lives near Downtown Barrie with his wife, Jennifer, a part-time professor of political science, and their young daughter Cassie, who is already smarter than her father.


6 Responses to “A Plan to Fix More of What We’ve Got…and Grow Smarter”
  1. Jane Blogs says:

    This is not a growth plan. It is a plan to fail. How do you expect anyone to buy any of those homes when we have o adequate jobs for people to pay those lofty mortgages and your ever increasing tax hikes. Yet another 2.2% on top of the already plenty of increases in the past? Why not cut staff salaries rather than giving them raises. Why not cut back on the police, not just stop hiring new officers? Why not use the new land to develop REAL growth such as industry that could benefit us. Perhaps an ethanol plant that can produce a clean and robust fuel that would lower the pain at the pumps while protecting the environment AND producing great wage paying jobs, or how about a wind or solar farm where the electricity produced could lower peoples electrical bills not to mention the property taxes from such projects will help every home owner in town.

    If the population is 160 down from 200k then by that time, we will be lucky to clear 30 thousand people or less

    • Ben says:


      Leave your biases at the door and understand you are not the only one living in Barrie. I value your dialogue but please read a book on objectivity before posting again.



    • Mike says:

      According to the 2011 census the population of the Barrie CMA was 187000. This includes people outside Barrie. The population of Barrie is just under 140 000 people. The population of this area is not down.

      I believe many people have explained this to you but you don’t stop repeating yourself.

      Developers would not build these homes if there was no market for them. Developers don’t usually like to lose money.

      There is no industry that wants to come to the Barrie area. Most areas in Ontario are desperate for it as well. That is an empty gesture when you propose a wind farm in Barrie. It is illegal. They have to be a certain distance from roads. Nobody is stopping landowners in the area from setting up a solar farm.
      It won’t lower electrical bills for the people of Barrie. I don’t know where you get that idea.

  2. Robert Viera says:


    I would be interested to hear more about plans for ‘walkable’ neighbourhoods. I do hope these plans include all of Barrie, and not just the new land acquired in 2009, or other undeveloped land. With Barrie’s relatively small land area and high population density, making options other than the private automobile viable is going to be essential if we’re going to squeeze 210,000 people into 87 square kilometers.

    I think sidewalks are a very good investment for the city. I can’t recall the last time I saw a sidewalk in the city being repaired, unless one was being torn up to make room for a widened road.

    I’m encountering more and more cyclists on the sidewalks, and most of them are adults. I had a relative who recently moved to Kelowna, B.C., and he told me that all of the roads there have bike lanes. Despite a noticeable increase in the number of cyclists in Barrie, the city doesn’t seem at all interested in making the roads as safe and accessible to cyclists as they ought to be. I was very disappointed to read a city official’s (I believe from the Engineering Department) reaction to a petition for bike lanes on Essa road in The Advance. The official said bike lanes weren’t feasible because it would be too difficult expropriate land from land owners. I guess it never occurred to him that bike lanes could be added by reducing the number of motor vehicle lanes. I think the city needs to get some new people in that department who know how to solve problems, and replace the ones who only know how to make excuses for not doing what they haven’t done before.

    With the exception of some major arterial roads that lack sidewalks, walking in Barrie, for the most part, is a pleasurable activity, most of the year. However, what the city does to pedestrians after a large snowfall makes it difficult for even the hardiest of pedestrians to get around. If it was just snow accumulation on the sidewalk that was the problem, we could blame it on mother nature, but snow and ice pushed off roads and on to sidewalks by city plows is a city-created obstacle to pedestrians’ freedom of movement. Sending a sidewalk snow-clearing machine around a few days or more later is not an acceptable solution to this city-created problem.

    One last thing I wanted to ask: I’m curious to know if the city has the power to regulate right turns on red lights. I ask because, in my experience, most drivers in Barrie fail to stop when turning right at a red light, and what’s worse, those that do stop (to avoid being hit by oncoming traffic) look left when they turning right, completely oblivious pedestrians crossing from the right who have a Walk signal!

    Oh! One more thing (I really mean it this time!): I’m curious to know why pedestrians get a Don’t Walk signal on an advanced-left where left turns are prohibited! Take, for instance, the intersection just east of the 400 on Mapleview Drive. On the south side of the intersection, turning left is prohibited, of course, because going on a highway off-ramp is a very bad idea, yet pedestrians are given a Don’t Walk signal to, I suppose, protect them from cars that are prohibited from crossing the pedestrian crosswalk anyway.

    Thanks for reading!

  3. Jane blogs says:

    What I would like to know is why pedestrians think they always have the right of way when in fact they do not. Too many try to cross where there is no cross walk and I have even seen them
    Cross when they clearly do not have the walk signals. There are too many pedestrians that blame drivers for their own fault in this city. I commend the BPD for at least conducting a few jay walking stings, but it isn’t enough. More needs to be done

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