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Greenbelt lands for Southlake site bought for $80M in September

Records show land west of Newmarket was purchased by Green Lane Bathurst GP just weeks before the province proposed opening it for development
The map outlines the Greenbelt land west of Newmarket, on which a portion would be used for a new Southlake Regional Health Centre site.

The Greenbelt land that the Ontario government is proposing to open for development west of Newmarket was purchased by a company that incorporated and purchased the land for $80 million just last summer.

Records show that Greenlane Bathurst GP Inc. is the owner of the land located west of Bathurst Street and south of Miller’s Sideroad in King Township — land currently designated Greenbelt that the province now wants to open for development. The firm was incorporated July 19, 2022 and records show it transferred $80 million to Schickedanz Bros Limited to purchase the land Sept. 15. 

King council is pushing for the province to fast-track the land as a potential site for a new Southlake Regional Health Centre campus. Mayor Steve Pellegrini said it is land they have eyed for some time, but the hospital site would only take a small portion of the more than 500 acres of the property. 

King has said the owner is willing to donate the land for the hospital for a nominal fee of about $5. 

“The hospital would need, I would say, less than 50 acres. There are supporting services, too,” Pellegrini said. “We understand that there’s more to it than just a hospital.”

The King resolution does not oppose the opening up of the Greenbelt lands, which the province seeks to redesignate for settlement to open the door to development of needed housing. But it does ask the provincial government to back off designating the Oak Ridges Moraine land that is included as part of the proposal, which King has said is unnecessary.

Corporate records show Michael Rice as the director of Green Lane Bathurst GP Inc. He is also the vice-president of Markham-based developer Rice Group, which has numerous projects in York Region, including the retail complex at Highway 404 and Davis Drive where the new Costco warehouse is to be located. NewmarketToday did not receive a response for a request for comment from Rice Group.

The provincial proposal includes opening 7,400 acres for housing development, which must begin construction by 2025. The impacted lands are located throughout the province, including in King, Markham and Vaughan. In exchange, the government has proposed adding 9,400 acres to the Greenbelt, including 13 urban river valleys.

The Greenbelt expansion has garnered concern from environmentalists and some municipal governments, concerned about the precedent and loss of protected green space.

“The government's plans would utterly destroy the certainty of permanent protection that is vital to the functioning of the Greenbelt as a whole,” advocacy group Environmental Defence said. “It will also start a never-ending queue of Greenbelt land speculators at the minister’s door, each with their own convenient rationalization for paving their own patch of Greenbelt.”

The Ontario Home Builders’ Association and its GTA counterpart, the Building Industry and Land Development Association, told NewmarketToday the housing crisis should be at the forefront of the Greenbelt conversation.

“We are in the midst of a housing crisis in the GTA. When the Greenbelt was created, its boundaries encompassed not just environmentally sensitive lands but also farmland and land that had previously been designated for growth for housing and employment spaces. The lands being removed from the Greenbelt are close to, and in some cases adjacent to, existing developments and servicing,” the organizations said.

“Sensationalizing this matter by focusing on anything other than the outcome, the building of more homes to meet increasing demand due to population growth will be a disservice to readers and residents.”

Although King is now backing the incursion into the Greenbelt for a potential hospital site, Pellegrini said last week that the province did not consult them about the move. 

“This has happened, and we’re jumping to get the best we can for King.”

Public comment on the province’s Greenbelt changes is open till Dec. 4.