Explainer: What is happening with the Cherry Blossom Village project?

Cherry Blossom Village is a 33,000-square-foot ‘residential care facility’ planned for

The facility will support children, youth and adults with complex special needs, including autism, said Ted Walker, mayor of Tay Township.

Founded by Howard Bloom, clinical director, and Dr. Robert Cooper, the village will consist of 24 private live-in suites and 10 single-resident homes to support 34 residents. 

Bloom founded a similar community in Oro-Medonte called .

Cherry Blossom Village will have a farm-based learning program combined with recreational skill building and strong community engagement, Walker said. 

The project is moving forward after receiving a (MZO) on Aug. 27. 

What is an MZO?

An MZO is a measure Ontario’s can use to zone the use of any land in the province. 

These orders bypass a municipality’s normal planning approval process; including public consultation and appeal.

Why request an MZO for Cherry Blossom Village?

Bloom applied for the MZO. Walker explained that the property is zoned for agricultural use and that hasn’t changed under the MZO. It was the number of buildings — the 24 private live-in suites, 10 personal homes and ancillary building for offices and recreational amenities — that, without the MZO, would have required bylaw, zoning, and official plan amendments, he said. 

“It’s just something that was not anticipated before in zoning and bylaws and official plans,” Walker said.

Changing the official plan and zoning bylaws to accommodate the facility would have been a lengthy process, he said.

“This helps speed it up because the need is there now,” he said.

How much time was shaved off?

It’s hard to say, Walker said.

“A lot of that depends on what might come up during the consultation process and things like that,” he said.

Was the public excluded from providing input?

No. Although not required under MZO approval, the township sent notice to all property owners within 120 metres of the subject lands and published the MZO request in the newspaper. 

They also held a public meeting in August 2020. Bloom spoke about the project and took submitted comments, Walker said.

“We wanted to assure ourselves that it is something that would be supported by the community,” he said.

How does the community feel about the project?

There were no strong objections at the public meeting, Walker said. 

What’s the economic impact of this development?

The facility will employ staff for its farm operation and over 120 full-time staff including: child and youth care practitioners, developmental service workers, personal support workers, and recreation therapists as well as facility service and culinary staff.

“It’s going to be a very positive impact on the local economy,” Walker said. 

What happens with the project now that MZO approval is in hand?

The next step is to submit the site plan for township approval, Walker said. It could be another two years before shovels are in the ground. 

With files from Frank Matys