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2003 Planning

Town of Markham, Ontario

Markham Centre Performance Measures Document (PMD)

Population: 208,615

The Town of Markham consolidated several best practices into one planning tool: the Performance Measures Document. The PMD is a compendium of environmental, design, transit, and pedestrian-supported criteria that helps staff, the community, and developers assess development proposals and build a more sustainable urban community. Prepared in consultation with the public, the PMD was introduced into the town's official plan in the spring of 2003 as an integral part of the development process. It requires that all new development proposals meet a set list of performance measures. The Town's initial test of the PMD was to request changes to a proposed mixed-use development that included reducing the heights of certain buildings and reconfiguring townhouses to frame an adjacent park.


The lands surrounding Markham's downtown area, known as Markham Centre, are protected by an urban greenbelt, which has left much of the inner core largely undeveloped. For over a decade, this parcel of vacant land - 384 hectares- had been under a municipal planning review, with the principle that the town limit sprawl into the surrounding agricultural land in favour of a high-density mixed-use downtown core.

The town developed the PMD as a "score card" against which to judge development applications so that the health and wellbeing of the community and the environment is maintained. "The PMD is a great example of our long-term commitment," said Mary Frances Turner, commissioner of strategy, innovation & partnerships.

The PMD is part of the town's commitment under Engage 21st Century Markham, the community's long-term vision for a sustainable community, which began in 2001. Public input is sought through surveys, community meetings, theatre events, online discussions, and written submissions, and its goal is to move beyond traditional demographic studies and link socio-cultural trends with the town's 20-year growth plan.


  • The PMD has helped to refine two proposed developments. The first is a seven-hectare, mixed-use development proposal; the other covers 98 hectares and includes 3,440 residential units and mixed-use development. The advisory committee assessed the proposals using the guiding principles and requested changes. As a result, the height of one residential building was reduced from 11 stories to eight, one building was relocated, new driveway connections were made from office and apartment buildings to the public road, and townhouse blocks were reconfigured to improve orientation.
  • Local development representatives sit as members of the advisory committee and have been aware of the PMD's goals from the outset. "People want to know what is expected of them," said Ms. Turner. "The performance measures set up a framework so that developers know what we want in the community."

Lessons Learned

  • Extensive research and academic validation helped shape the PMD. "You have to stay current in understanding the elements because this is a complicated process," said Ms. Turner. "It's much easier to do traditional urban planning but, if you're committed to smart growth, it's intellectually stimulating and that's a big part of why the advisory committee kept its interest."
  • Political champions and a team approach are the cornerstones of the process. "The mayor and councillors have been very eloquent about smart growth and staff has long believed in what we're trying to accomplish," said Ms. Turner.
  • All orders of government need to be involved in sustainable development. "Transit is the best example, because smart growth cannot bear fruit until we deliver on that." Ms. Turner explained that, aside from sustainable funding, provincial regulatory changes are necessary, and she cited the example of tax increment financing (TIF).TIF has been used extensively in the United States to capture the early years of smart growth initiatives and allows a city to rezone an area and use the expected increased or 'incremental' property taxes to help finance new infrastructure.

Partners and Collaboration


  • Town of Markham councillors and staff members


  • The 21-member advisory committee includes academic experts, major landholders, members of the public, and town staff.
Page Updated: 21/12/2015