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Richmond Hill, Ontario
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Richmond Hill (2006 population 162,704, 2008 Estimate: 181,000) is a town located in Southern Ontario in the central portion of York Region, Ontario. It is part of the Greater Toronto Area, being located about halfway between Toronto and Lake Simcoe. It is the third most populous municipality in York Region and the 28th most populous municipality in Canada.
Once considered the "Rose Capital of the World", Richmond Hill has in recent years seen a huge population upsurge, being Canada's fastest-growing community in the 1990s. The town is home to the world-renowned David Dunlap Observatory telescope, and has been rated by the Fraser Institute as the 23rd most affluent city in North America and 3rd in Canada, being one of the only two municipalities in all of Canada with an average household income above $100,000.
It is twinned with Lakeland, Florida.
Main article: History of Richmond Hill, Ontario
The Regional Municipality of York was established by Bill 102 An Act to Establish the Regional Municipality of York of the provincial parliament, passed on June 26, 1970 and coming into force on January 1, 1971. The act expanded Richmond Hill's borders, annexing parts of Whitchurch Township, Markham Township, Vaughan Township and King Township into Richmond Hill, expanding the area covered from 1,700 acres (6.9 km2) to 27,000 acres (110 km2) and the population from a little over 19,000 to some 34,000. The town grew to encompass the communities of Gormley, Dollar, Langstaff, Carrville, Headford, Elgin Mills, Jefferson, Bond Lake, Temperanceville, Lake Wilcox, Oak Ridges and Richvale. While Richmond Hill was a prosperous, well developed town, many of the outlying areas annexed were far more rural, with dirt roads, no water mains or sewers and no streetlights, and the time needed to bring municipal services up in these areas, combined with residual unequal tax assessments caused considerable conflict in the municipal politics for some time. Policing was taken over by the York Regional Police, but fire protection remained with Richmond Hill, whose firefighting force quickly grew. Having hired its first full time employee in 1967, it had fourteen full time employees by 1971.
Yonge Street through Richmond Hill expanded from two lanes to four in 1971, relieving congestion on what had become known as "Ontario's worst stretch of highway".
The Richmond Hill Dynes Jewellers softball team was the 1972 Softball World Champions. The Royal Canadian Air Farce was recorded at the Curtain Club Theatre in Richmond Hill for its first 5 seasons on radio, beginning in 1973. The Air Farce returned for an anniversary recording in the 1990s. Also in 1973 was the centennial of the town's incorporation as a village, and the town set up a number of celebratory activities, including a beard growing contest, commissioning a centennial song, a parade, a street dance and the unveiling of an historic plaque honouring the town's founding in front of the municipal offices. June 27 was officially declared Russell Lynett Day, named after the town's clerk, only the third in its existence. 1973 also saw the sale of the last of the original rose growing greenhouses in Richmond Hill. Development had led to increasing property taxes and the H.J. Mills greenhouses relocated to Bayview Avenue and Elgin Mill Road. The site of the greenhouses was developed as a subdivision. The fast growing town set aside significant areas for parks, with five new parks dedicated in 1973, and two more in 1974. The Richmond Hill Historical Society was founded in 1973. The society was dedicated to preserving the history of Richmond Hill and raising awareness of the town's history. Their first action was to restore 150 year old house, known as the Burr House.
As the 1970s went on, the population growth of Richmond Hill remained large. In 1976, home prices in Richmond Hill were among the highest in Canada. By this time, the town council was split over whether to keep expanding rapidly. The deadlock over a fifty-five house subdivision named Springmills Estate lead to one councillor saying that it was not the reform council it was dubbed, but a "deformed council". Other housing projects faced similar problems as councillors debated many things, including the need for affordable housing and the encroachment of homes into the farmland and the Oak Ridges Moraine.
GO train service was extended to Richmond Hill in 1978, officially opened on April 29, 1978 by Bill Davis.
Growth in Richmond Hill slowed towards the end of the 1970s, with M.L. McConaghy Public School closing in 1979 due to dropping enrollment. At the same time, Richmond Hill began to make official plans for future land development. The first official plan concerned a 700-acre (2.8 km2) industrial park at Leslie Street and Highway 7 named Beaver Creek. A commercial area within the park spread into the hamlet of Dollar. The plan was rejected, however, by the Ontario Municipal Board, and Richmond Hill was the first municipality in Ontario to have its official plan rejected outright by the board. The whole affair was subject to much controversy in the community, although the town council eventually declined to appeal the decision.
When the new council convened in 1980, lead by new mayor Al Duffy, the town remained without a development plan. The council hired civic planner Peter Walker to produce a new official plan. By September 1981, the new plan was draft, with limited development of northern Richmond Hill, industrial development centred in the south-east part of town and commercial centres remaining along Yonge Street. The plan was approved in July 1982 by the Ontario Municipal Board.
A clash over the use of the land in Langstaff, known as the Langstaff Jail Farm erupted in 1982 between Richmond Hill and Toronto, which owned the land. The 632-acre (2.56 km2) plot of land had been acquired by Toronto in 1911, and was unused in 1982. Toronto's plans for development clashed with those of Richmond Hill over the balance of industry and residential development, with Richmond Hill favouring more industrial development.
The rose business left Richmond Hill in June 1982, with the closure of H.J. Mills florists. Mills had died in 1980 leaving the company to his son, but the poor economic conditions, combined with increasing property taxes in the growing city made the business unprofitable. A 1984 contest organised by The Liberal had readers submit entries for a new town slogan. The town council choose three of the submissions which residents then voted on, and "A little north, a little nicer" became Richmond Hill's new town slogan.
Richmond Hill's growth continued explosively in the 1990s, fueled in significant part by immigration. In the early 90s, Statistics Canada named Richmond Hill as the fastest growing community in Canada. The demographic base began to change too, with the Richmond Hill Association for Multiculturalism founded in 1989 by Jay Chauhan. Today, Richmond Hill is a multicultural town, with a Hebrew school, a Hindu temple, Chinese language churches, Italian Community Club, Italian language church services and other facilities serving the needs of the communities.
The town's motto is En la rose, je fleuris (French for "Like the rose, I flourish"), reflecting either the motto of the Duke of Richmond, or the fact that the town was a centre of rose-growing in the early 20th century. At that time, it was known as the "Rose Capital" of Canada. A more recent motto is A little north, a little nicer, in reference to the quieter lifestyle there as opposed to the city of Toronto further south.
Richmond Hill is the only municipal Canadian government to have light pollution laws in place due to the presence of the David Dunlap Observatory.
The town is governed by the Richmond Hill Town Council, which operates on a Mayor-Council system with six Ward Councillors and two Regional Councillors, plus the Mayor. The council serves a four year term, after which a new council is elected by qualified electors in Richmond Hill. The current council's term expires November 30, 2010.
The council derives its authority primarily from the Municipal Act, 2001 and the amendments of the Municipal Law Amendment Act, 2006. Richmond Hill is a lower-tier municipality and has the roles and responsibilities of that position. The municipality has a wide purview relating to the interests of the municipality and its residents to develop and maintain policies, practices and procedures through the issuing of bylaws relating to highways, transportation systems apart from highways, waste management, public utilities, culture, parks, recreation and heritage, drainage and flood control, parking, animals, economic development and the licensing of business. The town in also responsible for maintaining its finances in order to provide relevant services and for maintaining an official plan to guide development.
Main article: Elections in Richmond Hill, Ontario
Elections for municipal offices are held every four years in conjunction with other municipal elections in Ontario. Elected positions include mayor, regional and local councillor and ward councillors (for six different wards) on the Richmond Hill Town Council, as well as trustees for the York Region District School Board, the York Catholic District School Board and for Conseilleres (school trustees) for the Conseil scolaire de district du Centre-Sud-Ouest and Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud. The mayor and regional and local councillors also serve on York Regional Council.
Richmond Hill has 166 parks, under the Town of Richmond Hill Parks, Recreation, and Culture department, of which most are small urban parks and 544 hectares of undeveloped natural area for recreation. The largest such park is Richmond Green Sports Centre and Park which includes several baseball diamonds, 2 skating rinks, a 300-person amphitheatre and a skateboard park. The Town also has a total of 5 public swimming pools, including Canada's largest indoor Wave Pool. Additionally, each summer, the town features a concert series entitled "Concerts in the Park". Each concert has a specific theme, such as children's music and "The Beach Boys", and all are very popular. These series are held by Mill Pond and the Richmond Green. The Richmond Hill Heritage Centre serves as a museum of the town's history. It also runs a variety of programmes related to the town's history. The town is also home the Richmond Hill Country Club, which features an 18 Hole championship layout at the Richmond Hill Golf Club, and the Bloomington Downs Golf Course.
In 2009, Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts was opened. This 43,000 square foot multi-use cultural facility offers quality entertainments of art and music.
Richmond Hill was a winner in the 2003 National Communities in Bloom competition, with a special mention about the town's floral displays.
Richmond Hill Aquatic Club
Richmond Hill Curling Club
Richmond Senators - Soccer
Richmond Hill Soccer Club
Richmond Hill Baseball Club
Richmond Hill Stars - Hockey Club
Richmond Hill Gymnastics Club
Richmond Training Centre - Figure Skating
Richmond Hill Rams - Junior A Hockey Club
Richmond Hill Lightning - Ringette Club
Richmond Hill Squash Club
Richmond Hill Figure Skating Club
Stars United Baton Club - Baton Twirling
Richmond Hill is a disproportionately upper-middle class to upper class community. Certain residential areas, such as the Bayview Hill and Heritage Estates (Regent Street) boast houses and mansions that rival those found in Rosedale, Forest Hill, and Bridle Path. The average household income was $100,900 in 2003, which was 34% higher than the Canadian average that year, and 26% higher than the Ontario average, second in all of Canada only to that of nearby Oakville, Ontario.
The 1990s and 2000s are a period of strong economic growth for Richmond Hill; In 1999 industrial, commercial and institutional growth was valued at $88.9 million, up from $67.9 million in 1998. The economic growth of 1999 won the town's economic development department three provincial awards from the Economic Developers Council of Ontario. The border between Richmond Hill and Markham is a rapidly growing area for information technology and high-tech industry with over 1,000 such businesses located along their border in 2000.
The labour force is divided into many areas, with no one area dominating the economic activity of Richmond Hill. The 2001 Canadian census showed some 76,245 people employed in Richmond Hill, with 43,675 employed full time. The participation rate in the labour force was 69.9%, with 66.4% of people actually employed. The unemployment rate is a low 5.0% (well within the threshold for "full employment", compared with the 7.4% unemployment rate across Canada as a whole during that period.
Most business in Richmond Hill are small businesses, with more than half of all employers in the town having four workers or less. The town is home to the corporate headquarters of Acklands Grainger Inc., Apotex Inc., Black & Decker, Compugen Inc., Compuware, Dynatec Corporation, Levi Strauss, Lexmark, Mazda, Rogers Communications, Science & Medicine Canada, Staples Business Depot and Suzuki.
Largest employers in Richmond Hill, 2005
York Central Hospital
Bulk Barn Foods
The York Region District School Board operates 25 public elementary schools in Richmond Hill, with 5 additional elementary schools in the planning stage. It also operates 5 secondary schools in Richmond Hill: Alexander Mackenzie High School, Bayview Secondary School, Langstaff Secondary School, Richmond Green Secondary School and Richmond Hill High School. Students in schools in the York Region District School Board have scored above the provincial average on the Assessment of Reading, Writing and Mathematics, Primary Division (Grades 1–3) and Junior Division (Grades 4–6) since their introduction in 2002. The board's students in academic math streams have performed above the provincial average on the Grade 9 Assessment of Mathematics every year since its inception in 2002, while those in applied math streams were below the provincial average in 2002-2005, and above the provincial average from 2005-2007.
The York Catholic District School Board operates 13 Catholic elementary schools in Richmond Hill. It also operates two Catholic secondary schools, St. Theresa of Lisieux Catholic High School and Jean Vanier Catholic High School.
There are also three private primary schools located in Richmond Hill, and three private secondary schools, including Holy Trinity School.
The only post-secondary school located within Richmond Hill is Seneca College, which maintains a campus in Richmond Hill. Beyond this, post-secondary education services are provided to the residents of Richmond Hill by other post-secondary educational institutions in Toronto.
Governor GeneralMichaëlle Jean was a guest at the opening ceremony of a school named after her, in 2008, the Michaëlle Jean Public School.
Oak Ridges is an unincorporated community to the north of Richmond Hill, and has fallen within the limits of Richmond Hill ever since its annexation in 1971. It is largely residential, with most commercial development located along Yonge Street. Located about 16.5 km north of Toronto and has a population of approximately 20,000 people. The town developed around Lake Wilcox, the largest lake in the area and a community within Oak Ridges, and has continued to expand slowly since its annexation. In the 1990s, Oak Ridges experienced moderate growth, which has spurred environmental action and anti-development movements by numerous organizations.
Southern Richmond Hill is home to the town's and industrial region housing most of the town's hotels, as well as the main commercial area of the town's Chinese community. The northern part of town is considered to be Old Richmond Hill as it is a historical area. Central Richmond Hill is a very commercial area, housing multiple malls, plazas and entertainment buildings, such as theatres and restaurants. The northern most part of the town is mostly farm land, though it is slowly being developed.
During the 1990s, Chinese immigrants primarily from Hong Kong moved to Richmond Hill, where they set up businesses and shops catering to the community. Many shops and restaurants were established in suburban-style shopping malls and plazas (such as Times Square, Commerce Gate) along a stretch of Highway 7 between Bayview Avenue and Leslie Street. The most intense development is concentrated around the Commerce Valley Drive/Beaver Creek Road loop. Some of the well-known higher end Chinese banquet restaurants are in this area.
Mill Pond is a park located in the southern region of Richmond Hill that is surrounded by heritage homes. The park surrounds an old mill pond, hence the name Mill Pond. There are many walking trails and the park is home to a variety of wildlife species, including ducks, swans, racoons, geese, and beavers. The park is the venue for various town events ranging from a winter carnival to concerts and flower shows. Every year, Mill Pond is home to the Richmond Hill Winter and Summer Carnivals.
Mill Pond is also home to the beautiful Georgian-styled neighbourhood of Heritage Estates, centered around Regent Street. The neighbourhood was built in the early 1980s by a local Toronto developer and is widely recognized by Toronto builders as the "perfect" subdivision. The homes are carefully and artfully situated among the trails and ravines of Mill Pond Park and most overlook parklands, ravines, trails, and ponds. Dubbed in 2009 by the Toronto Star as "Rosedale North", this upscale enclave of rare Georgian-style homes continues to command high demand and equally high property values.
The old downtown Richmond Hill is considered the strip of Yonge Street between Major Mackenzie in the south and Richmond Heights in the north. For years this street was infamous for having an equal amount of churches as there were strip clubs/adults only stores. Directly across from the community centre was the bright pink "Fantasia" strip club. Not far down the street stood Richmond Hill's oldest church. Fantasia burnt under suspicious circumstances although no allegations were ever made by the authorities. Due to various community initiatives, most of the "Adult" stores are now closed and are replaced by more civic-oriented structures. In 2007, the former "Fantasia" property was finally levelled, and development of a new exclusive condominium started, adding to a mix of upscale and small town charm that makes up the much improved downtown area.
The new theatre was opened in 2009 and provides a modern venue for live performances.
The Bayview Hill subdivision is a highly prestigious subdivision located on Bayview Avenue and 16th Avenue. Built in the early 1990s, the subdivision contains hundreds of "monster homes", with each house averaging between 4,000-5,000 square feet.
 East Beaver Creek
Richmond Hill's current commercial hub is located near Leslie Street and Highway 7, where it borders Markham's AMD headquarters. Built in the early to mid 1990s, the area is serviced by Highway 404, York Region Transit, and Buttonville Airport. Due to high initial vacancy rates, the current Town Hall was moved to that location in 1994. Since then, many of the buildings have become occupied by various banks and service-related industries.
The town of Richmond Hill is well serviced in terms of transportation facilities for a community of its size. The eastern border of the town is Highway 404, a major highway which leads directly into the downtown core of the City of Toronto via the Don Valley Parkway (DVP). Highway 404 also intersects with Highway 401 in North York, which is one of the most traversed highways on the planet and is the principal east/west route in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). The town's southern border is defined by the former Highway 7 and a parallel expressway, Highway 407. The latter is a toll route (the only currently existing in the province) and was designed as a bypass for the 401. The combined effect of these highways ensures that Richmond Hill is well integrated into Ontario’s road network and has easy access for all road vehicles. It is worth noting that the ease of accessing the town is threatened by increasing traffic due to growth in the region as the resulting exhaustive commutes (sometimes several hours in the winter) greatly diminish the usefulness of the road network.
Public transit within the town of Richmond Hill is on buses co-ordinated by York Region Transit (YRT). In September 2005, YRT unveiled a new rapid transit initiative entitled VIVA which provides enhanced bus service on major routes using vehicles capable of speeding up traffic lights to lessen the time they idle. YRT also operates several feeder routes on secondary streets in the town. While reaction to the VIVA program has been very positive and the funding provided considerable, there hasn’t been as large an increase in commuter use as was hoped. Commuter train service is provided to the town by GO Transit on the Richmond Hill line with two stations in the town, Richmond Hill Station and Langstaff Station. Langstaff Station is near the new Richmond Hill Centre Terminal of York Region Transit at Highway 7 and Yonge Street, and is connected to it by a pedestrian bridge opened in March 2008.
Richmond Hill is minimally serviced by other modes of transportation. Its landlocked situation inhibits any water transportation and it lacks an airport of its own, though it does border on Markham's Buttonville Airport. The closest large airport is Pearson International Airport.
The predominant feature of the town's geography, as its name suggests, is its elevation above surrounding regions. Thousands of years ago during the last ice-age, glaciers moving in a southerly direction amassed a considerable amount of earth in front of them which they carried forward as they grew. Gradually, as the temperature increased the growth of the glaciers lessened and eventually they began to recede to what is now the polar ice cap. The earth that had been collected by the glacier's movement however was left in place and the elevated region that remained comprises modern day Richmond Hill.
The town itself is at a much greater elevation than other communities within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and with exclusion of areas closely alongside its borders, the constituent of York region with the greatest height above sea level. The uneven melting of the glacier that formed the town has led to an extremely varied geography within the town's own borders, leading to such features as kettle lakes, minor tributaries and most notably the Oak Ridges Moraine.
Kettle lakes are the result of glacier water getting caught in water-tight depressions in the land and are sustained by only rainfall in the immediate area. The Town of Richmond Hill has many of these water bodies and its three largest in order of decreasing size are Lake Wilcox, Bond Lake and Philips Lake. The kettle lakes are predominantly confined to the northern fringes of the town.
Being elevated above the surrounding region, precipitation in the town tends to flow outwards via the multitude of streams and rivers that flow through the town. Principally water flow is in one of two directions, south to Lake Ontario or north to Lake Simcoe where they join up with larger tributaries that feed into the water bodies. Of note, are the Rouge and Don rivers which receive some of their flow from sources in the town.
Perhaps the most important geographical feature of the Town of Richmond Hill is the Oak Ridges Moraine. The moraine is a further elevated region of loose soil which comprises a significant portion (roughly the northern third) of the land area of the town. Its porous nature allows the collection and natural filtering of waters that flow through it which are then fed into multiple underground aquifers. While the town receives its water from the City of Toronto, these aquifers are an important source for those with their own wells in addition to surrounding communities. The ability of the soil to hold so much water means that despite Richmond Hill's comparatively high elevation, it has a very high water table which poses some problems to construction. The moraine is also host to a staggering amount of biodiversity and in recent years there has been a considerable amount of pressure applied to government to shield the area from development. Consequently, a considerable portion of Richmond Hill is subject to the Ontario Government's Greenbelt legislation.
A motel on Yonge Street is known to display conservative rhymes and provocative quotes on their sign. These quotes usually relate to current events. The film, Man of the Year, starring Robin Williams was filmed at Emerald Isle Motel in late 2005. This motel also was featured in the film The Wrong Guy.
The David Dunlap Observatory is home to the largest reflecting telescope in Canada. The 74-inch (1,900 mm) telescope was the second largest in the world upon its construction in 1935. The observatory was a research facility of the University of Toronto.
Richmond Hill Liberal
CFMJ AM 640 (AM 640 Talk Radio)
Salam Toronto Bilingual Persian-English weekly paper expressing the voice/distributed of/to the Iranian Community of Thornhill, Richmond Hill, North York, Toronto and GTA.