Tag Archives: Golden Horseshoe municipalities
Provincial plan being ignored, report finds
Phinjo Gombu – Toronto Star
Several Golden Horseshoe municipalities are bucking Ontario’s ambitious sprawl-busting plan by submitting local plans that contradict its goals, says a report by the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance.
Others have slowed the process by missing a crucial deadline.
The report warns that if the government doesn’t stand up to these local challenges, its internationally lauded Places to Grow plan could be derailed – leading to unchecked development, worse congestion, and a deteriorating quality of life.
The report, cheekily titled Places to Sprawl, says some big regions, such as York and Peel, missed a June deadline to finalize plans conforming to provincial guidelines. Meanwhile, councils in Durham, Niagara and Simcoe County have passed plans headed for conflict on the crucial question of how much land needs to be urbanized.
Towns and cities have been granted extensions until next summer to develop their own localized plans.
“Our overall assessment of the progress in Places to Grow is there have been some steps forward, some municipalities are taking it seriously, and in some cases the province is doing the right thing,” said Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence, one of the report’s co-authors.
“But overall the effort is completely behind schedule and in some places, like Simcoe County and Durham Region, threatens to go totally off the rails.”
Particularly pointed criticism is directed at Durham, which the report says has “completely disregarded the Places to Grow Act.”
“By inflating employment growth numbers by 25,000 over what was determined for the area in conjunction with the Ontario government, Durham council is trying to justify the destruction of prime agricultural land,” it says.
The report also raises alarm about Simcoe County development that leapfrogs north of the Greenbelt in places like Bradford West Gwillimbury, where the province, under pressure, has agreed to a major employment zone off Highway 400.
Waterloo Region gets kudos for strict mining policies and protection of sensitive lands. Halton Region is lauded for mapping out an enhanced natural heritage system of greenbelt-style protections.
The report also praises Toronto for a plan enhancing green space with community gardens and a bylaw requiring green roofs on large buildings.
Places to Grow, launched four years ago, imposes population growth limits, encourages higher density and requires regions to ensure that at least 40% of future development occurs in built-up areas. That involves a massive change in planning rules in southern Ontario, Smith said.
So far, Halton, Peel, Durham and York have estimated they’ll need almost 8,000 hectares of new land for development by 2031 – an area about the size of Barrie.
Durham’s plan illustrates a thorny emerging issue, the report says: municipalities’ use of optimistic job-growth projections to justify expanding their urban boundaries.
Critics say they’re trying to get more land rezoned than is needed. If past experience is any indication, they say, the predicted jobs won’t materialize and much of that rezoned land will end up being used for lucrative low-density housing.
Oshawa Mayor John Gray, head of Durham’s planning committee and a staunch critic of Environmental Defence, dismissed the report, saying Durham’s employment projections are bigger than the province’s because it believes more jobs are needed to create live-work than commuter communities.