Protecting Ontario’s Greenbelt and other Foodlands in the Province

The change in government at Queen’s Park could mean different provincial rules and policies or at least different enforcement. In a private meeting with developers prior to the election, the new premier (Doug Ford)  promised to “open up” Greenbelt lands. After a public outcry, he recanted, but developer pressure for easing of provincial land use restrictions is sure to continue.”

A News Commentary from CATCH (Citizens at City Hall) in Hamilton, Ontario

Posted July 16th, 2018 on Niagara At Large

A shift in the provincial government’s approach to protecting the Greenbelt and other foodlands could allow Hamilton municipal politicians to achieve their growth plans at the expense of foodlands.

The green in this map covers the lands in Niagara and other regions now included in Ontario’s protected Greenbelt. Will the province’s new Ford government now work to sell off what Doug Ford called “chunks” of the Greenbelt to developers?

With the closing of nominations next week (July 25) this fall’s municipal election campaign will become clearer and residents can decide who will best represent their views on these issues.

Over the last decade and more, the provincial Liberals have increasingly restricted urban expansion onto farmland – usually to the frustration of the majority of current Hamilton councillors.

The Greenbelt that was established in 2005 protects a large swath of farmland in Hamilton. The majority of Hamilton council opposed the establishment of the Greenbelt, and as late as last year most fought to chop pieces out of it on behalf of developers.

This included a substantial property in Waterdown and several in lower Stoney Creek. Resolutions demanding specific fruitlands be removed were adopted up to four times by council to no avail. Instead, the Wynne government increased the size of the Greenbelt in Hamilton.

During the Liberal tenure at Queen’s Park there were Ontario Municipal Board battles between the city and the province over the extent of urbanization permitted on fruitlands in lower Stoney Creek and Winona. Even at present the two governments remain at the OMB in a long stalled clash over the future of a 3100-acre expansion onto rural lands in the Elfrida area of upper Stoney Creek.

Ontario citizens are going to have to get more vigilant and engaged to guard against more of this in the Greenbelt and other food-growing lands.

The change in government at Queen’s Park could mean different provincial rules and policies or at least different enforcement. In a private meeting with developers prior to the election, the new premier promised to “open up” Greenbelt lands. After a public outcry, he recanted, but developer pressure for easing of provincial land use restrictions is sure to continue.

The provincial response to the city’s (Hamilton’s) determined effort to urbanize the Elfrida farmland and natural areas could give an early indication whether the next city council has a freer hand in absorbing rural lands. The results of this fall’s municipal election will also determine how exactly the city proceeds with its current plans to house 80,000 people in the Elfrida area east and south of the intersection of Rymal and Upper Centennial.

Liberal provincial legislation has made urban boundary expansions subject to Queen’s Park approval and imposed minimum density requirements for any development taking place on greenfield lands that are outside the Greenbelt. In the Elfrida case that will mean far higher percentages of apartments and townhouses than have been previously preferred by developers.

To further reduce the pressure to convert farmland to housing, the Wynne government bumped up the percentage of new growth that must be accommodated inside the area of the city that had been built-up by 2006. That was also strenuously opposed by city staff and politicians with only ward 3 councillor Matthew Green disagreeing.

“The City of Hamilton is not in a position to support the increase in the intensification target from 40 percent to 60 percent, the increase in the persons and jobs per hectare for greenfield areas from 50 pjh to 80 pjh, and the static built boundary,” declared the city’s approved submission to the province.

Prior to the 40 percent rule coming in force in 2015, Hamilton was averaging below 30 percent. It has only met the 40 percent requirement in one year, and last year fell to just 28 percent.

Provincial rules also require minimum densities at stops for higher-order transit such as LRT. While these are designed to ensure the success of LRT, city officials say they can’t be achieved at some stops.

CATCH (Citizens at City Hall) updates use transcripts and/or public documents to highlight information about Hamilton civic affairs that is not generally available in the mass media. Detailed reports of City Hall meetings can be reviewed at hamiltoncatch.org .

You can receive all CATCH free updates by sending an email to http://hamiltoncatch.org/newsletter/?p=subscribe . Sharing links are available on the hamiltoncatch.org .

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“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders

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