‘The province’s new rules on climate change are limited to preparing for its “potential” impacts. … There are no policies within the (Ford government’s revised Provincial Policy Statement) document which speak to the importance of taking measures now to prevent or avoid climate change,” declares a City of Hamilton staff report.
A News Article by the Hamilton-based citizens’ watchdog group, Citizens At City Hall (CATCH)
(This article was originally posted on September 30th, 2019 in CATCH’s online newsletter at http://hamiltoncatch.org/list_articles.php .)
Posted October 15th, 2019 on Niagara At Large
Hamilton, Ontario – City staff are challenging yet another massive rewrite of planning rules by the provincial government. Planning staff oppose the province’s proposed elimination of policies to fight climate change and protect sensitive natural areas.
They are also questioning “market based” changes that will make it easier for developers to pave over farmland and effectively shift planning approvals “from a municipal-led approach to a developer-led one.”
Municipalities are facing a major revision of the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS), the document which sets out the overriding rules that all land use planning in Ontario “must be consistent with”. The PPS directs policies on housing, infrastructure, transportation, economic development, aggregate extraction, land servicing arrangements and other municipal activities.
The province’s new rules on climate change are limited to preparing for its “potential” impacts. The Hamilton staff response going to councillors (early this October) argues this “suggests uncertainty and does not acknowledge that impacts from climate change are already occurring”. Noting the city declaration of an emergency, they are even blunter about the provincial removal of all directions to prevent climate change.
“There are no policies within the document which speak to the importance of taking measures now to prevent or avoid climate change,” declares the staff report. “Seeing as the fight against climate change is a race against time, and actions need to be taken immediately to prevent irreversible impacts from climate change, it is an omission in the policies to not include direction to fight and prevent climate change at both the provincial and local levels through a variety of actions.”
The report also demands the province remove a new policy that “would allow mineral aggregate extraction to take place in certain natural heritage features where not previously permitted.” It further challenges wording changes that would base quarrying approvals on promises to rehabilitate in the future rather than the current requirement to review them “based on the ecological value and significance” of the affected landscape.
Other changes to the PPS centre development decisions on “market-based need” and “market demand”, terms which staff believe could “result in maintaining a market ‘status quo’ that is primarily based on a perceived desire for low density housing and will do nothing to encourage a shift to an urban form that is based on increased density.” The staff review notes that “market need and market demand are subjective terms” and asks who will define them and how that definition will be determined.
Hamilton currently is carrying out a large scale review of how to accommodate expected population growth to 2041 and whether an expansion of the urban area onto more rural lands is justified. The next major public report on that review will take place on October 21.
Multiple developers are pushing hard to expand residential development on foodlands to the south of the urban area. The largest proposal would add 80,000 residents to Elfrida in the biggest urban boundary expansion in Hamilton’s history. Staff specifically warn that shifting that review to a market-based approach “may identify a requirement for a larger urban expansion area”
The staff report flags multiple other proposed changes to the PPS that they believe are unjustified and pose threats to the public interest. One would allow new private communal sewer systems in the rural area, something the city opposes because when they fail the taxpayers are forced to take them over.
A second change to the PPS eliminates the application of minimum separation distances between farms and new non-agricultural land uses. A third appears to limit the power of the city to protect or even designate heritage buildings. A fourth slashes the requirement for buffers around sensitive land uses.
In numerous instances the word “shall” is being replaced by “should” in the PPS. Staff characterize this as policy being changed from “required” to “suggested” which gives developers more opportunity to overturn council decisions during appeals to the provincial planning tribunal.
Municipal comments on the PPS changes can be submitted until October 21.
(A Brief Footnote from Niagara At Large publisher Doug Draper –
It is good to see at least one municipality in Ontario, the City of Hamilton, standing up so strongly against what the Ford government is working to do to weaken provincial planning rules for protecting what is left of our natural heritage.
It would also be good to see more municipalities across the province support Hamilton in this effort.
Where is the Region of Niagara?)
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 .
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