Will Farmland Outside Niagara’s Urban Boundaries be Next?
News from Catch, the Hamilton-based watchdog group, Citizens at City Hall
With a Brief Foreword by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted July 7th, 2020 on Niagara At Large
Foreword by Doug Draper –
What does Ontario’s Ford government have against protecting and preserving our province’s farmlands for present and future generations?
Possibly nothing, unless some of Ford and company’s pals in the development industry want to buy some farmland up so they can destroy it forever with – just what we need – ever more cookie-cutter buildings and low density sprawl
“Until recently it was illegal, but Hamilton is now facing an attempt by private developers to force expansion of the urban boundary onto rural lands,” says a news report, first posted this June by CATCH, the Hamilton-based watchdog group, Citizens at City Hall .
Please read the CATCH report, reprised here in the space below, and ask yourself if farmland outside Niagara’s urban boundaries will be next.
Study after study during this deadly COVID-19 nightmare has shown the role that healthy green spaces can play in preventing and curbing the grave impacts of pandemics.
We should also have learned by now how important it is to have the capacity to grow enough food locally and regionally when crises such as these can disrupt global food supplies.
Obviously these are lessons that Ford Conservative’s and their enablers either don’t know or don’t want to know, much less take to heart.
Coming out of what we hope has been the worst in Ontario of this pandemic, citizens in Niagara and across this province simply cannot let this happen.
Let us all stand together to stop any more mindless, greed-driven destruction of our green heritage.
Doug Draper, Niagara At Large
Now here is the piece posted this June by CATCH, Hamilton-based Citizens at City Hall –
Urbanizing More Farmland
Until recently it was illegal, but Hamilton is now facing an attempt by private developers to force expansion of the urban boundary onto rural lands.
For many years only city governments could do this, but that changed last summer when new provincial rules opened the door to multiple privately-launched enlargements of up to forty hectares each.
The (Ontario Ford Government’s) More Homes More Choices Act was pushed through the legislature by the Ford government in less than a month last year.
The rush meant there was essentially no consultation with either the public or with the municipal governments that have to deal with its consequences. A key change permits any private landowner to seek an expansion of the urban boundary and gives city governments only 120 days to respond.
A group of seven developers holding about 75 hectares of farmland on the south side of Twenty Road West have submitted an application that must be decided by council early this fall. Last summer city planners publicly declared they would automatically reject any moves by local developers to utilize the controversial Ford government rule changes, but that may not be possible.
Instead of just pushing for a boundary expansion the developers first want to amend Hamilton’s official plan to make it conform to the new provincial rules “to enable urban boundary expansion proposals for lands less than 40 hectares in area.”
Opposing that amendment would seem to put the city into a straight fight with the Ford government that it can’t win. If council rejects the change, it is almost certain the developers would overturn that on appeal.
The changed official plan pushed by the developers would eliminate the current wording that “no urban boundary expansion shall occur until a municipally initiated comprehensive review and secondary plan have been completed.”
And that would open the door to the second step by the developers who say they are “prepared to submit applications to infill the urban boundary under the new Growth Plan provisions” and that the “official plan amendment is intended to create the proper context to process these applications.”
There is no limit on the number of private expansions Steve Robichaud, the city’s chief planner, last fall.
“They could do one hectare to 39.9 hectares but it could be a situation if they are numbered companies all owned by the same individual, each numbered company could make their own application for 40 hectare urban boundary expansion and you could end up with three or four contiguous applications coming forward at the same time but by different numbered companies.”
City planners are working on their GRID2-Municipal Comprehensive Review (is intended to guide expected population growth in Hamilton including whether that will include urbanizing more farmland.
That review has been delayed (because of the pandemic with the next public consultation now promised for September. Robichaud previously warned that private expansion proposals could further delay this review.
About CATCH – CATCH (Citizens at City Hall) is a volunteer community group that encourages civic participation in Hamilton. Our members attend and report on meetings of city councillors and other City committees, and carry out related research and activities.
We issue regular news updates to our email list using recordings and transcripts of meetings, staff reports and/or other 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 .
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