“Of particular issue are new rules that sharply curtail local control over how to respond to growth by requiring that housing plans be determined using a “market-based” approach with no climate considerations.”
A Report from the public watchdog group Citizens at City Hall (CATCH) in Hamilton, Ontario
Posted March 6th, 2021 on Niagara At Large
Major municipal governments across the GTA (Southern Ontario’s Greater Toronto Area) are challenging more of the climate-threatening policies of (Doug Ford’) provincial government.
Mississauga has joined other municipalities seeking federal intervention on the proposed Highway 413 recently revived by the Ford administration, while Halton regional council is pushing back against pro-development rule changes that force municipalities to accept more sprawl on prime agricultural lands.
The Halton move is particularly significant to Hamilton whose planners are grappling) with the same rules and deadlines on how to accommodate provincially predicted population growth over the next 30 years.
Currently (Hamilton) city planners are refusing to consider no-sprawl options being demanded by citizen advocates.
The Halton council has pointed to major changes in a half dozen growth policies and has unanimously called for a substantial delay in the deadline for submitting plans that would determine how much farmland will be zoned for projected growth between 2031 and 2051.
Echoing an earlier move by the lower tier Halton Hills council, the Region says the rewritten rules block critical climate action, threaten agricultural land, and violate public engagement promises to their residents.
“These provincial changes signal an abrupt shift from the emphasis on creating compact and complete communities to a planning regime that facilitates lower density and car dependent communities”, says the council motion that was approved 24-0 after hearing several citizen delegations and extensive supportive comments from councillors.
The provincial changes cut density requirements per hectare on greenfield lands from 80 persons/jobs down to 50. They also lowered targets for in-fill development, and imposed population and employment forecasts for the next thirty years.
Of particular issue are new rules that sharply curtail local control over how to respond to growth by requiring that housing plans be determined using a “market-based” approach with no climate considerations.
Halton councillors say that negates their agricultural land protection policies and “creates pressure to convert more class 1, 2 and 3 farmland in Halton to urban uses than would otherwise be necessary.” This in turn, argues the regional council, jeopardizes “access to healthy safe food in the future”.
Like the earlier Halton Hills resolution, the one adopted by the full regional government says pandemic restrictions make “effective in-person public consultation impossible” when it is “needed more than ever.” This is especially true for rural residents with poor internet service and low-income communities lacking computer access.
Halton wants a suspension of the growth planning deadlines until after the end of the pandemic restrictions and also until resulting impacts on longer-term employment and living patterns become clear. The council motion is being circulated to Hamilton and other municipalities to get their endorsement.
The highway being fast-tracked by the Ford government and also generating municipal pushback was deemed unnecessary after extensive studies during the previous Liberal administration. The editors of the Globe and Mail say it’s “a plan to use taxpayer dollars to encourage real estate developers on the currently rural fringes of the Greater Toronto Area” and have dubbed it a “sprawl accelerator”.
The proposed 413 would run (https://hamiltoncatch.us20.list-manage.com/track/click?u=8ffda5515733a1dd97a7b21fa&id=9e5e99fe12&e=a31ab29d46) fifty kilometres from the 401-407 junction north across the Greenbelt through Caledon and connect with the 400 in Vaughan. According to an expert panel that reported three years ago, it would cost $6 billion and save drivers an average of 30 seconds.
The Ford government has changed existing rules to allow construction to start before completion of an environmental review. In response, Mississauga council this week asked Ottawa to require a federal environmental assessment.
The council says that it “strongly opposes the construction” of the highway which it describes as “bisecting 85 streams (10 of which are ecologically high priority), destroying seven entire wood lots including a 5.95 km length of forest, significantly fragmenting valley lands, disrupting 1,000 ha of land significant to wildlife movement [and] making serious incursions into areas protected under the Green Belt Plan.”
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 .
A Brief Footnote from Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper –
This coming Monday, March 8th, Niagara At Large will be posting a detailed letter submitted to all members of Niagara’s Regional Council by a wide number of citizen groups and individual citizens from across Niagara, Ontario.
The letter urges Regional Councillors to delay approval of any new Official Plan for Niagara until it is one that contains effective measures for stopping any further economically costly and environmentally damaging low-density residential sprawl.
Make sure you visit Niagara At Large’s online, independent news and commentary site at www.niagaraatlarge.com to read that post and on topics of interest and concern to our Greater Niagara Region and beyond.
Doug Draper at NAL
To read a related piece posted on Niagara At Large earlier this March, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2021/03/04/a-sprawling-disaster-doug-fords-plan-for-ontario/ .