Environmental Groups Taking Ford Gov. To Court Over Attack on Greenbelt and Hamilton’s Official Plan
Ontario Government Served With Legal Notice Over Carving Up Greenbelt Lands
“The province’s attempt to allow uncontrolled sprawl outside (of) urban boundaries forms part of a wider move to undermine environmental protections by stripping conservation authorities of their powers under Bill 23 and opening up large swathes of the Greenbelt for development.” – Laura Bowman, lawyer, lawyer for the non-profit legal group, Ecojustice
A News Release from the citizen groups Envrionmental Defence and Ecojustice
Posted January 23rdh, 2022 on Niagara At Large
A Brief Foreword by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper –
I was determined to post this news before our Niagara At Large site suffered technical difficulties – possibly due to hacking – earlier this January because it should raise some hope that the fight to save Ontario’s natural heritage from the forces of ignorance and greed is gaining some real steam.
What I hope that you take the time to read here is encouraging news that major public-interest organizations in Canada like Environmental Defence and Ecojustice are joining with more local networks of individuals and groups like the Biodiversity and Climate Action Committee in Niagara, Environment Hamilton and with citizens in other regions across Ontario in raising a strong, unified voice against Ontario’s Ford Government’s campaign to destroy some of the best food growing lands we have left in the province’s Greenbelt and to gut measures for protecting our natural heritage resources for generations to come.
In the following news release, circulated this past January 10th, the national groups Environmental Defence and Ecojustice announced their plans to take the Ford government to court over its plans to allow urban sprawl in Greenbelt lands in the Hamilton area and to assaultsections of that city’s Official Plan that contron urban expansion into the countryside.
The Ford government’s infamous Bill 23 also threatens what is left of Niagara’s natural heritage, including prime food-growing lands, woodlands and watersheds, yet we have so far not seen or heard Niagara’s Regional Council or the Region’s staff express the same level of concern that the City of Hamilton has, just to name one example.
A few of Niagara’s local municipal councils, including those in St. Catharines and Grimsby, are raising strong concerns, but not Niagara’s Regional Government, other than what gutting development charges for urban sprawl might do to the Region’s bottomline – and that is sad.
It appears that nothing short of more lobbying by citizens across Niagara might get the Regional Government here nt to grow a spine when it comes to this issue and the catastrophic impact it may have on the health and welfare, not to mention democarcy in Niagara for generations to come.
Doug Draper, Niagara At Large
Now here is the News Release on a planned court case on behalf of sections of the Greenbelt in the Hamilton area and that city’s Official Plan
Toronto | Traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinaabeg, the Haudenosaunee, and the Huron-Wendat – Ecojustice, on behalf of Environmental Defence, has served the Ontario government with a notice of application for a judicial review of its unilaterally imposed changes to Hamilton’s official plan.
The official plan is a land use planning document that guides and shapes development by identifying where and under what circumstances specific types of land uses can be located. It is used to ensure that future planning development appropriately balances social, economic, and environmental interests of the community.
The people and City Council of Hamilton had already spoken on this issue when they approved an official plan that prevented urban sprawl and encouraged sustainable development within the city’s existing boundary.
On November 4, the province announced it was changing Hamilton’s official plan by stripping out provisions designed to deliver housing in existing neighbourhoods, where it is desperately needed. Instead, the province is forcing a 2,200 hectare outward expansion of the city’s boundary into farmland and wild spaces.
Changes to Hamilton’s official plan are the latest in a series of moves by the provincial government to push sprawl development into farmland, woodland, and wetlands. These changes were announced while the province introduced Bill 23, which strips conservation authorities and municipalities of their powers. Soon after, the Ontario government announced that it would also open parts of the Greenbelt for destruction.
City officials, planners, and people who call Hamilton home, worked collaboratively to produce an official plan that was sustainable and would accommodate growth without requiring an expansion of the urban boundary.
There is palpable anger from city councilors, planners, environmental activists, and residents about the top-down changes imposed on the city of Hamilton by the provincial government.
Representing Environmental Defence, Ecojustice served a notice of application in January seeking a judicial review in Ontario’s Divisional Court, of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s changes to Hamilton’s official plan.
Laura Bowman, Ecojustice lawyer, said: “The Ontario government is ignoring its obligations under the Planning Act and is running roughshod over Hamilton’s local democracy.
“The province’s attempt to allow uncontrolled sprawl outside Hamilton’s urban boundaries forms part of a wider move to undermine environmental protections by stripping conservation authorities of their powers under Bill 23 and opening up large swathes of the Greenbelt for development. The people of Hamilton will not benefit from these changes and will pay a price in environmental degradation and high infrastructure costs while land speculators will reap a financial windfall.
Phil Pothen, in-house Counsel and Ontario Environment Program Manager with Environmental Defence said: “Minister Clark’s gutting of Hamilton’s 2022 Official Plan would mandate the discredited sprawl-based approach to planning that caused our current housing and environmental crises – and which Ontario’s 21st-century planning laws are designed to fix.
The Planning Act and Growth Plan were meant to promote efficient land use and prevent governments from expanding towns and cities further outwards than necessary to meet housing needs.
By imposing an unnecessary boundary expansion – while stripping out provisions designed to deliver more housing in existing neighbourhoods – the government’s changes would not just harm the environment and worsen Hamilton’s housing affordability crisis, but they’d also violate the law.”
About the Groups launching the court action:
Ecojustice uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, public interest lawsuits and advocacy lead to precedent-setting court decisions and law and policy that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.
Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian environmental advocacy organization that works with government, industry, and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate, and healthy communities.
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