Toronto – The members of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance are condemning the latest attempt by the Durham Region Planning Committee to undermine protection of critical environmental and agricultural land in Ontario’s Greenbelt.
The Committee voted 5 to 1 yesterday to “pursue, in the future, certain changes to the Greenbelt Plan” that could see thousands of acres paved for low-density sub-divisions.  A significant portion of this land is owned by a single developer.  These changes are to be made as “information” to be included in the Regional Official Plan and are consistent with Council’s previous request to have the land changed to “Designated Growth Area”.  Of particular concern to the members of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance is the huge swath of environmentally sensitive land in the Duffins-Rouge Agricultural Preserve and in Courtice that are targeted for future growth.
“All three parties in the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed the Duffins-Rouge Agricultural Preserve Protection Act, but I guess Durham Region thinks it’s above the law,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director, Environmental Defence, a member group of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance. “Instead of responding to a wild request to flout the law by a couple of landowners, Durham Region should act like every other municipality and stop playing games with the Greenbelt.”
The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance asked Mr. David Donnelly, a lawyer with the firm of Gilbert’s LLP, to conduct a planning review of the lands in question.  A review of aerial photography of the properties reveals an arbitrary growth boundary unfounded by any defined explanation. In fact, under questioning by Environmental Defence before the Committee, the Durham Commissioner of Planning conceded that the recommendations were “political” and not based on planning or science.
“It’s obvious Durham Region’s curious choices of “Future Growth Areas” violates the Greenbelt boundary but magically respects the Oak Ridges Moraine boundary,” said Donnelly, also a Registered Professional Planner. “Their Planning Commissioner admitted there is no planning rationale whatsoever for these decisions and looked like he had sucked on a lemon when refusing to answer if any of this is good planning.  Undermining the integrity of Greenbelt in this way is simply playing politics with the environment.”
The move to identify lands for future urban sprawl comes despite the acknowledgment from Council that Durham Region has designated more lands for future growth than it currently needs to meet its needs for a generation.  
“The McGuinty government must stop the developer financed politicians of Durham Region from paving the Greenbelt,” said Dan McDermott, Director of the Sierra Club of Canada Ontario Chapter, a member group of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance.
About the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance: The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance is a diverse multi-stakeholder coalition of over 75 organizations who share a common vision for protecting and expanding Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt. www.greenbelt.ca.
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For more information, or to arrange interviews, contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521 (cell)
David Donnelly, Gilbert’s LLP, (416) 703-3236; (416) 722-0220 (cell)
Dan McDermott, Director, Sierra Club of Canada, Ontario Chapter, (416) 960-6075