A Thorold group is embarking on a campaign to have the greenbelt loosened a notch or two to include a large naturalization area in the city’s west end.
By including the Lake Gibson corridor in the province’s agricultural preserve, the Lake Gibson Preservation Task Group hopes to protect the swath of land in a way the city can’t.
“Once it’s in the greenbelt, it stays in the greenbelt,” Thorold planner Eldon Darbyson said.
Even though the corridor has been deemed a conservation area in Thorold’s official plan, Darbyson said a council always has the prerogative to change that designation, leaving the area vulnerable to development.
“The greenbelt is just that extra protection. It prohibits development,” he said.
Last February, the province released draft criteria to deal with potential requests to grow the greenbelt, which blankets north Niagara and parts of Thorold.
Until now, expanding the greenbelt’s borders in Niagara may have seemed like a tough sell. Municipalities hemmed in by the preserve have felt its pinch since it was implemented three years ago. It’s made urban expansion virtually impossible and rural landowners, particularly farmers, have limited options for land use.
It’s resulted in some municipalities, including Grimsby, calling on the province to review the greenbelt, while urban land-starved St. Catharines has mused on lopping off parts of Thorold or Niagara-on-the-Lake to give the city room to grow.
David Farley, the Region’s director of planning services, said he wasn’t aware of any other municipality considering expanding the greenbelt.
Although still in the preliminary stages — Darbyson and crew are in the process of determining land owners in the area the committee wants protected — Thorold would need the Region to make the expansion request to the province on its behalf.
However, in a report to the Region’s planning and public works committee in April, acting commissioner of planning services Patrick Robson said requests for greenbelt expansion in Niagara won’t be considered until the Niagara growth management strategy is completed and granted the stamp of approval from the province.
The strategy, called Niagara 2031, is expected to be wrapped up by the end of this year.
Still, expanding the greenbelt to include the Lake Gibson-Lake Moody corridor isn’t a stretch. Darbyson said a portion of the corridor is already in the greenbelt.
The committee is not considering including the village of Beaverdams, which abuts the conservation area, Darbyson noted.
“You don’t want to restrict development rights within the urban area,” he said. “We’re focusing not only on what to include, but what we should be careful not to include.”
Once the city has a list of landowners — Darbyson figured there are about a dozen, including Ontario Hydro — they will be contacted for feedback on the idea before any expansion request is made.
“It’s very preliminary,” Darbyson said. “We’re trying to involve everyone it will affect.”
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