Toronto – Proposed amendments to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe announced by the Ministry of Infrastructure this week will put the Simcoe County region on a path to urban sprawl. Rather than leading the way in redefining ecological growth that protects a key watershed, local environmentalists say the provincial government is pulling Simcoe County in opposing directions.
While the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan sets a target of having 40% of the land that drains into the lake in “natural cover”, the Growth Plan in Simcoe County focuses on paving greenfields for residential and new employment areas, contributing to sprawl, vehicle emissions, and water pollution. And, the decision to approve two massive and unnecessary new employment zones along the already congested Highway 400 contradicts key elements of the existing plan, which will result in paving farmland unnecessarily, and employment areas being placed far from communities.
“Putting new development along Highway 400, one of the most congested highways in the world, is one of the strangest growth strategies we’ve ever seen, unless sitting in traffic is a new industry,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defence.
There are some positive policies in the amendment, apparently intended to control the impact of land speculation. The policy prioritizes developing within the settlement area boundary before allowing growth in the areas outside, in the newly proposed “interim settlement area boundary”. This should have the effect of curbing sprawl, and making the best use of expensive infrastructure like roads and sewers. Yet the new plan also continues to allow for some expensive, sprawling infrastructure, including a very Big Pipe in Innisfil to service the Big Bay Point mega-marina.
“Some of the good news in this policy is negated by the fact that the impact of development has not been addressed,” says Claire Malcolmson, Campaign Lake Simcoe Coordinator. “In effect, this policy is only curbing sprawl in the short term, in some places, while allowing development to pave more acres of Ontario’s precious farm land and green space per person than is otherwise allowed by this government.” Campaign Lake Simcoe has consistently recommended that new development be allocated to projects that guarantee substantially higher environmental and community design standards.
Campaign Lake Simcoe will be soliciting input from interested citizen and environmental groups to develop a community-based response to the province’s proposed amendment by January 31st, 2011. Those interested in participating in the discussion should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Environmental Defence (www.environmentaldefence.ca): We are Canada’s most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.
For more information or to arrange interview please contact:
Erin Charter, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 x258, (mobile) (647) 280-9521
Claire Malcolmson, Campaign Lake Simcoe, (647) 267-7572
The proposed amendment can be found here:
The Growth Plan sets the employment and residential population target for Simcoe County at 667,000 people by the year 2031. The population was 437,100 in 2006. According to the Toronto Star, “development interests have plans for more than 1 million people.” There is more than enough land, which has been zoned or has some approvals for development, to meet Simcoe County’s needs for the next 20 years. The Growth Plan requires that municipalities only set aside enough land for 20 years of development. What the province proposes in policy 18.104.22.168 is that municipalities determine what lands are approved (zoned, draft or final plans of subdivision) that are in excess of the 20 year time horizon and put them into an “interim settlement area boundary”.
Bradford West Gwillimbury, Collingwood, Midland, New Tecumseth, Midland /Penetang and Innisfil are required to achieve 50 residents and jobs / hectare with everywhere else outside Orillia and Barrie achieving only 32 residents and jobs / hectare.
Below is a link to what 50 residents and jobs / hectare looks like:
Paving green space is usually bad for water quality, which is why Campaign Lake Simcoe has repeatedly asked for development to be more compact, and for it to be directed away from the fragile Lake Simcoe watershed. This policy responds to that request, to a small degree. The only places that see a reduction in their population allocation in this document, as compared to the province’s “Strategic Vision” for Simcoe of June, 2009, are Bradford West Gwillimbury (1,500 less) and Innisfil (2,000 less), both in the Lake Simcoe watershed, and New Tecumseth (4,000 less).