Kitchener, ON – Today, Environmental Defence launched a new report, From Dumb Growth to Smart Growth: Actions to Strengthen the Greenbelt and the Growth Plan. The report highlights the City of Kitchener as a model for smart growth that the rest of the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) should follow.
“By growing more compactly, Kitchener is leading the way in creating walkable, transit-friendly neighbourhoods that are better for our health, wallets, and environment,” says Tim Gray, Executive Director of Environmental Defence. “Municipalities across the Greater Golden Horseshoe should look to Kitchener’s wise example for how to grow in a way that creates vibrant communities while protecting farmland and forests.”
”Over the past decade our residents have worked with the City of Kitchener and other municipalities in the Region of Waterloo to change how we grow,” says Kevin Thomason, Vice-chair of the Grand River Environmental Network. “We’ve dramatically reduced the sprawl that was paving over our countryside and driving our farmers off the land.”
“We focussed on revitalizing our neighbourhoods and core areas with a diversity of new housing choices, dozens of new restaurants and cafes, stores and shops, as well as new parks and town squares,” Thomason says. “We’ve doubled transit ridership and have new bus rapid transit and light rail transit on the way that will soon link our communities in new ways and provide more transportation choices.”
Ontario’s Greenbelt Plan and Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, both now under provincial review, were enacted 10 years ago with the promise of stopping sprawl and protecting, restoring and enhancing our farmland, water and nature. “While the provincial plans are a step in the right direction, they need improvements to ensure smarter growth in the Greater Golden Horseshoe,” Gray says.
In Waterloo Region, the plans could be improved by focusing on expanding the Greenbelt to include additional prime agricultural lands and natural heritage systems in the Waterloo Moraine.
The report argues that the GGH should say goodbye to dumb growth (sprawl), which has left us with huge municipal infrastructure debts, degraded water quality, and destroyed farmland and forests. And it identifies seven actions the provincial review of the plans should take to replace dumb growth with smart growth. Recommendations include:
Expanding the Greenbelt to include additional prime agricultural lands and natural heritage systems for the entire Greater Golden Horseshoe.
Freezing urban boundaries for 10 years. There is more than enough land allocated for residential development for the next 20 years – without sprawling over more farms and forests.
In towns and villages, align growth with existing water, roads, sewer and transit capacity rather than sprawling subdivisions that require costly new highways.
Prioritizing investment in transit, rail and existing highways so that the transportation network will better serve and reinforce smart growth rather than sprawl.
Other actions include: enforcing intensification targets, addressing climate change, better aligning the Growth Plan with the Big Move transit plan objectives, and requiring active transportation plans.
As the report explains, smarter growth does not mean giant condos but size-appropriate growth. In a small town, that could mean 2-3 storey mixed-use buildings. The report offers examples from communities like Kitchener who are leading the way in smart growth.
The report also highlights the benefits of compact growth including:
Enabling more investment in public transit like regional and local rapid transit so more of us can move between work, school and home faster
Saving municipalities up to 40 per cent of the costs for providing residents with services like water, sewers and hydro
Savings to residents (up to $200,000 over a 25-year mortgage) for no longer needing two cars
A lower carbon footprint: Compact communities have three times less carbon emissions than sprawl subdivisions.
Read the full report at: StopDumbGrowth.ca
About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is 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.
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