Ambush in the Greenbelt: York Region set to debate illegal Official Plan land grab

Toronto | Traditional territories of the Huron-Wendat, the Anishnaabeg, Haudenosaunee, Chippewas and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation – Premier Doug Ford’s promise that his government “won’t touch the Greenbelt, we won’t build on the Greenbelt” may soon be put to its first post-election challenge.

Thanks to a last-minute Committee motion from Iain Lovatt, Mayor of the Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville, York Region Council will be debating this Thursday, June 30th on whether to adopt an illegal Official Plan that seeks to destroy and develop part of the Oak Ridges Moraine and Greenbelt. The Plan is illegal because the Provincial Greenbelt Plan marks these lands as permanently off limits for suburban boundary expansion, and the Planning Act prohibits Official Plans that do not conform with the Greenbelt Plan.

Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark cannot approve this plan and should inform York Region Council of their error before Thursday’s meeting.

The proposal to remove land from Greenbelt and Oak Ridges Moraine protection would threaten far more than the specific parcel of land at issue. It would endanger the certainty and permanence that is fundamental to the functioning of the entire Greenbelt system.

“The purpose of the Greenbelt is not to define the limits of urbanization planned for the future: that’s the role of settlement area boundaries. The Greenbelt’s purpose is to hold down farmland prices and rents, and allow landowners and farmers who rent to plan and improve their farms and habitat long-term, by providing them with certainty that land they farm or the habitat they steward will never be developed,” said Phil Pothen, Ontario Environment Program Manager, Environmental Defence. “If we open the door to development in the Greenbelt due to “special cases” and “exceptions” we’d soon see almost every land speculator concocting some reason to do the same everywhere.”

The only reasonable course for York Region Council is to amend the Draft Regional Official Plan to remove any expansion into the Greenbelt.

“I encourage residents to contact members of York Region Council. We want those Mayors and Regional Councillors who support the Oak Ridges Moraine to vote against the Official Plan. Details are on our Stop Sprawl York Region website,” said Claire Malcolmson, Executive Director of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and creator of Stop Sprawl York Region. “Council took the offending section out of the Official Plan before – they should do it again or open the floodgates for other municipal requests to change the Oak Ridges Moraine’s boundary. Ontario’s countryside is already at risk of over-develoment everywhere else. Let’s leave the Oak Ridges Moraine alone.”

ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (environmentaldefence.ca): 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.

ABOUT STOP SPRAWL YORK REGION (www.StopSprawlYR.ca): We are a collective of community leaders, organizations, and people who care about the future of York Region.

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For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Allen Braude, Environmental Defence, abraude@environmentaldefence.ca 

Claire Malcolmson, Stop Sprawl York Region, stopsprawlYR@gmail.com