Consultations have shown ‘broad opposition’ to Greenbelt development. The Ford government continued anyway | Daily News Byte


The Ontario government has officially removed environmental protections for about 2,995 hectares of Greenbelt land in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) despite consultations indicating “broad opposition” to the plan.

The Cabinet passed regulations on Dec. 14 that implemented its controversial plan to remove land from 15 different areas from the Greenbelt and Oak Ridges Moraine — a vast 810,000-hectare area of ​​farmland, forest and wetland that stretches from Niagara Falls to Peterborough permanently unrestricted from development.

The move comes just 10 days after the end of a 30-day public consultation process that — in the government’s own words — drew widespread negative feedback from citizens, municipalities, conservation authorities, organizations environmental, agricultural groups and indigenous communities.

The government posted its review on Wednesday of the results of more than 27,000 submissions it received on the two regulatory changes.

“Overall, there was strong support for continued Greenbelt protections and broad opposition to any removal or re-designation of lands under the Greenbelt Plan or Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan. Request full withdrawal of proposal ,” the government said.

“No changes have been made to the proposal as a result of the public consultation.”

Some municipalities, including Clarington, Pickering and Niagara Region said the proposed removals are consistent with previous requests they made, while Wellington, Erin, Puslinch, and Niagara Region requested additional areas to be removed. Meanwhile, Hamilton, Toronto, Mississauga, Georgina, Halton Region, Oakville, and Brampton are against the government’s plan.

The home building industry, meanwhile, is supportive.

“This is a complete and utter betrayal of Ontarians,” said Marit Stiles, Leader-elect of the Ontario NDP.

“The fact that this government is plowing ahead just 10 days after those consultations is a real indication that they have no intention of stopping even for a moment on this appalling plan.”

A farm across the street from a residential subdivision.
The province says it selected the lands for removal because they are adjacent to existing urban areas, such as this area in the Township of King. (Yan Theoret/CBC)

Laying out parts of the Greenbelt to build 50,000 homes

In its decision, the government said opening up land for housing would lead to the construction of 50,000 new homes – part of its plan to build 1.5 million homes over the next decade to alleviate Ontario’s acute housing shortage.

But the government heard from housing advocates through public consultation that the additional land is not necessary to meet Ontario’s housing needs.

“Although affordability was identified as a top priority for many, some respondents asserted that densification in existing urban areas and the development of outright affordable housing should be the preferred approach to increasing housing supply ,” the government said.

“The cost of urban sprawl is a major concern among various stakeholders.”

Phil Pothen, Ontario program manager with Environmental Defence, said there is enough land outside the Greenbelt to meet Ontario’s housing needs. (Phil Pothen Website)

Phil Pothen, Ontario program manager for the advocacy group Environmental Defense, said there is enough land to meet demand for housing in existing neighborhoods and undeveloped areas known as “greenfields” that designated for development. That point was also made by the Ford government’s select Housing Affordability Task Force earlier this year.

“There is not a shred of evidence or any reason to expect that bulldozing Greenbelt land will do anything to reduce the housing shortage, let alone house prices,” Pothen said.

Great developers to Greenbelt land owners

As first reported by CBC News, the land registry and corporate records show that several well-established developers were among the owners of the Greenbelt land removed. Some of those developers have made financial donations to the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario or its politicians.

A CBC News review also revealed some of the properties bought since the Ford government took office in 2018, including five plots in the Township of King that were bought together in September for $80 million.

Ontario NDP Leader-elect Marit Stiles has written to the auditor general requesting a value-for-money audit looking at how many property developers could benefit from the Greenbelt plan. Ford government. (Andrew Lahodynskyj/The Canadian Press)

In the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve in Pickering — the largest area cleared — CBC News identified 28 properties, covering a total of 718 hectares, owned by companies controlled by Silvio, Carlo and Michael De Gasperis. The brothers are part of a prominent Ontario developer family known for building single-family homes in planned subdivisions throughout the Greater Toronto Area.

“Doug Ford is clearly not there for the average person, who is just looking for an affordable place to call home in a community they want to live near where they work,” said Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner.

“This government isn’t listening to the people and he’s in it for literally a handful of wealthy land speculators who are going to make millions.”

Municipal approvals are required

Any plan to build housing on former Greenbelt land must first go through the development approval process in the municipality concerned.

Victoria Podbielski, a spokeswoman for Housing Minister Steve Clark, said the province expects to see significant progress in development approvals next year, with construction starting in 2025. Additionally, it expects at least 10 percent of these homes to be “affordable.”

He said developers will be required to make plans for infrastructure such as stormwater management, roads, community centers, schools, hospitals and long-term care homes, along with other “tangible benefits to the public .”

“The government has been clear from the beginning that we will only move forward if these conditions are met. If we are not satisfied with the plans presented, the province is ready to return the properties back to the Greenbelt,” said Podbielski .

Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner has asked the province’s integrity commissioner to investigate whether any ethics rules were violated during the process, including whether anyone in the Ford government gave the developers advance warning. that Greenbelt land can be opened up for development. Premier Doug Ford and Housing Minister Steve Clark have denied tipping developers. (Sabah Rahman/CBC)

Opposition parties and environmental groups have vowed to continue fighting to protect the Greenbelt.

“They’re hoping that if they get rid of the Band-Aid, that this huge outpouring of public opposition will pass, but the government is wrong about that,” Pothen said.

“This fire will continue to burn.”

Premier Doug Ford and Housing Minister Steve Clark said opening up about 2,995 hectares of land in 15 Greenbelt areas would lead to the construction of 50,000 new homes. (Provided by the Office of the Premier of Ontario)


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