Ontario pulls Greenbelt land despite protests | Daily News Byte

Ontario pulls Greenbelt land despite protests

 | Daily News Byte


Despite growing protests, the Tory government pulled around 1,900 hectares of rural Hamilton land from the protected Greenbelt.

But that doesn’t mean the battle to save local farms and wetlands is over, said Stop Sprawl HamOnt organizer Nancy Hurst. “We keep pushing and pushing. Something’s got to give — and it’s not the Greenbelt.”

The province sparked outrage in November over a proposal to remove development protection from 7,400 hectares of the Golden Horseshoe-hugging Greenbelt to allow for rapid home construction.

In Hamilton, the proposal allows development on 1,800 acres of former protected farmland in Ancaster, 160 acres near Mount Hope and a small parcel near Winona.

The public was given a month to comment on the proposal, which has sparked major protests in Hamilton and elsewhere, condemnation from First Nations, environmental and labor groups, and calls for an investigation into Greenbelt land deals.

Despite the blowback, the province filed amended Greenbelt regulations on Dec. 14. All proposed land removals, including the one in Hamilton, are proceeding, confirmed Victoria Podbielski, press secretary for the Housing Minister. Steve Clark.

In a statement on behalf of the minister, Podbielski said Greenbelt developments would help build 50,000 new homes, with at least 10 percent expected to be “reachable (and) affordable.” The would-be developers must begin construction in 2025. “If we are not satisfied with the plans presented, the province is prepared to return the properties back to the Greenbelt,” he said.

But the move prompted particular outrage because the Progressive Conservative government had repeatedly vowed to leave the Greenbelt untouched before the last election.

Some critics have also called for an investigation into whether developers were wrongly given early greenbelt plans — an allegation the government denies.

A story in the Toronto Star/Narwhal showed that some homebuilders bought large tracts of land in the Greenbelt before the controversial carveout announcement. In Hamilton, some developers already own Greenbelt land, but in most cases, those purchases happened years ago.

Homebuilder Dave Eccles previously told The Spectator he bought 50 acres on Book Road in 2005 — before it was added to the Greenbelt. He argued that removing the land from the protected zone was “correcting a mistake.”

Similarly, Hamilton Tory MPP Donna Skelly previously told The Spec that local Greenbelt withdrawals represented an opportunity to fix past inclusions “that don’t make sense.”

Regardless, opponents are “mobilizing” to fight the plan, said Phil Pothen, an environmental planning attorney with Environmental Defense.

“We will be … supporting the public using every legal avenue to keep bulldozers at bay,” he said in an interview, adding that the affected cities should make it clear to developers that “not a cent” will be spent to help planned Greenbelt developments.

The city was still awaiting formal notification of the changes as of late Friday.

But planning staff sent a letter to the province opposing the 1,900-acre Greenbelt carveout — which comes on the heels of an equally contentious urban boundary expansion forced on Hamilton in November.

In total, the changes suddenly added 7,300 hectares of newly developable greenfield land to the city. It is not yet clear whether the province will use a minister’s zoning order (MZO) to quickly add former Greenbelt areas within Hamilton’s city limits, a requirement for development.

The Mississaugas of Credit First Nation have also come out publicly against the Greenbelt plan and other recent provincial planning changes. In a statement, the First Nations group argued that the changes would have “adverse effects” on treaty rights, land claims and environmental protection broadly.


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