Take action to close the Growth Plan loophole that threatens 30,000 hectares of farmland
Bond Head before
From Environmental Defence March 21 2017
The tiny village of Bond Head, just outside the Greenbelt, is not the kind of place you would expect massive urban growth to happen. With a population of 500, surrounded by farm fields, and largely still on septic and private wells, Bond Head is the kind of rural community that the Greenbelt and Growth Plan were supposed to preserve, while directing major growth to nearby towns such as Bradford West Gwillimbury.
But thanks to a loophole in the Growth Plan – recently discovered by Neptis Foundation – the village of Bond Head is planning to grow from 500 to 4,400 people. Many other rural communities are also seeing developments that will bring thousands of new residents. This rapid growth will change the character of these small communities, converting what was once productive farmland to sprawl subdivisions, instead of creating complete communities.
What’s more, this new growth requires large investments in new water and sewage pipes, much of which is financed by local taxpayers and municipalities already struggling with debt from previous inefficient infrastructure investments.
Why is this important?
For several reasons. First, this kind of inefficient development was supposed to be a thing of the past under the province’s Growth Plan, which is meant to direct new major growth to towns and cities that already have services and infrastructure in place.
Second, building and maintaining the pipes to service these new communities costs hundreds of millions of dollars, which creates pressure to continue sprawling to justify these major costs.
Third, these new developments are being counted as intensification. By the province’s own definition, intensification is growth that happens in already built up areas – exactly the opposite of what is happening here. Yet two thirds of Simcoe County’s intensification is these kinds of rural developments.
This flies in the face of what the Growth Plan is trying to achieve and renders many of its policies meaningless. Unfortunately, a proposed amendment to the Growth Plan appears to make this loophole permanent, enshrining it in law.
The bad news is the government’s proposed changes to the Growth Plan would make this loophole permanent, opening the door to years more inefficient and costly development on prime farmland.
The good news is that it is not too late to close the loophole and save most of the 30,000 hectares that has yet to be built on.
But time is short. Premier Wynne and her Cabinet will approve the final plans very soon, so we need a big final push to make sure they address this and other issues.
As the government wraps up the Review of the Greenbelt and Growth Plans, they should be congratulated on the many positive changes – from adding 21 urban river valleys to the Greenbelt, to boosting the Growth Plan density and intensification targets, to stronger protections for farmland and less red tape for farmers.
While we support most of the changes, a couple of loopholes still exist that could derail the plans’ goals of encouraging smarter, complete communities and protecting valuable farmland and natural areas.
The Growth Plan has a loophole that allows inefficient development on farmland to be counted as ‘intensification’, and the government is proposing to make this a permanent policy, potentially encouraging costly sprawl for decades to come.
The Greenbelt Plan includes new policies that would allow towns and villages to sprawl into the Greenbelt, and removes a ban on lake-based pipes and sewer systems that currently restricts the expansion of Greenbelt settlements.
Not only are they harmful, these proposed changes are unnecessary. The Greater Golden Horseshoe region has plenty of land to grow – an area 1.5 times the size of Toronto! And as urban areas continue to density and grow up instead of out, this supply will last even longer.
So please take a minute to send a message to the government, letting them know that we don’t need more land to grow – and that we need to protect our remaining farmland and natural areas.
Link to email you can send the Liberal government.
Or, use the information links on this website and write from your own experience