Of course the Greenbelt limits settlement area expansion!
Developers Driving the Simcoe County Bus
The comment period for the Province’s Growing the Greenbelt study areas proposal closed March 7. Simcoe County and most of the local municipalities are almost frothing at the mouth in opposition. They claim all the various existing pieces of legislation and official plans adequately protect water and farmland.
For example, they claim that Source Water Protection (SWP) legislation protects water sources in Simcoe County. In fact SWP only covers municipal wells and does virtually nothing to protect the recharge areas that are essential to ensure that aquifers remain replenished in order to supply water to these wells.
The one third of Simcoe County residents who rely on private wells are not protected by SWP at all. The politicians and planners express concern that the Greenbelt will make it difficult to expand their settlement area boundaries.
Of course it will.
THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT!
The Provincial Growth Plan directs population growth to existing settlement areas with services. Outside the existing Greenbelt, Ontario loses 175 acres of farmland every day. Inside the existing Greenbelt we lose zero acres. Politicians and planners say they support the protection of agricultural and natural heritage lands, but don’t want the protection entrenched in provincial legislation.
Why not? It’s the developers and land speculators with land outside settlement areas that object to the Greenbelt expansion. They can challenge municipal Official Plans (OP) at the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) and almost always win. And it costs the municipalities tens of thousands of dollars each time to defend their OP whether they win or lose.
So very often the municipality will cave in to the developers’ demands just to avoid the OMB expense. It’s called planning by land ownership. And the absurdity of this is that virtually all growth in any municipality results in higher municipal taxes for the existing residents.
Development charges never cover all the costs of growth. So why are local politicians so addicted to this ridiculous growth cycle? They must have been seduced by the concept that growth = prosperity. Developers with deep pockets schmoozing them, photo ops and media attention making them feel important is an intoxicating experience.
We need local politicians who have both feet on the ground, who understand what a sustainable community really is and have some ideas on how to get there. We actually do have a few of those already in office, but they’re in the minority.