• Protecting Water and Farmland in Simcoe County

Source Water Protection Plan & County Official Plan leave gaps in protection of water

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In Adjala-Tosorontio
Mar 26th, 2018
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Nottawasaga River

Nottawasaga River 

AWARE News Network

A flurry of outrage has been the response of Simcoe County politicians and planners to the province’s proposed expansion of the Greenbelt. The report from Clearview (see below) is an example. The CBC Radio interview with Gord Wauchope (scroll down for link) is another.

Some points to bear in mind when considering the arguments:

  • Clearview Township has a SURPLUS of housing units slightly below 13,000, most of these are already on lands approved for urban use (settlement area) within Stayner
  • With regard to the level of protection provided by Simcoe County’s Greenlands designation in the  Simcoe Couty Official Plan, the OP states that that the designation “does not necessarily imply that all lands within it are completely restricted from development and site alteration…” (Section 3.8.24 of the SCOP).  Greenbelt legislation, on the other hand, does prohibit any development or site alteration within the Natural Heritage System of the Greenbelt – this is protection that actually means protection!
  • Many, including Warden Gerry Marshall, say that there is already enough to protect water, generally referencing the Source Water Protection Plans as sufficient. Within the South Georgian Bay Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, it clearly states that the Clean Water Act, which oversees Source Water Protection and gives the plan’s mandate, was not intended to protect all water (p. 11), but specifically municipal water (in the wake of the Walkerton tragedy). It’s not designed to protect private wells from over-extraction and contamination.
  • Recharge areas and highly vulnerable aquifers, although outlined by the Source Water Protection committees, are still vulnerable to site alteration and development. Aggregate and urbanization, for instance, are not listed as a threat to water!!
  • As for politicians and planners who agonize about not being able to expand the boundaries of settlement areas, expansion into rural areas has to come to a stop if urban sprawl is to be halted. The tension between the province and municipalities arises because the province is restricting expansion, noting that there is more than enough land in serviced areas to support growth, but local officials want to retain power to accommodate developers who wish to build on cheaper land.

Clearview Township’s planner had this to say about proposed Greenbelt Plan

by Ian Adams Wasaga Sun March 6 2018

Proposed changes to the province’s greenbelt around the Greater Toronto Area could put a chokehold on development in Clearview Township.

In a report to council, director of community services Mara Burton stated the changes could “have a wide range of consequences” in the township by adding an additional layer of regulations on the municipality.

The plan could also “handcuff” development in settlement areas such as New Lowell and Creemore, as the study area for the Greenbelt Plan would establish a one-kilometre buffer zone through the eastern part of the municipality, in an area through which the Nottawasaga River flows, and which could include important water features such as moraines, cold water streams, and wetlands.

Where these features overlap, and where the province believes there will be growth pressure, is what determined the study area, Burton told Clearview Township councillors at their March 5 meeting.

The proposed changes are intended to protect water for future generations, though Burton noted there are currently 25 provincial acts, plus a host of other regulations that achieve the same end.

Burton said the plan as proposed would have a negative impact on a municipality’s ability to encourage affordable housing because it would restrict supply.

“As a planner, it will be very challenging to sit down with a property owner and weave our way through the red tape the province has put down and be able to answer a simple question about expanding an agricultural operation, or build an accessory building,” she told council.

In her report, Burton raised the concern the province had used a broad brush in mapping for agricultural and natural heritage systems in the township, which could have an impact on residential projects that already have draft plan approval.

Burton cautioned that increased regulation could also lead to increased risk of ‘illegal use’ — such as construction of a detached accessory building, which would be prohibited under the plan — and an increased burden on municipal law enforcement.

It could also have a negative effect on the municipality’s ability to encourage affordable housing because new regulations could bring additional costs for developers.

“In order to be competitive and to ensure affordable housing and land costs, the province should streamline and simplify the legislation rather than continue on the path of burdensome and what are frankly becoming confusing and slightly competing policies on the backs of land, business owners and municipalities,” she wrote. “The unintended consequences of this path of increased regulation may result in the opposite effect.”

Burton said the province, in its quest to encourage intensification over sprawl, could be thought of as going too far and “calling the good (legislation) into question.”

Municipalities have until March 7 to provide feedback. Burton was not confident provincial planners would pay heed to the concerns of municipalities because they were previously asked for revisions to the mapping for the greenbelt “and (the province) ignored it.

“There is no way in this planning framework (from the province) that a municipality could respond in a timely manner,” she told council. “It’s a complete failure.”

See also

CBC Radio: Margaret Prophet of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition and Innisfil Mayor Gord Wauchope talk about the proposal to extend the Greenbelt

South Simcoe municipality concerns 

Expand the Greenbelt – reader

Of course the Greenbelt limits settlement area expansion!

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