Conservation Authority asks Ford government to permit DG Group to build subdivision in Greenbelt
Earlier map shows location of Metrus Development project. The company has now rebranded as DG Group. -North Gwillimbury Forest Alliance facebook
In exchange, DG would give up its proposed Maple Lake Estates (MLE) project in a Provincially Significant Wetland
From Jack Gibbons North Gwillimbury Forest Alliance
It appears that the Ford Government is seriously considering opening up the Greenbelt for a large residential subdivision in the Town of Georgina.
In late November, Mike Walters, CAO of the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA), met with the senior policy advisor to Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark.
The topic was “the proposed transfer of planning approval” long sought by the DG Group and long endorsed by LSRCA. This proposal would allow a 1,073-unit subdivision on DG-owned prime farmland between Deer Park Drive and Boyers Road in the Greenbelt Protected Countryside in exchange for DG giving up its proposed Maple Lake Estates (MLE) project in the Paradise Beach-Island Grove Provincially Significant Wetland.
This exchange was bad planning when it was first proposed in 2013, and it is still bad planning. The Protected Countryside is there to protect both valuable wetlands, forests and prime farmlands. The previous government firmly slammed the door on the exchange when it issued the updated 2017 Greenbelt Plan, which maintained the Deer Park-Boyers lands as Protected Countryside.
That the new government is now open to reviving this proposal, and reopening the Greenbelt Plan, is troubling on a number of fronts.
First, the North Gwillimbury Forest Alliance has appealed the provisions in the Town of Georgina’s Official Plan that permit the MLE development in provincially significant wetlands to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (the successor to the Ontario Municipal Board). We are still waiting for the Tribunal’s decision. We believe we have an excellent case and that there is a strong likelihood that Georgina’s plan will be amended to prohibit development on these environmentally sensitive lands.
Second, Premier Ford specifically promised during the provincial election campaign to leave the Greenbelt intact “in its entirety,” adding “the people have spoken − we won’t touch the Greenbelt.” Proceeding with the DG Group’s attempt to build sprawl development in the Greenbelt Protected Countryside would be a clear breach of the Premier’s promise.
Third, the Town of Georgina recently served DG Group with a stop-work order when it was discovered that DG was cutting trees on the MLE property even though it had not met the town’s requirements for commencing any such development activity. This kind of rule-breaking behaviour should not be rewarded with the right to build a subdivision on prime farmlands in the Greenbelt.
Fourth, in its attempt to provide the government with a potential sales pitch for this proposal, the LSRCA CAO relies heavily on the idea that this would “grow the Greenbelt.” This proposal would not grow the Greenbelt; it would only shift land-use designations within the existing Greenbelt. LSRCA has misread and misunderstood the “growing the Greenbelt” concept in the Greenbelt Plan.
Rather than caving to the demands of a large developer, the province and the town should tell the DG Group to build more homes in the South Keswick area, which is already properly zoned for development and well served by Highway 404. This option has the benefit of reducing sprawl, avoiding leapfrog development, and locating development in a designated urban area rather than on prime farmlands in the Greenbelt.
Please email Premier Ford (firstname.lastname@example.org) and ask him to keep his promise to protect the Greenbelt instead of promoting the interests of a large developer.
Promise made, promise needs to be kept.