Task Force sets schedule for Ontario Greenbelt consultationsStarting May 20, the Greenbelt Task Force will begin public and stakeholder consultations on the creation of a permanent greenbelt in the Golden Horseshoe area of southern Ontario. The consultations will allow for discussion of a number of topics and issues, including the environment, transportation, agriculture, natural resources, and tourism and recreation, which must be considered when developing a plan, policy or legislation for permanent greenbelt protection. The task force will meet with groups representing various interests in these areas.
Greenbelt Task Force chair Rob MacIsaac, who is also mayor of the city of Burlington, outlined the task force's vision for permanent greenbelt protection in the Golden Horseshoe. "The greenbelt will be a permanent and sustainable legacy for current and future generations. We look forward to hearing what areas should be protected and what is needed to achieve permanent protection."
"Urban sprawl could mean the loss of another 1,000 square kilometres of land of over the next 30 years - that's an area nearly twice the size of the City of Toronto. Protecting environmentally sensitive land and farmland within the Golden Horseshoe will enhance the quality of life in its communities," Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky noted.
The views and ideas collected in the consultations will help the task force craft its advice to the government on how to establish most effectively a permanently protected greenbelt stretching from Niagara Falls to Rice Lake. Its recommendations will help the government draft a clear approach to protecting greenspace in the Golden Horseshoe. A further opportunity for the public to comment on the details of this approach will be provided in the fall.
The relevant issues are discussed, along with proposed approaches to be considered, in a discussion paper drafted by the Task Force as a starting point for the discussions. The document was posted last week on the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) registry (www.ene.gov.on.ca) and on a dedicated section of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing's Web site (www.greenbelt.ontario.ca). Some of the discussion paper highlights are summarized below.
The consultations follow the appointment of the Greenbelt Task Force in February and the introduction of the Greenbelt Protection Act, 2004 in December 2003. The proposed legislation would, if passed, create a greenbelt study area within the Golden Horseshoe, incorporating Toronto, Hamilton, Durham, York, Peel, Halton, the Oak Ridges Moraine Plan area, the Niagara tender fruit and grape lands, and the Niagara Escarpment Plan area. The act would also impose a one-year moratorium on new urban development on rural and agricultural lands within this area, and clarify the transition provisions on development applications relating to the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, 2001.
The consultation meetings will be held from 7:00 10:00 p.m. as follows: May 20 in King City; May 25 in Oshawa; May 26 in Hamilton; May 31 in Caledon East; June 10 in St Catharines; and June 16 in Burlington. More information on the proposed greenbelt, public meetings, as well as a form that can be used to send comments, is available online at www.greenbelt.ontario.ca or by calling (toll-free) 1-866-751-8082.
In related activities, Ontario's Standing Committee on General Government is currently examining Bill 27, An Act to Establish a Greenbelt Study area and to Amend the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, 2001.
The Committee scheduled public hearings on May 14 in the Niagara Region and May 17 in Toronto; a third meeting will be held May 21 in Newmarket and, if necessary, May 31, 2004 in Toronto. Those interested in making oral presentations on Bill 27 at the Newmarket or Toronto sessions should contact the Committee Clerk, Tonia Grannum, at 416/325-3519 by 5:00 p.m. on May 19, 2004.
Written comments are due by 5:00 p.m. on May 31, 2004 and should be directed to the Committee Clerk, Room 1405, Whitney Block, Queen's Park, Toronto M7A 1A2, FAX 416/325-3505.
Copies of the bill may be purchased through Publications Ontario at 1-800-668-9938, or at (416) 326-5300 in Toronto. An electronic version of Bill 27 is also available on the Legislative Assembly Web site, www.ontla.on.ca.