December 1, 2003

Agreement will allow Oak Ridges Moraine construction while expanding public park

An agreement between the Ontario government and developers building residential housing on Oak Ridges Moraine lands in Richmond Hill, just north of Toronto, will reduce the number of houses to be built and set aside land for a public park three times the size of Toronto's High Park. The agreement was reached during a brief moratorium on construction, imposed by the government early last month (ELW November 10).

The new park, tentatively named Oak Ridges Moraine Heritage Park, "will permanently protect this portion of the moraine and the ecological functions it performs," said Municipal Affairs Minister John Gerretsen, adding that the expanded public park would widen the wildlife corridor, protect more of the most environmentally sensitive lands, including a section of land around Phillips Lake.

Development on the Richmond Hill lands will be reduced by 900 housing units and any development that does occur will be subject to strict environmental guidelines.

In addition, Gerretsen said the government will introduce reforms to the provincial Planning Act designed to provide greater environmental protection and make the planning process more transparent and accountable to the public. Included will be legislation to establish guiding principles for the creation of a 600,000-acre greenbelt which would protect important agricultural and natural hearitage areas in Ontario's Golden Horseshoe area from urban expansion.

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