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September 21, 2004

Legislation passed this year

Plan for greenbelt took shape in 2003

BY GRANT CAMERON

STAFF WRITER

The first step towards establishing a greenbelt in Ontario was taken in December 2003 when the government introduced Bill 27, known as the Greenbelt Protection Act.

On June 24, 2004, legislation was passed that proclaimed a Greenbelt Study Area.

Inside the study area, a moratorium was imposed on changes from rural to urban uses in order to allow time for research and consultation with stakeholders and the public on permanent greenbelt protection, while protecting rural areas from further urbanization.

The Greenbelt Study Area is located within the Greater Golden Horseshoe area and includes lands under the jurisdiction of the Greater Toronto Area regions of Durham, York, Halton and Peel; the cities of Toronto and Hamilton; the tender fruit and grape lands as designated in the Region of Niagara’s official plan; the Niagara Escarpment Plan and the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan.

The Golden Horseshoe’s major urban areas, as well as its hamlets, villages and towns, are all a part of the study area.

In countryside areas, it includes farmlands and rural areas, cultural and natural heritage features, provincial and regional parks, and rivers and river valleys.

It also includes highways and railways, transmission lines and fibreoptic cables, as well as the many other activities and landscapes.

Ultimately, the provincial government will decide what should constitute the greenbelt, within the Greenbelt Study Area, based on the Greenbelt Task Force recommendations.

Task force recommendations

Here are some of the recommendations from the Greenbelt Task Force:

• Lands that are already permanently protected by easements and those owned by charitable trusts are appropriate for inclusion in the greenbelt. Similarly, lands that the province has previously expressed an intention to protect, such as additions to the Niagara Escarpment Plan, should form part of the greenbelt.

• The greenbelt should not be viewed as a land reserve for future infrastructure needs and infrastructure should not be located within the greenbelt unless certain criteria have been met.

• Where new infrastructure is determined to be necessary: social, economic and environmental impacts must be minimized; natural and cultural heritage features must be respected; open spaces must be preserved; creative approaches to design must be sought; and the purpose and integrity of the greenbelt must not be undermined.

• Development of infrastructure, including transportation facilities, should not promote or facilitate land uses that undermine the purpose and integrity of the greenbelt.

• Areas that have been identified as high-potential mineral aggregate sites should be included in the greenbelt.

• Building and development land uses that prevent or restrict the possibility of future mineral aggregate extraction in high potential areas should be precluded.

• Mineral aggregate extraction in the greenbelt should be subject to more rigorous requirements for rehabilitation, and more recycling of aggregate material should be strongly encouraged. Monitoring should take place to ensure rehabilitation proceeds as required.

• The province should develop legislation and a plan that creates a permanent greenbelt linking existing policies governing the Niagara Escarpment Plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, and other lands necessary to fulfill the goals and objectives of the greenbelt.

• The greenbelt plan should provide for an appellate tribunal with greenbelt-specific expertise to uphold the integrity of the plan.

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