Open house on Greenbelt expansion gets mixed reaction

February 16, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Brian Lockhart

In a series of public information sessions the Government of Ontario is reaching out to people in in the ‘outer ring’ area of the Provincial Greenbelt area to garner input on a proposed increase in the size of the current Greenbelt area.

The plan got a mixed reaction at the public session held at Tony Rose arena in Orangeville last Thursday, February 8.

The current Greenbelt was created in 2005 and covers an area from the Niagara Peninsula wrapping north of Toronto to Lake Simcoe and east to north of the Cobourg area.

Orangeville is located within the protected Greenbelt area on the northwest end of the current zone.

The Greenbelt was created to protect farmland and environmentally sensitive areas including forests, wetlands and watersheds.

“This is a provincial initiative. The government is consulting a study area for potential Greenbelt expansion,” explained Anna MacDonald, a manager with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. “The government is interested in getting feedback from members of the public about the potential expansion. The study area has been comprised from looking at concentrations of water features, specifically moraines, wetlands, and cold water streams and their catchment areas.”

The study is based on data regarding watersheds, agricultural areas and population data. The original Greenbelt plan was designed to protect certain areas including farm land from urban growth and to protect water resources.

The current area being looked at for potential Greenbelt expansion includes seven geographic regions, including the area known as the Orangeville Moraine.

While many people view the plan as environmentally sound, others think the restriction on development will hinder future improvements through lack of municipal funding by taxation or a reduction in current land values.

“It’s going to stop development in the rural areas. It says right on their chart that they expect development to go to settlements that already exist,” said Mulmur farmer Morley Brown. “Municipalities like Mulmur Township – where are we going to get a tax base? We’ve been told there will be no more development around Mansfield. According to this plan it will stop development.”

Orangeville resident Barry Brand echoed the sentiment that a tax base will be limited and current land holdings will be reduced in value.

“Generally, if you own land that is agricultural, environmentally protected or you have a managed forest you pay less in taxes to the municipality, so the tax base goes down. How will they be compensated?” Mr. Brand said.

“Look at the Peel area,” he added. “When the province first turned that area into the Greenbelt, some farmers saw their property values go from $15 million through potential development to strictly being a farm. Think how that affected someone who’s worked that land for their entire life.

“I understand why they’re doing it – they’re protecting it for environmental reasons, but the people that got trapped in that are being forced to subsidize a provincial parkland. What’s got people in this area upset is as that as is expanded into the northern municipalities are those people going to be held hostage (though rising taxes) because the township still needs the money?”

Several more information sessions are planned by the provincial government over the next few weeks at municipalities around the region including Alliston, Bradford, and Kitchener.

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