Suddenly the Escarpment could be at risk - not likely you suggest?

News 100 redBy Staff

December 7th, 2018



Earlier in the week, the Gazette learned the provincial government introduced what they call an economic development tool, an open for business planning bylaw (regulation) which would exempt major economic development projects, major employment uses from planning and environmental laws.

MMAH/Planning Act changes in Bill 66, Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act allows municipalities, with ministerial approval, to pass “Open For Business” bylaws that allow municipalities to bypass various planning statutes, including the Greenbelt Act, which Ford had promised to leave intact.

Those who follow this kind of stuff believe it is the beginning of opening up the Escarpment to development.

The city is more than just the Escarpment to the north and the lake to the south. It is the people in between that determine who we really are. And it takes more than a magazine saying we are the #2 city in the country doesn't make it so.

There are certainly farms in the Escarpment but a lot of the land is held by developers and rented to people who farm the property.

The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance in a media release they said: “The “Open for Business” zoning bylaw would be enacted by a municipality. Provisions in the legislation exempt municipalities to conform to aspects of the Planning Act, Great Lakes Protection Act, Clean Water Act, Greenbelt Act, Oak Ridges Moraine Act, Lake Simcoe Protection Act, the Places to Grow Act among others. Perhaps most disturbing is the provision that allows a project to proceed without a public meeting. Once the municipality has the Minister’s approval they can move ahead.

Escarpment - outcropping of rock

Without the Escarpment Burlington would be just another suburb

“Breaking the promise not to open up the Greenbelt shows a disrespect to voters. It also puts the health of farmers and rural landowners at risk. Just this week the Neptis Foundation released a report calling for a regional vision for the GGH. The health of our region depends on valuing our farms, forests, clean water sources and nature.

The Gazette asked Mayor Meed Ward for some comment. The city issued the following this afternoon.
“The Provincial Government tabled legislation referred to as, Bill 66, Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, 2018, which, if passed would allow municipalities to, with the Minister’s consent, pass “Open for Business’” zoning by-laws.

“These bylaws would not be bound by existing legislation, such as the Clean Water Act, 2006 or the Greenbelt Act, 2005.

Halton escarpment - long view up slope

What kind of farming is being done and who owns the land are major questions to be asked.

“This change suggests that the Province is opening the Greenbelt for development, among other changes.

Mayor Meed Ward added: “We stand firm in our commitment to protecting our greenbelt from development and protecting our farm families and rural agricultural economy. We will also ensure our residents benefit from the protections in all the other pieces of legislation referred to in Bill 66.

“We will not be comprising their safety or quality of life for speed. I do not see Burlington using this legislation, if it is passed. At the same time, we’ll do everything we can to ensure Burlington is open for business.”

Mary Lou Tanner, Deputy City Manager said: “Burlington has a long history of a firm urban boundary, supporting both the Niagara Escarpment Plan and the Greenbelt Plan. We strongly support protecting our rural area from development. Farming is part of our community identity and a key driver in the economy. At the same time, our administration is committed to reducing red tape.”

It is a real stretch to say that “farming is … a key driver in the economy” but the sentiment is there.

Open for business sign at border

Will Burlington see one of these on the north side of Hwy 407 leading into the Escarpment?

The Ford government has been consistent in its desire to open up everything they can see to some kind of business development.

With just over six months in office it looks like there is going to be a consistent battle to keep the Escarpment we have.

We will ask our MPP Jane McKenna for comment.

TV Ontario published an excellent piece on just what we could be up against.  Well worth reading.  CLICK here

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7 comments to Suddenly the Escarpment could be at risk – not likely you suggest?

  • Penny

    My question – If the City refuses to allow development in greenbelt areas, does this new law, if passed, give the Developers the right for them to appeal to LPAT or any other government agency?

    • Roland Tanner

      There is no right of appeal of an “open for business” zoning by-law – it circumvents all other legislation. So neither residents nor developers could appeal against a decision. The city would not even have to notify residents and neighbours that a development was happening.

      It also bypasses the Official Plan and eliminates Chapter 37 benefits (Community Benefits).

      It’s ‘cowboy legislation’.

  • D.Duck

    sounds like an a bypass for Hwy 403 to Hwy 407

  • Roland Tanner

    My guess would be that the immediate threat wouldn’t be to the escarpment area, but the area north of the 403 to Waterdown in Aldershot which has various small parcels of greenbelt land interspersed with already developed land or former quarry land. It would probably be viewed by many as ideal for the industrial/commercial uses envisaged by Bill 66 as there are already industrial uses nearby. The city has been quick to say they’re not interested in any of the Bill 66 measures, which is excellent news, but there’s no guarantee that will be the case in the future.

  • Gary Scobie

    The release of Bill 66, just before adjournment of the Legislature for a long break, is the usual tactic of a government by surprise. Promise one thing in the campaign, deliver something completely different.

    The previous Liberal government did many things wrong and the voters of Ontario wanted a change, but I find it hard to believe that this is the type of change they voted for. A government that is business-friendly only, at the expense of environment protection. A government that will not tax or fine polluters and seems to deny climate change. They say they have an environmental plan, but where is it and when will it be revealed?

    At least the Liberals, for all their faults, could not be accused of being anti-environment. Now we are seeing what an anti-environment government looks like in Ontario.

    The only good thing here is that we just elected a new municipal Council, whose members largely ran on consultation with the public, respect for citizen views and protection and enhancement of green space. This bill requires a Council to request to re-zone green space for business. I don’t see that happening if the legislation gets passed, but will be watching. We have plenty of unused and under-used business-zoned land within our urban area, so there is no desire or need to penetrate and poach the protected green space in Burlington.

  • Joan Olech

    Mayor Meed Ward speaks about “our greenbelt” and “our farming community” as if she has some right, title or interest in those impacted properties. In fact, unless she owns one of these properties or has an agreement with the owner, she should not be speaking on behalf of those truly impacted. Ms. Meed Ward treats the greenbelt and the farming community as if it is there for the purpose of her urban base….perhaps she should survey the owners of the impacted properties for their opinions before she decides to speak on their behalf!

  • Lynn Crosby

    “Mary Lou Tanner, Deputy City Manager said: “Burlington has a long history of a firm urban boundary …”.

    The firm urban boundary for years and years used to be Highway 5 (Dundas St.), until they scrapped that and made it the 407. Not so firm after all.