Backgrounder - The Greenbelt Area

Archived Release

Backgrounder - The Greenbelt Area

Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing

TORONTO, Feb. 28 - THE GREENBELT AREA Building the Greenbelt The greenbelt is 1.8 million acres of land stretching from the Niagara Peninsula in the southwest to Rice Lake in the east. It includes some of the most threatened environmentally sensitive and agricultural lands - protecting them from major urban development, while meeting the needs of growing communities in the Golden Horseshoe. The greenbelt includes the 800,000 acres of land protected by the Niagara Escarpment Plan and the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan. It also includes 1 million newly protected acres known as the protected countryside. The greenbelt is vital to maintaining quality of life for people living and working in the Golden Horseshoe, where the population is expected to increase by about four million, for a total population of about 11 million, by 2031. Defining the Greenbelt's Boundaries To define the Greenbelt's boundaries, a 'systems approach', a well- established method of land-use planning and analysis, was used. Municipalities, the development sector and the ministries of Natural Resources and Agriculture and Food use similar methods when drafting official plans, proposals and other land-use planning related documents. The Greenbelt's Systems Generally, the Greenbelt's systems follow existing rural, agricultural and open space designations found in local, regional and county official plans. They build on the systems defined in the Niagara Escarpment Plan and the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan. - The Natural Heritage System - Natural-heritage and water-resource systems necessary to maintain biological and geological diversity, natural functions, and indigenous species and ecosystems. About 535,000 acres, or over 50 per cent, of the Protected Countryside are included in the Natural Heritage System. - The Agricultural System - Prime agricultural land, specialty-crop land and other rural areas in the Golden Horseshoe have been threatened by urbanization. The agricultural lands of the Protected Countryside were identified through the Land Evaluation and Area Review system (LEAR), an approach used by many planning authorities throughout the country. - Settlement Areas - The Protected Countryside includes a number of vibrant communities. Settlement Areas include land designated as towns, villages and hamlets in official plans and documents from municipalities and the Ministry of Public Infrastructure Renewal. Balancing Natural, Social and Economic Needs The Greenbelt Plan balances the protection of greenspace and support for vibrant rural communities in the greenbelt. The plan contains provisions for a wide range of uses, including the permission for existing uses to continue and expand, as the plan allows. The greenbelt will protect environmentally sensitive and important areas and agricultural land while supporting agriculture, providing opportunities for recreation and natural resource extraction, and allowing infrastructure necessary to support vibrant rural communities in the greenbelt, where it meets the criteria of required environmental assessments. The Greenbelt into the Future The Greenbelt Act, 2005 provides for a 10-year review of the greenbelt plan to assess its effectiveness and make changes, as necessary. Boundary revisions could be part of the 10-year review. The act also allows for boundary amendments to add areas to the greenbelt, but it does not allow the total greenbelt area to be reduced in size. Growth Beyond the Greenbelt The provincial government has undertaken a number of initiatives key to planning for the expected population growth in the Golden Horseshoe and beyond. Two initiatives in particular will help the province and municipalities plan more intelligently for population growth and economic expansion in south-central Ontario. Bill 136, the proposed Places to Grow Act, 2004, would plan for growth and development outside of the Greenbelt Area, focussing key resources to curb sprawl and encourage more efficient urban development. The newly revised Provincial Policy Statement also includes enhanced policies for managing growth and promoting efficient land-use and development patterns. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- FACT SHEET ------------------------------------------------------------------------- THE GREENBELT AREA - QUICK FACTS - The greenbelt includes about 1 million acres of newly protected land. The total area of land under protection in the Golden Horseshoe is now 1.8 million acres - an area larger than Prince Edward Island - including protected land of the Niagara Escarpment and the Oak Ridges Moraine. - The greenbelt extends 325 kilometres from the eastern end of the Oak Ridges Moraine near Rice Lake, to the Niagara River in the west. It is about 80 kilometres wide at its widest point from the mouth of the Rouge River to the northern tip of Durham Region. - The greenbelt's new natural heritage system is about 535,000 acres in land area, and provides full protection for about three-quarters of the lakes, wetlands and forests in the greenbelt. - The greenbelt brings under the plan the headwaters of all major watersheds in the western Greater Toronto Area that were not protected by the Niagara Escarpment or Oak Ridges Moraine plans. - The greenbelt permanently protects about 100,000 acres of Niagara Peninsula tender fruit and grape specialty crop areas and the entire Holland Marsh specialty crop area of over 15,000 acres, located in York Region and Simcoe County. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- BACKGROUNDER ------------------------------------------------------------------------- GROWTH AND THE GREENBELT The Need for Greenbelt Protection The greenbelt includes lands that are under the most significant development pressure in southern Ontario. The population in the Golden Horseshoe is expected to grow from about 7 million today to about 11 million by 2031. If current development trends continue, an area the size of Toronto, over 1,000 square kilometres, could be consumed within 30 years. The greenbelt will protect 1.8 million acres of environmentally sensitive and agricultural land in the Golden Horseshoe from major urban development. When developing the greenbelt, land was also set aside to accommodate the urban development a growing population may require in the future. Protection Outside the Greenbelt Between the Oak Ridges Moraine and existing urban settlements, as well as in other parts of the Golden Horseshoe, substantial areas have been set aside from the greenbelt. These areas will enable municipalities to accommodate growth over the long term, if necessary. Where lands are not included in the greenbelt and lands are not currently designated for urban development, they are still subject to all the requirements of the planning processes now in place. Efficient Growth Outside the Greenbelt The proposed Places to Grow Act, 2004, would, if passed, help to focus growth and direct key resources to curb sprawl and encourage more efficient urban development. The PPS also includes specific policies for managing growth and promoting efficient land-use and development patterns. The PPS encourages more efficient urban development such as infill and the re-development of brownfields. These types of developments represent the best use of municipal resources, infrastructure and public transit, and will ensure that land resources currently designated for urban uses are being used efficiently, decreasing the need for additional land re-designation. Land Supply and the Cost of Housing The supply of land available for urban development is only one of a number of factors that affect the price of housing. Low interest rates, for example, push housing prices up by lowering the costs of borrowing and increasing affordability of higher-priced houses. The map of the Greenbelt protects land from development, but also shows areas where there is room for growth to address the expected population increase to 2031 and beyond. Recent studies show that municipalities in the GTA have at least a three- year supply of approved residential units, and that most have a 10- to 15-year supply of currently undeveloped urban land available for detached homes, as well as a longer-term supply for more compact development such as apartments and townhouses. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- BACKGROUNDER ------------------------------------------------------------------------- AGRICULTURE IN THE GREENBELT Protecting Agriculture and Industry Agriculture is vital to Ontario. Not only a food source, agriculture and agriculture-related industry generates over $30 billion each year and employs 650,000 people. The greenbelt will protect prime agricultural and specialty- crop land in the Golden Horseshoe from urbanization, and ensure that these lands can continue to provide Ontarians with fresh produce, a secure food supply and residual health benefits now and into the future. Environmental Benefits of Agriculture Ontario has the majority of Canada's most productive (class 1) agricultural lands whose crops yield one-quarter of the country's agricultural products. These lands also benefit our environment, air quality and health. An average hectare of corn, for instance, absorbs 22 tons of carbon dioxide per year - a naturally efficient means of cleaning our air. Support for Agricultural Land Uses The greenbelt plan supports agriculture and agriculture-related uses in existence before the plan came into effect. In fact, farmers and landowners are allowed to expand existing uses, provided they do not have a negative impact on natural or water features. The plan, however, does not allow for non-agricultural uses on, or the urbanization of farmland in the greenbelt. Urban expansion is not permitted on to specialty-crop land. Agricultural Land Values The value of agricultural lands in the Golden Horseshoe that are not designated or zoned for urban development, or any other non-agricultural use, should not be affected by the greenbelt plan. The Agricultural Advisory Team recommended that the government not provide direct compensation for loss of perceived 'future opportunities'. A study prepared for the Region of Niagara, "Healthy Farms, Healthy Towns," states that Greenbelt protection will likely increase land values in the long term. The government will explore ways of providing the sector with the necessary support and investment to plan for a viable and prosperous future. Land Ownership As with the Niagara Escarpment and the Oak Ridges Moraine, lands in the greenbelt will be protected by planning and conservation methods rather than public ownership of the lands. Most greenbelts around the world are preserved in a similar manner. Land expropriation will not be required to protect lands in the greenbelt. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- BACKGROUNDER ------------------------------------------------------------------------- STRONG COMMUNITIES AND THE GREENBELT Infrastructure in the Greenbelt Towns, villages and hamlets have always existed in the greenbelt area. In order to support these vibrant rural communities, as well as communities that surround the greenbelt, new infrastructure and natural resource extraction may be permitted in the greenbelt area. Infrastructure development is a vital component to fostering vibrant rural communities in the Golden Horseshoe. Infrastructure - such as roads and utility corridors - is fundamental to the economic well-being and quality of life in southern Ontario. An extensive infrastructure network currently exists within the greenbelt to service settlements, agricultural and resource sectors, and local economies. New Projects and Additions The plan permits new projects and additions to infrastructure, provided they: - Serve Greenbelt objectives - Accommodate expected growth and economic development, as identified in the Growth Plan - Undergo an environmental assessment to meet important criteria, such as: - avoiding natural features where possible - respecting the connectivity of the natural system - maximizing existing infrastructure capacity and services. Infrastructure in Sensitive Areas The greenbelt plan permits infrastructure to cross natural heritage features and hydrologically sensitive areas, if no practical alternative exists. Additional requirements ensure planning, design and construction practices minimize any adverse impacts on these areas. Major infrastructure facilities - such as highway interchanges or transit stations - should be located in areas that respect the vision and goals of the greenbelt. Natural Resources in the Greenbelt Natural Resources play an important role in community economic development and the regional economy. Aggregates are key building blocks for the housing and infrastructure that will be needed to support growth and development in the future. In addition, aggregate resources that are available close-to-market minimize transport-related damage to roads and pollution from vehicle emissions. The greenbelt plan allows for limited aggregate extraction, provided new operations avoid certain features. Stronger protections are assigned to provincially significant wetlands and woodlands, and the habitats of endangered or threatened species, where extraction is limited. In addition, extraction sites, once depleted, must be rehabilitated to a state of equal or greater ecological value as soon as possible. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- FACT SHEET ------------------------------------------------------------------------- MCGUINTY GOVERNMENT LAYS GROUNDWORK FOR STRONG COMMUNITIES Long-Term Vision Reflects Ontarians' Priorities The Ontario government is setting the course for a future that will ensure strong, prosperous communities, a robust economy and a healthy environment for this province. Recognizing that Ontarians want a better quality of life - not only for themselves but for their children and grandchildren - the government is carrying out a long-term vision to encourage growth while protecting our valuable resources for generations to come. Looking Ahead Urban sprawl, traffic congestion, environmental decline, loss of greenspace and farmland to development: these are a few examples of the challenges facing many Ontario communities now. Left unchecked, issues like these would only multiply. With more than four million people expected to move to Ontario over the next 30 years, planning wisely for growth is a key government commitment. The Ontario government is planning for the kind of growth Ontarians have made it clear they want - growth that creates jobs, attracts investment, spends infrastructure dollars strategically and improves quality of life, without destroying valuable greenspace. This vision for growth signals a new era in community planning and co- operation with municipalities in order to: - manage growth; - support economic development; - re-invest in public infrastructure; and - protect our natural environment. Action Now Many strategies are already underway across government in support of the government's plan to build stronger communities now and in the future. Here are some examples of these initiatives. STRONG COMMUNITIES Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement - Immigration is critical to Ontario's social and economic growth. The province continues to be the leader in welcoming immigrants to Canada, receiving more than half of the country's immigrants each year. Yet, after a year of negotiations and a signed Letter of Intent with Ottawa, Ontario is the only province that does not have an immigration agreement with the federal government. The 2005 federal budget falls short of meeting the needs of immigrants in Ontario, and Ontario remains the province that receives the least per capita immigrant funding from Ottawa. Nonetheless, Ontario continues to expect Ottawa to provide the province's immigrants with their fair share of immigration and settlement funds. Ontario will continue negotiating in good faith to reach an immigration agreement that ensures newcomers to the province can settle and find jobs quickly, and that paves the way for municipal involvement in immigration issues. For more information, visit www.gov.on.ca/citizenship. Canada Ontario Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund (COMRIF) - The Government of Ontario along with the Government of Canada and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) are working in partnership to improve and renew public infrastructure across the province through the Canada-Ontario Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund (COMRIF). COMRIF is a key component of the Rural Plan.Canada and Ontario are each contributing up to $298 million to COMRIF. With municipal investments, this program is expected to stimulate up to $900 million in capital investments over the next five years. COMRIF focuses on local needs through infrastructure improvements to provide cleaner water, better sewage systems, improved waste management processes, safer local roads and bridges as well as other health and safety priorities. For more information, visit www.comrif.ca/ Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund - The 2003 federal budget announced a second round 10- year, $2 billion Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund (CSIF) commitment to support infrastructure needs in cities with populations greater than 250,000. In Ontario, CSIF is targeted at large-scale transit and water quality improvement projects. To date the federal and Ontario governments have partnered with municipalities to announce three strategic transit initiatives in the province. For more information, visit www.pir.gov.on.ca. Places to Grow: Better Choices. Brighter Future - The government's plan for growth in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region will realize the vision for how the region should grow over the next 30 years. The government introduced legislation in the fall that, if passed, would authorize the designation of any geographic area of the province as a growth plan area, and the development of a growth plan for that area. The growth plan would address issues such as future infrastructure needs, economic development, and the protection of valuable environmental and agricultural assets in areas across the province. The Places to Grow Act, Bill 136 will be introduced for second reading in the current session of the legislature. If the legislation is passed the first growth plan will deal with the Greater Golden Horseshoe. A draft Growth Plan for the GGH has been developed and publicly released. The draft plan is based on a discussion paper, Places to Grow: Better Choices. Brighter Future, which was circulated for public comment during the summer of 2004. Planning Reform - Planning reform will support strong communities, enhance managed growth, help ensure sustainable development and protect the environment. The government's new planning reform agenda will give people a genuine voice in planning decisions in their communities. These fundamental reforms will ensure that effective planning legislation and implementation tools are in place and that important provincial land-use policies are clearly spelled out so that vital provincial interests are protected for the benefit of all Ontarians. The Strong Communities (Planning Amendment) Act, 2004, which received Royal Assent on November 30, 2004, will boost local democracy and bring greater accountability and transparency to land-use planning by putting planning decisions back in the hands of municipalities. For more information, visit www.mah.gov.on.ca. Rural Plan - Strong rural communities are important to the health and vitality of Ontario. As part of its commitment to growing strong rural communities, the government is developing a rural plan that will articulate the vision for rural communities and provide a coordinated approach to shaping policy and delivering programs and services. Rural stakeholders have been providing input during the development of the plan. The rural plan focuses on four themes: how to build sustainable municipal fiscal capacity and infrastructure; how to grow strong economies; how to promote a healthy social climate; and how to ensure a clean and healthy environment. For more information, visit www.mah.gov.on.ca. Affordable Housing - The government is working with the federal government and municipalities to increase the number of affordable housing units in Ontario. In its first year, the government committed to funding more than 3300 units of affordable housing in communities across the province - almost eight times more than announced by the previous government over two years. The government has also made a commitment to match federal funding over time under the Affordable Housing Program. As of December 31, 2004, 3,446 units were announced or committed under the Canada-Ontario Affordable Housing Agreement. In February 2005, Ontario doubled the amount of provincial funding available for approved projects to an average of $4,000 per unit from $2,000 under the pilot phase of the Affordable Housing Program. The province will also provide private non-profit groups with up to $100,000 from existing approved funding to assist in planning, legal and architectural activities. Ontario has also introduced a Surplus Government Lands for Affordable Housing initiative, which will ensure that some provincially owned sites can be made available for projects proceeding under the Affordable Housing Program. For more information, visit www.pir.gov.on.ca or www.mah.gov.on.ca. A HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT Greenbelt - By creating permanent greenbelt protection in the Golden Horseshoe region, the government intends to contain sprawl, ensure wise management of growth and enhance our quality of life. More than 1 million additional acres in the Golden Horseshoe will be protected by the greenbelt, for a total of 1.8 million acres, more than doubling the areas protected on the Oak Ridges Moraine and the Niagara Escarpment. The Greenbelt Act, 2005, which received Royal Assent on February 24, 2005, gives the government the authority to establish a greenbelt plan containing broad objectives and detailing the types of land uses that will be permitted and not permitted. The act authorizes the government to designate the greenbelt area and requires the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to create a Greenbelt Council to advise the minister on the administration of the greenbelt plan. For more information, visit www.mah.gov.on.ca. Long-Term Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Investment and Financing Strategy - To ensure that our drinking water remains clean and safe, the government is investing in the infrastructure that treats and distributes water and collects and treats wastewater. To that end, the government has established an expert panel to provide advice on how to ensure that this investment takes place, that water and wastewater systems are financially sustainable and that water rates are affordable. In parallel, development of the regulations for the Sustainable Water and Sewage Systems Act will implement full cost recovery, as recommended by the Walkerton Inquiry. This will be a key component of the new water strategy. For more information, visit www.pir.gov.on.ca. Natural Heritage Systems and Greenspace Protection - The government is ensuring that the protection of greenspace, including a healthy system of natural areas and its contribution to biodiversity, is an integral part of Ontario's plan to build strong communities. We are active in identifying and mapping natural heritage features and systems in southern Ontario while encouraging their protection. Tax incentives and stewardship programs, for example, encourage private landowners to protect conservation lands and conserve and restore forest land and other natural areas. Working closely with partners such as municipalities, conservation authorities, environmental groups and the public, we help conserve key areas and work on the protection and restoration of habitat. We also protect species at risk, and manage Ontario's system of parks and protected areas. The government will continue to protect the Niagara Escarpment and the Oak Ridges Moraine as key greenspace areas. For more information, visit www.mnr.gov.on.ca. Source Protection - Implementing watershed-based source protection is a key recommendation of the Walkerton Inquiry. In June 2004, the government released draft legislation on the development and approval of watershed-based source protection plans on the Environmental Registry for a 60-day comment period. In December 2004 the government received advice from two expert committees on the technical aspects and implementation aspects of source protection planning. Their advice was posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights site for public review. Targeted stakeholder roundtables were also held across the province, allowing the government to receive further input on the implementation of source protection. This will help to ensure the development of the best possible legislation. For more information, visit www.ene.gov.on.ca. Waste Management - In June 2004, the government released Ontario's 60% Waste Diversion Goal: A Discussion Paper to seek input from stakeholders and the public on ways to help Ontario divert 60 per cent of waste from disposal by the end of 2008. The discussion paper explores options to divert from disposal 60 per cent of waste from the residential, industrial, commercial, institutional, construction and demolition sectors. For more information, visit www.ene.gov.on.ca. A STRONG ECONOMY Agri-Food - Ontario has some of the richest agricultural land in the country and the most diverse agriculture industry. Our agri-food industry enriches both the economy and the quality of life in this province. It is in everyone's best interest to protect these lands for agricultural uses, today and in the future, and to ensure the continued strength of the agri-food sector. To ensure that the concerns of the agricultural community are fully understood, the government created an Agricultural Advisory Team to consult with the agricultural community. The team will provide advice and recommendations to the government to ensure the protection of prime farm land and the continued strength of Ontario's agri-food industry as the government develops and implements its growth management strategy. For more information, visit www.gov.on.ca/OMAF. Greater Toronto Transportation Authority - In support of strong communities, the government is committed to creating a Greater Toronto Transportation Authority (GTTA) to bring a region-wide approach to identifying and meeting GTA transit and transportation needs. The GTTA's development includes a plan for gathering input from municipalities and other stakeholders who will benefit the most from the GTTA. For more information, visit www.mto.gov.on.ca. Getting Connected: A Transportation Strategy for the Greater Golden Horseshoe - Almost four million more people are expected to live in the Greater Golden Horseshoe in the next 30 years, and commuting time is expected to double. In planning for that growth, the ministry will release a draft Transportation Strategy for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. This strategy will propose a vision to improve Ontario's transportation system for the next 30 years with a seamless, integrated and attractive transportation network. Our plan is about improving our quality of life by developing a more effective and efficient transit system that attracts more riders and reduces the amount of time people spend commuting. It's also about giving travelers the widest possible degree of choice in how, where and when to travel. The strategy will also focus on the importance of creating a seamless transportation network for the flow of goods to and from the region.Our approach will support the land use objectives of the Growth Plan. For more information, visit www.mto.gov.on.ca. Northern Prosperity Plan - The government restated its commitment to promoting prosperity in northern communities and growing the northern economy through the recently unveiled Northern Prosperity Plan. The Northern Prosperity Plan is a range of targeted initiatives aimed at stimulating growth, job creation and a better quality of life for northern Ontario. The plan is based on four pillars: strengthening the north and its communities; listening to and serving northerners better; competing globally; and providing new opportunities for all. For more information, visit www.mndm.gov.on.ca. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- BACKGROUNDER ------------------------------------------------------------------------- HERE'S WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT THE GREENBELT David Suzuki, David Suzuki Foundation "I congratulate you for recognizing that urban sprawl represents a major negative impact on the environment, from continued degradation of wild areas to overdependence on cars, loss of farmland, and pollution of air, water and soil. I hope the greenbelt is the first of more government initiatives to control sprawl, conserve nature, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect air, water and soil, and get us out of our cars. Congratulations on this initiative." David Donnelly, Greenbelt Alliance "The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance believes that a strong economy and a well-protected, world-class greenbelt go hand in hand. Businesses cannot prosper if goods and services are stuck in traffic. Family recreational opportunities are diminished if there is no greenspace left to enjoy. We are pleased the McGuinty government is moving forward with its plan to create a permanent greenbelt in the Greater Golden Horseshoe." Donald Ziraldo, Inniskillin Wines, Greenbelt Task Force Member "Ontario's wines rank among the world's finest - and the Niagara region contains some of Canada's best land for growing the grapes that sustain our industry. That's why I was delighted to serve on the Greenbelt Task Force - and why I'm equally happy that the McGuinty government is moving ahead with its plan to protect the Niagara tender fruit and grape lands through its greenbelt plan." Norm Beal, President, Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery "The fact that the urbanization of our unique agricultural lands will be prevented is great news... we have long sought a strong provincial policy that would prohibit severing these lands for residential purposes, and we believe Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing John Gerretsen is moving in the right direction on the greenbelt... As in the Napa Valley example, when land is protected under legislation, the tendency is to have the values increase dramatically. Napa Valley land in some cases is now worth a quarter-of-a- million dollars an acre." Linda Franklin, President, Wine Council of Ontario "The Ontario wine industry is very supportive of the greenbelt strategy - we lobbied for a land preserve in Niagara for several years to stop the loss of our grape and tender - fruit land to development." Rebecca L. Wissenz, President, Hamilton Chamber of Commerce "We fully agree that enshrining the inviolability of tender-fruit lands, open spaces and environmentally sensitive areas is critically important to our generation and to future generations of Ontarians." John Gray, Mayor, City of Oshawa "Municipalities will always be under pressure to allocate more land for development. Growth can bring great things, but there has to come a time where we say no and protect our greenspace." Disponible en fran├žais www.mah.gov.on.ca www.greenbelt.ontario.caFor further information: Patti Munce, Minister's Office, (416) 585-6333; Victor Doyle, Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, (416) 585-6014