Ontario lays out rules for Greenbelt expansion

A new set of rules will govern any future expansion of southern Ontario’s protected “Greenbelt” zone.

The provincial government on Wednesday said these new criteria, drawn up in consultation with the public and municipalities, will be used to assess municipal requests to expand the Greenbelt to cover more
forests, wetlands and farmlands.

The new criteria also “make it clear that requests to remove areas
from the Greenbelt or reduce its size will not be considered,” the province said in a release.

Municipalities can seek guidance from the province before submitting their requests for Greenbelt expansion, the province said.

The Greenbelt is a permanent protection zone now covering 1.8 million acres of farms and “environmentally sensitive” land around the province’s Greater Golden Horseshoe.

The zone was developed to prevent loss and “fragmentation” of the area’s farmland base to development, and to protect “natural heritage” and water resource systems that form the environmental framework around which urbanization in south-central Ontario is to be organized, the province said.

The zone provides for “economic and social” activities in the Greenbelt associated with rural communities, agriculture, tourism, recreation and resource uses, the province said.

The criteria to add land to the Greenbelt will include:

  • a requirement for affected municipal councils to support their requests for Greenbelt expansion through resolutions;
  • connection between the proposed area and the existing Greenbelt area, although lands not immediately adjacent to the Greenbelt could also be considered for expansion “where it can be demonstrated that there is a clear functional relationship to the Greenbelt” based on agriculture, natural heritage or water resources such as headwaters and recharge areas;
  • a clear demonstration in the request of how a proposed expansion area would meet the “intent of the vision and one or more of the goals of the Greenbelt Plan”;
  • one or more of the Greenbelt systems (natural heritage, agricultural, water resources) to be identified and included within the proposed expansion area;
  • a demonstration of how a particular expansion would fit into both the Greenbelt plan and the province’s growth plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, keeping in mind that any proposed new Greenbelt area can’t impede the Golden Horseshoe growth plan;
  • Greenbelt expansion only in areas outside existing urban settlement, except for “major natural heritage systems” in existing urban areas that are so designated in a municipal development plan; and
  • a demonstration that a proposed expansion area “will not undermine provincial interests” or complementary provincial initiatives such as water source protection plans, Metrolinx’s regional transportation plan or the proposed Lake Simcoe Protection Strategy.

“By allowing expansions to the Greenbelt, the McGuinty government is
giving municipalities the power to protect valuable land in their communities.
I encourage municipalities to seize this opportunity to safeguard Ontario’s
precious green space for generations to come,” Rick Smith of
Environmental Defence said in the province’s press release.

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