The Ontario government has rejected the City of Hamilton’s request to remove tender fruit lands from the Greenbelt.
The government revealed Jan. 11 that it will accept only “minor” boundary changes within the Greenbelt Plan that includes 800,000 hectares of land within the Niagara Escarpment around the Golden Horseshoe and throughout the Greater Toronto Area including the Oak Ridges Moraine. It extends 325 km from the eastern end of the Oak Ridges Moraine, near Rice Lake to the Niagara River to the west.
Those changes include 11 locations amounting to 58 hectares in Burlington, Halton Hills, Vaughan, East Gwillimbury, Markham, Pickering, Whitby and Oshawa.
The province is expected to grow the Greenbelt by adding 9,000 hectares of land and 21 Urban River Valleys and associated coastal wetlands, including in the Hamilton area Grindstone Creek, Fifty Creek and Twelve Mile Creek. Red Hill Valley was not included in the revised Greenbelt Plan.
Ontario officials said they had received about 700 site-specific requests for lands to be removed or for changes in land use designation to the Greenbelt over the last 10 years. The Greenbelt Plan was implemented in 2005 and the review began in Feb. 2015.
Ontario officials stated that requests to remove land from the Greenbelt were not supported based upon identifiable specialty crop lands, settlement area boundary expansion, or removing or redesignating any land part of the Oak Ridges Moraine or the Niagara Escarpment.
“The original goals of the Greenbelt remain as relevant today as they were when the Greenbelt was first created in 2005,” stated provincial officials.
Hamilton councillors had requested the province remove two blocks of land totalling about 104 hectares in the lower Stoney Creek area and 28 hectares of farmland in Waterdown.
One parcel of land is east and west of Fifty Road, with the other between Glover Road and Lewis Road, referred to as the E.D. Smith land.
Proponents of the removal, which included E.D. Smith family, said the Stoney Creek lands are isolated remnants and are not economically viable to maintain the properties for farming. The owners have indicated they wanted to redevelop the properties.
Politicians did recommend to the province adding about 430 acres of land around Twenty Mile Creek and Airport Road, considered by some farmers in the area as the best land for agriculture.
The province agreed to include a portion of land bounded by Trinity Church Road, Guyatt and Nebo Road, and Fiddler’s Green Road, Garner Road and Book Road.
During a six-hour special planning committee meeting in Dec. 2015 on the city’s Greenbelt proposals, area farmers stated that Ontario loses 141 hectares of farmland a day to development.
The City of Hamilton also objected to the proposed anti-sprawl regulations the province proposed, including requiring cities to have at least 60 per cent of their new growth occur within the built-up area, while any development outside the area needs to accommodate a minimum of 80 persons per hectare.
Erica Woods, communications manager for the Friends of the Greenbelt, was pleased with provincial proposals to make the Greenbelt even better.
“(The Ontario government) reaffirms its commitment to protecting farmland from sprawl and preserving natural heritage in the rural countryside,” she said.
The province is accepting responses to the proposed Greenbelt Plan until Feb. 27, 2017. The public can access the province’s website at www.mah.gov.on.ca for more information and through email at greenbeltboundary@Ontario.ca.