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The planning and development committee endorsed a plan presented by director of planning services Mary Lou Tanner Wednesday that would see land in northwest Grimsby currently protected from development by the Ontario Greenbelt Plan brought into the urban boundary in exchange for 2,280 acres of land to the south that would be added to the Greenbelt.
Tanner said if the Grimsby land currently protected by the Greenbelt were in any part of the Greater Toronto Area it would be prime land for development.
“There’s a transit hub proposed at Casablanca and the QEW, and there’s a QEW interchange there,” Tanner said. “It’s a prime, opportune land, and if it were not for the specialty crop designation, in any other part of the GTA this would be a prime mixed-use, employment development of higher densities.”
She noted that type of development is allowed to sprawl eastward along the QEW in Hamilton.
The Region plan also proposes adding to the Greenbelt 1,200 acres surrounding Lake Gibson in Thorold.
Commissioner of planning and development services Rino Mostacci said the Region’s input to the province, which is undergoing a co-ordinated review of its Niagara Escarpment, Greenbelt and Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation plans, follows consultation with Niagara’s municipalities.
“We’ve been working with the local municipalities … to consolidate a unified position for us,” he said. “It has been very collaborative.”
Mostacci said Niagara’s planning issues and suggestions are “getting very good traction at the province.”
“Our conversation with the provincial planners — Greenbelt planners — has been to sort of give them a reality check with respect to Niagara,” Mostacci said, noting mechanisms to limit development in the GTA were applied to Niagara.
“We don’t have the same growth pressures and we don’t have the same growth patterns as the rest of the GTA. And I think for the first time …. that conversation is starting to resonate with them. We need a different approach for Niagara.”
The Region plan also calls for corrections to hydrological mapping used in the Greenbelt plan to protect natural heritage and key hydrological features from development or site alterations. Those water sources are protected by 30-metre development setbacks. Region and Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority mapping, however, showed the MNR mapping recognizes more features as significant than was actually the case. As an example, the staff report says 2,975 parcels in Niagara-on-the-Lake are affected by the MNR mapping whereas using the Region and NPCA mapping only 2,375 properties would be affected.
The Region plan calls for special “policy considerations” for lands within the existing Greenbelt that already contain urban development, such as housing, businesses or farms with retail businesses on site.
“We need policy tools that are going to support the long-term sustainability and viability of these (businesses) and allow for appropriate development,” Tanner said.
Those areas include land abutting Victoria Ave. in Lincoln between the QEW and Vineland settlement area; North Service Rd. between Jordan Harbour and Charles Daley Park in Lincoln; a section in Thorold along Regional Rd. 20 between Merrittville Highway and Cataract Rd.; the area along Highway 55 in Niagara-on-the-Lake between Virgil and the Old Town settlement area; and Fruitbelt Parkway in Niagara Falls near Stanley Ave. and General Brock Parkway.
The report notes there are 34,098 acres of land that fall within the Niagara Escarpment Plan, 3,068 acres of which fall within urban boundaries. The Region request is for the NEP to relinquish control of the 3,068 acres to the municipalities in which they are located “to allow for better urban development, while respecting the preservation of key environmental features that define the escarpment.”
In addition, the Region wants to see agricultural lands that are in both the Greenbelt and under the control of the NEP removed from the NEP.
“This will allow for greater economic potential, value added opportunities and create one set of rules for farmers within the Greenbelt,” the report says, noting approximately 50% of land currently within NEP boundaries is considered to be farmland.
The Region is asking the province to not approve three expansions outlined in NEP discussion papers. Federal government land along the eastern edge of General Motors Glendale Ave. property in St. Catharines, three separate chunks abutting the Lathrop Nature Reserve in Pelham and a chunk of land in north Niagara Falls that contains the Calaguiro Estates subdivision. The report says the proposal to include those areas to the NEP are based on inaccurate data and “would create undue restrictions on already established residential and industrial properties.”
Tanner told committee members that two of the three sections in the nature reserve proposed for inclusion in the NEP are owned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada and already protected. The third section, which contains Marlene Stewart Streit Park, is owned by Pelham. Tanner said the town is in the process of developing a plan for the park and it is staff’s belief it should remain under town control.