News

Greenbelt changes get mixed reviews

By Karena Walter, The Standard

Lake Gibson, photographed on Wednesday, June 8, 2016. Julie Jocsak/ St. Catharines Standard/ Postmedia Network  

Lake Gibson, photographed on Wednesday, June 8, 2016. Julie Jocsak/ St. Catharines Standard/ Postmedia Network  

Shoreline surrounding Lake Gibson has been added to the Greenbelt, preventing any possible future development along the water.

The addition of the area was included in the province’s updated land use plans unveiled this week, one of several requests by the Region on behalf of municipalities.

“It really didn’t make sense not to do it and nobody around it had any objections,” said Tony Vandermaas, chair of the Lake Gibson Preservation Task Force, which presented the idea to the province during public consultations two years ago.

“We just want to make sure that it can’t be used for residential or industrial purposes.”

Vandermaas said most people would assume the land around the lake was already protected. He learned it wasn’t from the city’s tourism provider.

“That part of the circle route couldn’t be included on trails of the Greenbelt map because it wasn’t in the Greenbelt,” he said. “So it is now.”

The province released four updated land use plans Thursday — the Growth Plan for the Golden Horseshore, the Niagara Escarpment Plan, the Greenbelt Plan and the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan.

The updates came after two years of public consultation and study, including 29 open houses and town halls attended by more than 4,600 people.

The plans touch on issues such as density, agriculture, natural heritage and infrastructure. There are new intensification targets to reduce urban sprawl, lands added to the Greenbelt and requirements for municipalities to include climate change policies in their official plans.

Niagara Region’s planning staff are sorting through the details.

Doug Giles, director of community and long range planning, said the documents contain many new and revised policies from the draft plans that have to be studied to determine how they impact the Region.

A report will come to council about what the changes mean for Niagara in the coming weeks and months.

Among Niagara requests that were approved was the recognition of Ridgeville as a hamlet in the Greenbelt plan, allowing for limited development.

Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn said town council has been advocating the designation for a number of years.

He said Ridgeville is a historic hamlet in Niagara that goes back to the 1850s and was a hamlet in Pelham’s official plans, but it became part of the Greenbelt when it came into effect 12 years ago.

A row of existing shops on the south side of Canboro at Effingham Roads were grandfathered in, but the hamlet designation means there’s now potential for shops on the north side.

Augustyn said being a hamlet means the area can have the type of uses that complement what’s already there and the greenbelt.

“It’s a great little busy spot through the weekends. We want to help that grow and honour that historic designation that they had,” Augustyn said.

Another request for the Fonthill Kame — a special micro-climate area that’s the highest point in the region — to be added to the Niagara Escarpment Plan to provide extra protection was not included in the new plans.

Augustyn said the province didn’t include any and indicated it would deal with those type of escarpment plan requests through a separate process.

“I would be optimistic that we might be able to use that process to further protect the kame,” he said.

In Grimsby, things aren’t as cheery.

Rural land in the south was folded into the Greenbelt as requested, but the town still hasn’t seen any relief in return.

Mayor Bob Bentley said the 2005 legislation allowed for the minister to consider trading of lands, something the town has been trying to do for 12 years.

In the latest version, he said the province took 923 hectares of southern land that Grimsby offered up to trade for lands with existing development in the northwest, but didn’t give any in return.

“We have existing developments that have been there for 60 years and they’ve frozen that land with no regard for what’s on the ground,” he said.

“We have dead-end roads in between surveys, with the intent of infill over time, and those lands have been frozen.”

Bentley said the town has been told the greenbelt can’t get smaller. The town has said they want to grow it but has been ignored, something he said is political.

Meanwhile, the planned Go train station at Casablanca Boulevard is in the Greenbelt, despite transit hub philosophies that there should be high density, complete communities and employment and residential opportunities around transit hubs.

Bentley said he hopes there is something in the legislative changes of the plans that provides the region opportunities to support the transit hub and sensitive areas around the greenbelt.

“Our staff and regional staff will be going through what is in the detail, what is in the legislation,” he said. “Are there any opportunities?”

kwalter@postmedia.com



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