Bill 66 could put the protected lands at risk for development
Recent Ontario government legislation may open opportunities for development in the province’s Greenbelt.
Announced on Dec. 6., the Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act (Bill 66) aims to cut red tape and create jobs.
Some people, however, are concerned about one section of the proposed legislation that would permit municipalities to request permission to pass “open-for-business” bylaws. These rules attract employers by quickening the approval process for building developments, a December Globe and Mail article
Ag industry members are voicing their concerns about Bill 66 and the effects it could have on farmland.
“The Greenbelt protects two specialty crop areas and prime farmland so that farmers can have certainty when investing in their operations. It also helps prevent encroachment by other uses that are not compatible with farming,” Edward McDonnell, CEO of the Greenbelt Foundation, told Farms.com.
“The concern is that this legislation would let municipalities say, 'the Greenbelt doesn't apply’ to parcels of land they have decided are ‘open for business’ – which would remove Greenbelt, not to mention other, protections.”
If granted permission from the Minister of Municipal Affairs, developers could be excused from parts of such legislation as the Greenbelt Act, the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Great Lakes Protection Act, the Globe and Mail said.
Initially, legislators intended for the Greenbelt to preserve farmland and restrict residential sprawl, Keith Currie, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, told Farms.com.
“What appears to be hidden within (the Bill) is the ability for municipalities to override the Greenbelt restrictions and allow for industrial development,” Currie said. “That could be very problematic in the aspect of taking up farmland for industrial development.”
Bill 66 “is not really looking to protect farmland and, in particular, agricultural systems as a whole, so that’s worrisome for us.”
Consisting of over two million acres of protected land, Ontario’s Greenbelt spans 325 kilometres (202 miles) from Rice Lake in Northumberland County to the Niagara River. The Greenbelt protects environmentally sensitive areas and productive farmland from development, the Greenbelt website
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