rights vs. greenbelt controls
The Standard (St. Catharines)
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Source: The Standard
of agricultural lands is an important and worthy challenge for
a society that has allowed urban sprawl to gobble up fields and
green space across North America. And Niagara, with its precious
fruitlands, has long been held as an example of a potential victim
of the voracious appetite of urban development.
forgotten in the combined efforts of idealists and environmentalists
to preserve every inch of farmland are the people whose livelihoods
depend on that land.
and must not be ignored under Ontario's Bill 27, the Greenbelt
Protection Act that was introduced in December and is intended
as a first step in protecting agricultural land.
the province's Greenbelt Task Force must take heed of the farmers'
voices heard last week when the committee held a public meeting
in St. Catharines.
has imposed a development freeze in the Golden Horseshoe during
the study and various stages of the legislative process, and most
of the people who spoke at Thursday's meeting worried that the
act's implementation will limit their rights by freezing development
on their lands without any compensation plan.
farmer Caroline Hughes noted that if she loses money growing grapes,
the government shouldn't prevent her from planting another type
of crop. But she believes a greenbelt plan will do just that by
designating her land for grapes only.
She was one
of more than 30 farmers and representatives of large agricultural
associations, wineries and environmental groups who spoke on the
controversial plan and the task force discussion paper.
problems facing farmers, Hughes explained her family had to sell
their grapes at break-even prices last year and she expects they
will have to do so again this year and next year.
from his own experiences, worries the provincial government doesn't
know what it is doing. He explained the greenbelt legislation
is so poorly written that the City of St. Catharines interpreted
the wording restricting new structures to mean he couldn't improve
a roadside produce-stand tent at his Seventh Street farm
of St. Catharines, a member of Earthroots environmental group,
was one of the few who spoke in favour of the plan, saying, "I
think this plan isn't just about protecting the environment, but
protecting farming." She added, "I don't want to be
part of the generation that takes those opportunities away from
the next generation."
But that is
also a concern of the farmers, who see their present-day opportunities
already threatened economically. If the government, in effect,
freezes their assets without compensation, what opportunity does
that offer their children and grandchildren?
of the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society agrees there
has to be compensation for landowners, making the point that "We
don't just believe in saving the land, we believe in saving the
And in every
argument, that must be remembered. How do we save farmers without
allowing them to make a living, and, on retirement, to enjoy the
financial fruits of their labour?
lands are seen as a valuable resource, but they are also privately
owned -- the majority by succeeding generations of families. If
younger members of those families have no desire to take over
the business, what will provincial restrictions do to their opportunities?
the land, but don't forget the farmers and their families.