The Toronto Star
NEWS, Wednesday, August 15, 2001, p. A01
puts the brakes on new housing on Oak Ridges Moraine
Building across much of region would be banned
QUEEN'S PARK BUREAU CHIEF
A draft plan
would limit housing developments to about 9 per cent of the Oak
Ridges Moraine, allowing up to 26,000 new homes in subdivisions
over the next two decades.
But the plan
proposes allowing other, less intense developments in the environmentally
sensitive area, including rural residences, golf courses, playing
fields, ski hills and other commercial and industrial uses.
Affairs Minister Chris Hodgson said the plan submitted to the
province by an advisory panel and released yesterday would protect
virtually all key areas of environmental concern.
had cautious words of praise, calling it a good first step, but
they cautioned there is still more to be done to protect the160-kilometre-long
ridge of rolling hills and rural landscapes.
settlement areas are being proposed by the advisory panel,"
Hodgson said as he released details of the proposed plan in Richmond
added that the draft will be subjected to public open houses in
coming weeks followed by provincial legislation.
that under the proposal, new subdivisions will only be permitted
in areas that are already designated for settlement by the various
official plans of the municipalities involved, including Markham,
Richmond Hill and Uxbridge.
covering 195,000 hectares stretching from the Trent River on the
east to the Niagara Escarpment on the west, contains headwaters
of several rivers and provides drinking water to about 200,000
people in York Region.
panel's report divides the moraine into four different designated
areas, which include:
areas. These sections, amounting to 37 per cent of the moraine,
are the most protected, permitting only existing uses such as
hiking trails and some agriculture.
areas. These include woodlots and wetlands that connect natural
core areas with one another, as well as river valleys north and
south of the moraine. But unlike the more protected core areas,
these areas, comprising 16 per cent of the moraine, would allow
expansion of so-called "aggregate mining"- sand and
areas. This section, 38 per cent of the total area, includes rural
areas where rural residences, golf courses, playing fields, ski
hills and other commercial and industrial uses would be permitted,
pending environmental assessment.
areas. These are sections where new housing developments would
be allowed to continue, complete with amenities such as sewer
and water construction. The panel estimates that 9 per cent of
the moraine would be designated for settlement, housing an estimated
80,000 people in 26,000 homes over the next 20 years.
In May, the
Conservative government froze all development on the moraine for
six months in order to buy some time to come up with a land-use
the province has granted exemptions to the ban for more than 4,250
new homes that were considered to be too far along in the planning
process to halt.
subdivisions are roughly along the Yonge St. corridor south of
advisory panel includes representatives from the development industry
and business as well as environmentalists, academics and regional
announced yesterday that former Toronto mayor David Crombie will
act as mediator to settle outstanding development disputes between
the town of Richmond Hill and various developers who have taken
their plans to build to the Ontario Municipal Board.
of an independent mediator was among the panel's recommendations.
said the plan was a good beginning, they still worried it still
allows some level of development on more than half the moraine
got some big picture eco-system ideas that are good," said
Gregor Beck of the Federation of Ontario Naturalists.
But he added
the provision to allow rural residences opens the potentially
dangerous door to estate housing developments that cater to the
of Earthroots also called the draft plan a sound first step, but
said he is concerned about the allowance for expansion of sand
and gravel pits.
is a good first step, but it's only a start," he said. "They've
got to protect the entirety of the Oak Ridges Moraine."
warned that a loophole in the draft plan might allow municipalities
to appeal directly to the minister for exceptions to the strict
Rules in place
for areas that are deemed protected must be airtight to prevent
local governments from working around them, he said.
MPP Mike Colle
(Eglinton-Lawrence) said the decision to hold a series of open
houses or information sessions instead of full public hearings
will not give area residents the amount of input they deserve.
Beck's concerns about the provision permitting large estate homes
to be built in the countryside.
a weak-kneed report that will please primarily people who want
to build million-dollar estate lots, and multi-millionaire developers
are very happy today," Colle said.
Crandall of the group Save the Oak Ridges Moraine, who sat on
the advisory panel, said a basic consensus emerged about which
areas needed the most protection.
that there are issues that still need to be addressed and areas
we'd like to see strengthened," Crandall said.