The Toronto Star
NEWS, Friday, July 20, 2001, p. B01
development freeze set aside
Province allows subdivisions with approvals in place
QUEEN'S PARK BUREAU
government has set aside a six-month development freeze on the
Oak Ridges Moraine to approve thousands of hectares of subdivisions
on the environmentally sensitive area north of Toronto.
any subdivision that has appropriate zoning in place, draft approval
and a signed subdivision agreement can go ahead," Municipal
Affairs Minister Chris Hodgson announced yesterday.
projects have already passed the point at which the public has
had an opportunity to comment or object."
critics called it a betrayal, environmentalists were more pragmatic,
saying the subdivisions were too far along to stop.
the exemptions to the Oak Ridges Moraine Protection Act, approved
May 17 by all three parties, will affect almost 4,000 hectares.
said 37 of the 110 projects that applied for exemption from the
freeze were granted, representing the bulk of the housing considered
in the final stages of approval or some 4,250 units. The 110 projects
represented some 6,700 units in total.
subdivisions are roughly along Yonge St. south of Stouffville
even more developments may be approved: "If other projects
are brought to the government's attention that are equally far
along in the approval process they will be considered . . . in
the exemptions were expected in mid-June but the government held
off until after the Vaughan-King-Aurora byelection on June 28,
which the Tories lost.
freeze is a farce. The freeze is over," said Liberal critic
MPP Mike Colle (Eglinton-Lawrence).
is a major betrayal. The government has given massive exemptions
to the Oak Ridges Moraine freeze to their developer friends before
public input has even begun. People should be up in arms,"
is a 160 kilometre ridge of sand and gravel from the Niagara Escarpment
to Cobourg, providing the headwaters for more than 30 rivers and
streams flowing into Lake Ontario and Lake Simcoe.
appointed a 13-member advisory committee, including three homebuilders,
to advise him on what action Queen's Park should take on the moraine.
In the meantime,
the province slapped the six-month development freeze on the moraine
and halted all Ontario Municipal Board hearings touching the moraine
to buy time to draft a protection policy.
legislation imposing the freeze was unanimously supported by MPPs
from all parties back in May.
Churley, the NDP's municipal affairs critic, said she would have
never supported Hodgson's Oak Ridges Moraine Protection Act had
she known it would be arbitrarily set aside, with no input from
either the public or the minister's special advisory panel.
a nasty, low-down trick to play on the people of Ontario. . .
. We were given the impression that there would be an absolute
six-month freeze with no exemptions whatsoever until public consultations
happen," she said.
There is a
provision in the act, however, that allowed for such exemptions
at the discretion of cabinet.
Hodgson told a news conference that Tories remain committed to
protecting the critical parts of the moraine, noting the announcement
"applies to land that represents less than one-quarter of
one per cent of the total land area of the moraine."
Glenn De Baeremaeker of Save the Rouge Valley System said he wasn't
surprised by the exemptions, adding that his concern is protecting
the part of the moraine that hasn't been developed.
it (the freeze) so fast and so secretly there were people caught
in the process that literally had the roads and sewers in and
the light stands in everything but the house so we will think
that this (announcement) still maintains the spirit of the freeze,"
De Baeremaeker said.
are units that were approved in the past and we can't change the
executive director of the Save the Oak Ridges Moraine Coalition,
is on the minister's advisory panel and agreed the subdivisions
"were so far along in the approval process that legally there
was nothing that could be really done to stop them."
But Josh Matlow
of Earthroots said his environmental group is "very disappointed"
the Tory government unilaterally approved the projects. "We
believe this is the top of a slippery slope and it also threatens
the integrity of this advisory panel."
are they doing creating an advisory panel to come up with recommendations
for a long-term land use strategy, yet even before they get a
report from them they are already making decisions where and where
not development should happen? It's ridiculous."