The Toronto Star
NEWS, Wednesday, May 10, 2000, p. B03

Groups slam moraine plan
Environmentalists urge province to halt development

Caroline Mallan

Plans by the province of Ontario to protect a narrow swath of the Oak Ridges Moraine do not go far enough to prevent long-term damage to the ecologically sensitive area, a coalition of environmentalists says.

The Federation of Ontario Naturalists, Earthroots and a local group called Save the Oak Ridges Moraine (STORM) said yesterday that all new development must be halted on the whole moraine and a 2-kilometre buffer zone around the moraine should also be development-free.

"There is still the need for a comprehensive provincial policy for the entire 160-kilometre-long moraine," said Debbe Crandal of STORM.

Crandal said the province's position on moraine development in Richmond Hill, which was filed with the Ontario Municipal Board, covers only 1 per cent of the affected area.

The province stated in a seven-page report that it would be "inappropriate" to urbanize the Richmond Hill portion of the moraine, then it handed the OMB a map showing the areas where the provincial government does not want development.

That map depicts a huge swath of land in Richmond Hill where development is crossed out - land that would be worth as much as $10 billion if construction went ahead on the proposed 17,000 homes.

Lea Ann Mallett of Earthroots said her group's call for a development freeze on the moraine is supported by the vast majority of the 400,000 people who live on it.

"If the Ontario government truly is planning to act in the public interest, they will stop this piecemeal approach," she said.

Municipal Affairs Minister Tony Clement said the use of the moraine will likely be decided by the OMB as projects for the land are proposed and go through local planning processes.

"It's entirely up to the board; the issue is in front of the board," Clement said, adding that the province will follow its 1991 guidelines on land use for the moraine.

New Democrat Marilyn Churley (Broadview-Greenwood) said Clement should take a leadership role in protecting the moraine, rather than reacting to each development plan that crops up.

The moraine, arcing north of Toronto, contains the headwaters of 35 rivers and streams, including the Humber, Don and Rouge Rivers.