The Grand Plan

The Planning Act provides the legislative framework for land-use planning in the province.

September 21, 2004 | | Environment

The provincial government has embarked on a massive overhaul of provincial land-use planning. In aggregate, the government says its goal is to reduce urban sprawl, preserve farmland, protect the environment, especially water, relieve traffic congestion and enhance municipal control over local planning decisions. The public consultation process on most of the proposed changes took place this spring and summer, with the legislative process expected to begin this fall.

Bill 26 – The Strong Communities (Planning Amendment) Act, 2004

The Planning Act provides the legislative framework for land-use planning in the province. The government says its proposed amendment, which passed second reading in the spring, “would provide municipalities with better control of their own land-use planning and would put the ability to guide urban development back into the hands of elected councils.”

It aims to discourage urban sprawl by encouraging compact development, intensification, re-use of brownfield lands and more effective environmental protection that would “assist in strengthening Ontario’s economy.”

The proposed changes would:

  • Increase the time that decision-makers have to review and make decisions on development applications.
  • Indicate that decisions affecting planning must be “consistent with” the provincial policy statements issued under the Planning Act, rather than merely “have regard to” them.
  • Ensure that municipalities are able to determine their urban settlement boundaries by limiting appeals to the OMB on applications to amend official plans or zoning bylaws for boundary alterations.
  • Give the province the authority to confirm, vary or rescind an OMB decision on an official plan or zoning/holding bylaw under certain circumstances.

See www.planningreform.ontario.ca.

Provincial Policy Statement

The PPS sets out overall policy directions on matters of provincial interest related to land-use planning and development.

The review of the PPS began in 2001 with a series of public consultation meetings. The proposed PPS:

  • Indicates that the Planning Act be consistent with rather than have regard to the PPS.
  • Directs growth into settlement areas according to the Smart Growth principles of intensification, redevelopment and compact form.
  • Directs urban growth away from prime agricultural and rural areas.
  • Indicates that development must not outstrip available or planned infrastructure, such as sewage and water systems, and transportation.
  • Encourages co-ordination of services between and within municipalities.
  • Continues to require that municipalities maintain a ten-year inventory of land designated for residential development, based on provincial population-growth projections, and a three-year inventory where new development is to occur.
  • Recognizes the importance of social well-being.
  • Promotes water conservation and efficient water use.
  • Requires that natural heritage systems be recognized for their ecological function.
  • Requires that the watershed is the ecologically meaningful scale for planning.
  • Limits uses on prime agricultural areas.
  • Continues to allow mineral extraction as an interim use on prime agricultural land.
  • Encourages mineral extraction as close to markets as possible.
  • Does not require that the need for mineral aggregate resources be shown.
  • Continues to protect mineral aggregate lands from development.

See www.mah.gov.on.ca.

Ontario Municipal Board

Created in 1897, the OMB is an indepen-dent adjudicative tribunal that makes final decisions regarding planning.

After years of public criticism that the OMB overrides democratic decision-making and favours developers, the government has under-taken a formal review of the board’s powers, including:

  • the OMB’s mandate
  • accountability of the OMB to stand in the place of elected councils
  • qualifications of OMB board members and their length of tenure
  • the public’s ability to participate in OMB hearings.

See www.planningreform.ontario.ca.

The Rural Plan

Because they cover broad geographic areas with smaller, more dispersed populations, smaller tax bases and a higher dependency on resource industries, rural communities are recognized as having different needs than urban communities.

While still thin on detail, the government’s background report sets out to review rural policy in four areas:

  • Sustainable municipal fiscal capacity
  • Strong economies
  • Healthy social climate
  • Clean and healthy environment.

See www.ruralplan.ontario.ca.

Watershed-based Source-Water Protection Planning

This initiative is part the of government’s promise to implement all the recommendations from the Walkerton Inquiry. On December 31, 2004, the one-year moratorium on water-taking permits for bottlers will be removed. It is expected that the government will introduce a legislative framework for development and approval of source-water protection plans meant to ensure the safety and supply of drinking water. The plans will be implemented by conservation authorities in co-operation with municipalities.

See www.ene.gov.on.ca, and click the right-hand link to ‘Water.’

Nutrient Management

The Nutrient Management Act came into effect because the difficulties in Walkerton resulted from the contamination of the town’s water by cow manure. The Act regulates how farmers handle their manure in order to reduce the risk of environmental contamination.

See www.gov.on.ca/OMAFRA, search Nutrient Management Act.

Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt Strategy

The Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt applies to the semi-circular region of Ontario that fans out from Lake Ontario extending from Peterborough in the east, past Hamilton and on to the Niagara Peninsula in the west. It includes all of Caledon, as well as parts of Dufferin included in the Niagara Escarpment Plan area.

Greenbelts are composed of land located around urban centres or along urban growth corridors that is protected by various restrictions on development. A greenbelt can be a tool in curtailing urban encroachment and protecting the environment, productive agricultural areas and greenspace.

The government’s vision includes five greenbelt “layers” including:

  • Environmental protection
  • Agricultural protection, including tender fruit and grape lands and the Holland Marsh
  • Transportation and infrastructure
  • Natural resources, particularly mineral resources
  • Culture, tourism and recreation opportunities.

Its two overarching themes are:

  • Ontario’s growth management plan called “Places to Grow”
  • An implementation and administration plan.

The material included in the government’s Greenbelt Task Force report was discussed at a series of six public meetings that took place during May and June. On May 31, Caledon East was on the agenda and area residents had a chance to ask questions and air their viewpoints.

See www.greenbelt.ontario.ca.

Places to Grow

Recognizing that the Greater Golden Horseshoe is Ontario’s and Canada’s economic engine, this initiative is expected to result in a “concrete plan” to guide land-use planning, urban development, housing, local services, transportation, environ-mental infrastructure and economic development. The report’s five main objectives aim to maximize existing opportunities to accommodate growth before looking for new growth areas.

1 Intensification and compact development: This is a Smart Growth idea to reduce land used per residential unit and the distance travelled for goods and services.

2 Priority and emerging urban centres: The report identifies 11 priority urban centres, including Brampton, and 15 emerging urban centres in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Neither Bolton nor Orangeville are listed.

3 Future growth areas: Some areas in the GTA that are south of the Oak Ridges Moraine and outside the greenbelt may be further assessed. Bolton could fall into this category.

4 Economic strength: To make the area economically competitive, the government proposes to make it a more attractive place to live and work through urban centre development and improved transportation.

5 Small towns and rural communities: Because of their needs are different from urban communities, a separate study targets rural development issues.

Comments on Places to Grow can be submitted until September 24, 2004.

See www.placestogrow.ca

About the Author More by Nicola Ross

Freelance writer Nicola Ross lives in Belfountain.

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