On Monday December 7th, we got a bit closer to securing the future protection of the Greenbelt and ending urban sprawl, thanks to key recommendations in a new report.
The Coordinated Review Advisory Panel, headed by former Toronto Mayor David Crombie, released a 177 page report with 87 recommendations about what the Provincial Government should do to strengthen four land use planning acts (Greenbelt Plan, Growth Plan, Niagara Escarpment Act, Oak Ridge Moraine Conservation Act). Together, these recommendations aim to better protect Greenbelt lands and their surrounding watersheds and reduce urban sprawl in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
Key to Toronto is Recommendation 72. It calls for the Province to take the lead and add to the Greenbelt urban river valley lands that are in Toronto and other municipalities that have river systems with headwaters in the Greenbelt.
This is a welcome recommendation and one TEA has been calling for since the Coordinated Land Use Planning Review began earlier this year.
If the Province acts on Recommendation 72, it would mean the lands along the rivers that start in the Greenbelt, north of Toronto, as well as Toronto’s ravines would all be part of the Greenbelt and subject to the rules in the Greenbelt Act (currently, each municipality has its own rules for their urban river valley lands).
The Advisory Panel Report also calls on growing the Greenbelt into waterways that are not within the Greenbelt but are intimately linked to the Greenbelt’s lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands. Collectively, these watersheds provide Ontarians with huge economic, social and environmental benefits.
Adding urban river valleys and these other waterways to the Greenbelt will go a long way towards protecting the entire watersheds that the current Greenbelt lies within. Greenbelt protection must extend to these larger watersheds to ensure this vital natural “green infrastructure” is ready to deal with the threats climate change will bring.
The Advisory Panel’s support for further Greenbelt protection is part of a larger vision to stop urban sprawl and create “complete communities.” Most of the 87 recommendations either directly or indirectly address key issues that have led to urban sprawl. They point to specific actions the Province can take to ensure future growth is accommodated by higher density development within existing communities and supported with better transit, walking and cycling.
With the release of the Advisory Panel Report, the Province must now decide how to change the four land use planning acts. We expect the Province to release their proposed changes some time before the new year. In the meantime, it’s important for Torontonians -and our neighbours in the Greater Golden Horseshoe- to the let the Premier know they support growing the Greenbelt and ending urban sprawl.