Yes, the headline may sound a little spectacular but when you start connecting the dots, it is clear that much like the Regional CAO hiring process, there is a “parallel process” at play at the Region with a potential predetermined outcome when it comes to the Greenbelt.
Whether you caught it or not, we were surprised today to see our FB feed show a proclamation from our current Regional Councillor Tony Quirk of “WOODLOT SAVED!”… but has it and the Greenbelt there really been saved? The quick (and long) answer is… no.
While the Greenbelt is locked up until at least 2027, the Region is not content with waiting until then and is undergoing a series of studies that may seek to undermine the Greenbelt/Specialty Crop classification.
hired guns consultants retained by the Region write that the lands are undeserving of Greenbelt status, they could then ask the Province to have them removed from the Greenbelt. Cue the developers to fire up the bulldozers.
2021 Regional Official Plan – Agricultural Project
As part of the development of the Region’s 2021 Official Plan, a special working group has been tasked with “undertaking research, analysis and consultation to develop an Agricultural System comprised of both mapping and policies”. This all sounds great, does it not… but wait. Let’s look at a snippet of the full report (click here for link):
It’s pretty evident what they want to do here… claim that the Greenbelt lands are not agriculturally viable (especially the valuable waterfront land at the radio towers). It should be interesting to see what soil studies funded by the Region have to say about these lands.
On the viability of soil south of the escarpment, which includes large swaths of Greenbelt – Specialty Crop areas, our Regional Councillor Tony Quirk publicly stated on FB:
He further added that “All of Grimsby” (including the valuable radio tower lands) soil is unsuitable for tenderfruit…. or to translate that, the Greenbelt classification is wrong. As to our knowledge the Region has not released a report on this or if the studies are even complete. Is this a leak of the desired outcome of the report?
NPCA Flood Plain Mapping
The second study that is being undertaken is floodplain mapping of the area. This information is useful for modelling areas prone to flooding but on the inverse it is, in the words of the Auditor General’s report, useful to “make decisions on development proposals”.
The NPCA received criticism for their flood plain mapping in the aforementioned report and was the subject of criticism in 2012 regarding their mapping of the Welland River. Now that the AG has left the NPCA to correct it’s misdeeds, will these reports be objective or play into a narrative that supports development?
So the Region is saying that it will protect the Irish Grove Woodlot… but does not say that there will be “no road through it”? As was seen in 2017, the Region told Grimsby that the decision of a Livingston Avenue extension is in the hands of the Town.
Town Council on August 21, 2017 voted on and supported the following recommendation:
“Resolved that the Public Works Committee recommends that the Council of the Town of Grimsby at this time neither supports nor opposes a Livingston Avenue extension and would prefer to see the results of an Environmental Assessment on this matter prior to considering our position and further that the 2017 Niagara Region Transportation Master Plan reflect this.”
So as far as it appears, the EA process for the Livingston Avenue Extension is proceeding as planned and it may very well still be a “done deal” depending on how the municipal election pans out.
If our current Council did not seek to say “no to the road” and chose to sit on the fence for political safety, they may just very well fall onto the “yes to the road” side if re-elected October 22.
Just because the Region says they will protect something, should always be taken with a grain of salt. Yes, they may say they will protect Greenbelt lands, but if they then get the designation of those lands to “non-Greenbelt” for development… well, they technically are keeping the promise.
The coalition and cohesiveness of Grimsby residents is too strong to fight in terms of the Woodlot and the Greenbelt. So much like the teachings of Sun Tzu in “The Art of War”, the Region’s goal of development in what they see as “incorrectly classified” Greenbelt can be achieved by not fighting the enemy at their strongest point, but going around them (flanking) and attaining their end goal.