We are back and picking up where we left-off in August on the proposed agricultural “re-designation” of the Greenbelt waterfront property at 502 Winston Road. While there was intent to follow-up with another post shortly after the “open-house” meeting in September, we listened to an inside voice that said just wait.

Apparently this was a wise move, as “Dozer” Doug Ford’s government is now attempting to intervene in what should be a municipal/regional application process with its plan to pave over large sections of the existing Greenbelt to have “More Homes Built Faster”. The waterfront Greenbelt lands at 502 Winston Road are part of that controversial proposal.

The Roadblock and The Road Map

As mentioned in our first post, the lands at 502 Winston Road are currently designated as “Specialty Crop – Tender Fruit & Grape Lands” under the Greenbelt Plan. The Plan states that these areas were chosen to be included in the Greenbelt “based on provincial soil and climate analysis of current and potential tender fruit and grape production areas”. The plan limits these areas to primarily agricultural uses and no expansion of towns and villages are permitted in these areas.

So if you are a developer, just rolled $10 million into this type of property and want to build… what do you do? You try and remove it from the Greenbelt… but up until recently the Province said “not so fast”. As of last year the Province was of the opinion that they:

“will not in any way entertain any proposals that will move lands in the Greenbelt, or open the Greenbelt lands to any kind of development.”

Minister Steve Clark, Municipal Affairs & housing

Quite the showstopper for a $10 million gamble. A no-go, unless the developer intends on opening a vineyard or something along those agricultural lines.

This was not always the case however with Ford, as shortly after being elected as Premier this 2018 video leaked showing him pledging to open the Greenbelt for his developer friends:

Needless to say Ontarians were not amused with his “plan for affordable housing”. At least he was candid and did not take credit for the idea, but gave developers most of the credit for the idea to tear open the Greenbelt.

After this hit the public’s antennas, one could say the Premier “shrunk” a little and back-pedalled on this idea (for the time being) and vowed not to develop on the Greenbelt (word-play perhaps).

So with a prohibition on anything other than agricultural uses and no apparent help from Doug Ford… if you can’t go through something, the next best thing is go around it. And in the case of 502 Winston, this is just what the developer wants to do.

502 Winston Inc. (aka New Horizon Development Group) with the assistance of their hired planning consultants, decided to apply for a re-designation, more like a demotion, of the land from the higher protected categories of Greenbelt land to simply “rural”.

The Planning Justification Report from the IBI group lays the roadmap for the land and development potential from there:

Re-designate, demote… expand the urban boundary and expand the Town. Chaching!

“Open House” Meeting

The Town held an “open house” meeting via Zoom on the proposal on September 26, 2022 that drew in a large number of participants. In addition to residents, representatives from the Greenbelt Foundation and Enviromental Defence ‘attended’. On hand for the developer was John Ariens of the IBI Group.

You can view the meeting at this link here.

Mr. Ariens went over a Powerpoint that attempted to downplay the request as it being a non-controversial matter and that the hired consultants determined the land was poor for crops. It makes you wonder how a developer’s consultant comes to a very different conclusion than the Province did as to why these lands are good for agriculture and specialized crops at that.

He further stated they do not even have a “concept plan” for what they will do with the lands. That may be word-play, one does not embark on a planning application without some end-goal in mind.

Bruce Mackenzie, Grimsby’s award-winning environmentalist spoke to the matter poking holes in the application and case put-forward by Mr. Ariens. He noted that the presentation highlighted the desires of previous Council (2014-2018) and not the current Mayor and Council. Of further interest is that the lands at question are part of the largest green space on the South shore of Lake Ontario and shouldn’t be “nibbled away”.

Later in the meeting, Phil Pothen of Environmental Defence came in to finish Mr. Arien’s fleet. Mr. Pothen was blunt and to the point. He stated that these type of developers need to be given a “thumping” and to “send them home crying” and that Greenbelt land should never be considered for anything other than what it was designated for. Mr. Pothen’s comments are epic and worth a watch on the video below:

Overall, the meeting participants did not want to see the land developed or in the least not developed for residential use. As it was an “open house” event, there was no comments from Members of Council who would be making a decision on the matter at a later date.

So what is (was?) next… a public meeting where commenting is more formal and gets input from Council. “Was” appears in brackets as due to the previously mentioned Ford announcement and plan to pull the plug on areas of the Greenbelt, it is not known if this matter will ever get to a public meeting and be decided on by Council.

If Dozer Doug does not get pushed back like he did with labour unions.. the whole application may just get rubberstamped at Queens Park, and you can look forward to heavy equipment plowing into the lakefront Greenbelt in the very near future. The domino effect on lands to the west of 502 Winston do not require much imagination.

From Local Planning to Provincial Matter

So how do local planning matters like this suddenly appear in a Province initiative to “unlock the potential” of the Greenbelt? That is a very good question… stay tuned for our next post.