At the Regional Council meeting on December 1st, a report was put forward by the Region’s Planning Commissioner, Michelle Sergi, stating that her department’s opinion was that they “do not object” to the proposed changes by the Province on the two impacted Greenbelt properties in Grimsby. The report went further to suggest that two additional sites, including the area south of Grimsby’s proposed GO Station, adjacent to the Woodlot, and one in Lincoln (East Prudhomme’s) should be considered for removal from the Greenbelt.
On the sites already in the Provincial proposal, the report cited amongst other rationale “a submission by the Town of Grimsby [from 2016], [that] provided significant justification to correct mapping errors”. That incorrect statement aside, “mapping errors” is just creative planning language to mask the real proposal.
Additional Grimsby Site Proposed By Regional Planning To Be Removed
In the report, recommended by Ms. Sergi, an area south of the GO tracks and west of Casablanca was found to be desirable to engage the Province on possible removal from the Greenbelt. Here is a map we annotated showing the area:
The left-hand (west) side in the dotted area is owned by the Region, while the right-hand parcel (east) with the Church at 63 Casablanca Boulevard is owned by Losani Homes.
As it stands right now, that Greenbelt property can only used in accordance with the Greenbelt Plan which limits uses and permits infrastructure works only. Removing the Special Crop designation makes it developable for a wide array of uses… careless, given its adjacency to the environmentally sensitive Irish Grove Woodlot.
You can read the Regional Planning report at this link here.
Regional Council Response
At their meeting, Regional Council raised a number of questions and concerns about the proposed Provincial changes and the report. Regional Councillor Huson expressed concerns about environmental aspects including groundwater, aquifer and other water related protection areas.
RC (Mayor Jordan) raised concerns that the proposed Greenbelt changes in Grimsby would then erode away at the rest of the Greenbelt in Grimsby. He also expressed concerns over the compressed timelines and Bill 23, in there is a disconnect between the goals and the ability to attain them.
RC (Mayor) Easton raised concerns about NPCA consultation and the land ownership. The Planning Commissioner stated the waterfront at 502 Winston Road is completely privately owned. Easton questioned whether the municipality could retain waterfront access. Sergi says that would have to be pursued by the Town of Grimsby.
RC Redekop commented that the Region had already gone through an extensive Official Plan exercise and whether the two Grimsby parcels were requested by the Region to be removed from the Greenbelt. The Commissioner says they did not recommend them. Redekop echoed the sentiment that the proposed changes may further erode the Greenbelt, asked Jordan for clarification.
In responding, RC Jordan explained that Town Council was opposed to the proposals and that properties that do not have agriculture on it, but have been vacant and “naturalized”, are probably drawing wildlife away from built-up areas (acting as a natural habitat).
Redekop stated that approving the report would facilitate the development of the lands, which Grimsby does not support and that he could not support either.
RC Zalepa questioned the nature of the motion, and suggested that the report merely be received. There was some interesting word-juggling that went on, with “endorse” and “receive”. Some of the Regional Councillors seemed confused at what they were doing, as they allowed the Staff comments to be submitted as-is without Regional Council’s clear opinion on the Greenbelt.
Regional Council could have and should have put their position very clear in whether they supported the Province’s proposals and the comments in the Staff report. However, the smokescreen of the discussion seemed to have fooled most of Regional Council and the motion passed. There was no recorded vote, though there were many Regional Councillors who clearly objected to the motion.
So how will the Province interpret the Regional Staff comments, without any clear indication from Regional Council? With the way things are going at Queen’s Park, they will probably say “go” on the Greenbelt rip-up in Niagara, and additionally remove those two suggested sites, one in Lincoln and the one near the woodlot in Grimsby.