Over the past 10 years, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs received submissions from landowners and some municipalities about lands that were captured in the Greenbelt Plan, requesting clarification about the accuracy of the Greenbelt mapping and how the land was captured within it. The ministry communicated to those landowners and municipalities that their concerns would be considered as part of the 10-year review of the Greenbelt Plan. When the review of the Greenbelt Plan began in 2015, as part of the Co-ordinated Land Use Planning Review, the ministry received hundreds of requests to either remove land from the Greenbelt or change the land use designations. Some of these requests also involved lands that fall within the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan Area and the Niagara Escarpment Plan Area.
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs reviewed and assessed over 700 site specific requests, including those that were received before the start of the Co-ordinated Land Use Planning Review. The Ministries of Natural Resources and Forestry; Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs; Environment and Climate Change; and Transportation were consulted on requests which were relevant to their mandate.
Requests related to the Niagara Escarpment Plan Area were not considered as part of this exercise because those requests are subject to a separate review process led by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
Most of the Greenbelt site specific requests can be categorized as follows:
- Mapping changes to the boundary to reflect matters that were already in the planning process prior to the creation of the Greenbelt (transitional areas);
- Mapping changes to the boundary related to the Natural Heritage System;
- Mapping changes to the boundary to reflect other interests (e.g. transit stations);
- Mapping changes where Greenbelt lands were next to existing servicing or urbanized areas or where settlement area boundaries could be changed; and
- Greenbelt boundary and designation changes (e.g., from Natural Core to Countryside), including Oak Ridges Moraine designation changes.
In May 2016, as part of the public consultation phase on the four land use plans that concluded on October 31, 2016, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs set out its approach to responding to site specific requests. The ministry’s approach was to:
- Take the advice of the co-ordinated review advisory panel, and address site specific issues primarily through proposed changes to policies in the land use plans;
- Propose to remove four areas from the Greenbelt to align with approved municipal official plans; and
- Obtain detailed technical information from municipalities, conservation authorities and landowners to determine if further changes are needed, which achieve the natural heritage protection objectives of the Greenbelt.
As set out in EBR Registry Number 012-7195, the government is considering policy changes that, if approved, may address some of the site specific requests related to settlement boundary expansions, and provide more flexibility for existing uses or a more diverse mix of on-farm uses. For example, proposed policies would strengthen agricultural viability by allowing greater flexibility in the types of uses allowed on farms. The proposed plans also contain policies that would allow for consideration of modest Town and Village expansion subject to a municipal comprehensive review to conform with the Greenbelt Plan and the Growth Plan.
Some site specific requests were for boundary or designation changes beyond those described in the site specific approach outlined above. Requests were received in areas identified as Specialty Crop (Niagara Peninsula Tender Fruit and Grape Area) in the Greenbelt and in the Oak Ridges Moraine. Those requests have been reviewed and no boundary or designation changes are proposed in response to these requests.
Specialty crop lands are some of the rarest agricultural lands in Ontario and, due to their location, have the potential to grow a wide range of crops that cannot be grown anywhere else in the province. Specialty crop lands are a finite resource that cannot be replicated elsewhere in Ontario, and therefore, receive a high level of protection in land use planning policies.
The Oak Ridges Moraine is an important landscape that supports a rich ecosystem and provides clean water to residents across the Greater Toronto Area. The protection of the ecological and hydrological integrity of the Oak Ridges Moraine area means considering not only what is on the surface and visible but also what is below the surface and not visible.
The government is committed to protecting the ecological and hydrological features and functions of the Oak Ridges Moraine that support the health and well-being of the region’s residents and ecosystems.
Based on a review of all the submissions received, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs is proposing minor changes to the Greenbelt boundary related to lands where the Greenbelt Area boundary either includes lands that have urban designations or is defined in large part by the Natural Heritage System.
The purpose of the proposed amendments to the regulation is to:
- Adjust the Greenbelt Area boundary to reflect matters that were already in the planning process prior to the creation of the Greenbelt Plan and therefore allowed to continue;
- Adjust the Greenbelt Area boundary in the Town of Halton Hills to reflect the actual boundary of the Glen Williams Hamlet; and
- Adjust the Greenbelt Area boundary in response to landowner concerns about the accuracy of the Greenbelt Area mapping.
The Greenbelt Act, 2005 states that the total Greenbelt Area cannot be reduced. The minor changes in this proposal are significantly smaller than any additions proposed as part of the May 2016 Environmental Registry posting. For example, the 21 river valleys and associated coastal wetlands proposed to be added in May 2016 equal approximately 9,000 hectares. By comparison, the net total of the lands proposed for removal as part of this proposal is approximately 58 hectares.
Proposed Boundary Changes Related to Transition Areas
The Greenbelt Act, 2005 and Greenbelt Plan contain transition provisions to reflect applications, matters or proceedings that began before the establishment of the Greenbelt Plan. As part of the proposed Greenbelt Plan, boundary changes were proposed in three areas (Hamilton, Vaughan, Clarington) in the May 2016 Environmental Registry posting (EBR Registry Number 012-7198). As a result of that consultation, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs heard from several municipalities that a few locations were missed, which also proceeded due to those same transition provisions. After careful analysis of those requests, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs is proposing additional boundary changes in Burlington, Vaughan, Markham and Pickering to align with municipal official plans and existing urban boundaries, as outlined in the attached maps.
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs is also proposing to adjust the Greenbelt Area boundary in the Town of Halton Hills to better reflect the actual boundary of the Glen Williams Hamlet. This proposal includes a minor mapping change to the Greenbelt Area to add a small area of land next to the east side of the Hamlet.
Proposed Minor Boundary Changes related to the Greenbelt Natural Heritage System
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs, supported by relevant ministries, reviewed technical information relating to more than 150 requests where the boundary was defined in large part by the Natural Heritage System.
Submissions were reviewed against the original methodology and rationale for mapping the Natural Heritage System when the Greenbelt was created in 2005. The analysis considered information received from landowners, as well as provincial Natural Heritage System data, aerial and Land Information Ontario maps, conservation authority data, and municipal official plan and Natural Heritage System data.
The definition of the Natural Heritage System and River Valley Corridors is described in the following public documents:
- Greenbelt Plan, 2005;
- Proposed Greenbelt Plan, 2016;
- Technical Definitions and Criteria for Key Natural Heritage Features in the Natural Heritage System of the Protected Countryside Area (Technical Paper 1), 2012; and
- Ministry of Municipal Affairs website: Building a Greenbelt (2004-05), Identifying Natural Heritage Systems in the Golden Horseshoe.
A number of overarching considerations also guided the review, including:
- Avoiding boundary changes that would fragment farmland, including prime agricultural lands;
- Maintaining a robust Natural Heritage System that can be supported despite urbanization occurring in proximity and downstream to the Greenbelt;
- Respecting the functional connections in the Natural Heritage System;
- Valuing the overall objectives of the Greenbelt as a landscape and avoiding a minimalist approach to defining the Natural Heritage System; and
- Being responsive to landowner requests to evaluate site specific situations.
Based on the technical review, the proposed minor changes, to the Greenbelt Area boundary (as outlined in the attached maps) include:
- Adjusting the boundary where both natural heritage and agriculture provide the rationale for the boundary line;
- Harmonizing the Greenbelt boundary with the Oak Ridges Moraine Area boundary in situations where the Oak Ridges Moraine Area boundary is defined by the 245 metre contour line (subsection 2(4) of the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan);
- Removing major institutional, commercial and industrial structures from the Greenbelt where the boundary currently runs through a structure; and
- Recognizing situations where existing road infrastructure forms the functional Natural Heritage System boundary.