16, 2004: The final town hall meeting on the proposed
Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt packed the Caledon Community Complex,
just north of Brampton, last week. Many of the locals at the
microphones were landowners and farmers, visibly unhappy at
being caught in the proposed million-acre greenbelt, a swath
of farmland and natural landscape sweeping well beyond our
cities clustered on the western shore of Lake Ontario.
These citizens are being asked to give up the expectation
of future financial gain from one last crop of houses. For
Presumably to break the pattern of urban sprawl. But our
province’s “Places to Grow” agenda enshrines
First, depending on whom you talk to, there are between 100,000
to 200,000 acres of mostly good farmland already designated
for sprawl in existing municipal official plans. The greenbelt
proposal leaves another 175,000 acres bordering development
boundaries out of the greenbelt – enough land to keep
sprawling for another two generations – most of it better
quality farmland than the proposed greenbelt lands.
Second, our province has announced a policy of giving priority
access to infrastructure money to those cities with a proven
track record of growing fast – in other words, the best
sprawlers on farmland get first dibs. Breaking the pattern
of sprawl requires a different approach to infrastructure
policy. Cities should get first dibs if they deliver on higher
density, redevelop brownfields, match jobs to homes and maintain
greenbelts within their own boundaries.
Presumably, country folk are being asked to forego the expectation
of a financially secure retirement for the greater good –
a noble experiment purporting to create stronger communities,
healthier Ontarians and a better quality of life. But no policies
have been set in place to create a greenbelt economy or community
will be the biggest “beneficiaries” on bleary-eyed
mornings and tired evenings as they commute from leap-frog
sprawl in Brant, Simcoe and Wellington counties to their jobs
in Toronto and its satellite cities.
proposed greenbelt policies welcome 400-series highways, gravel
pits, dumps and assumes the continuation of the oil economy
– a great way to fire the imagination.
are no policies to ensure the emergence of a thriving greenbelt
economy. Without public investment the greenbelt lands will
offer only one certain future: folks with money will buy up
farms and turn them into 100-acres estates – a gated,
and private, paradise.
proposed greenbelt is too far from urban cores to fire the
imagination of big city residents. To appreciate means knowing.
A million acres will take lifetimes to know. Size of green
space doesn’t matter the way quality and accessibility
do. The Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt is a green too far.
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