So we’re supposed to rest easy with the OMB-approved county Official Plan on the way? Right??
When you drink tap water, take a shower and swim in a local lake, you want that water to be clean and safe.
This is why the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition is asking the province to expand Ontario’s Greenbelt in our area.
“People get behind the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan. This is just the next logical step,” said coalition co-chair-person Margaret Prophet.
Ontario’s Greenbelt is a 1.8-million-acre parcel of protected farmland, wetland and forest stretching from the Greater Toronto Area north to Tobermory. In Simcoe County, the Greenbelt covers Holland Marsh crop areas in Bradford West Gwillimbury and Innisfil as well as portions of Adjala-Tosorontio and New Tecumseth.
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing spokesperson Conrad Spezowka said the province is committed to growing the Greenbelt. In the spring, the ministry completed a series of public consultations to review four provincial growth plans and to consider Greenbelt expansion.
“Municipal interest to date has been on adding urban river valleys within existing urban areas. This builds on the Greenbelt Plan amendment, which recognizes urban river valleys as important connections to the Great Lakes and will help municipalities in identifying possible areas for Greenbelt expansion,” Spezowska said
Proposed amendments will come forward in the winter of 2016, he added.
More than 100 community groups, including the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition and Ontario Greenbelt Alliance, have asked the province to nearly double the size of the Greenbelt to add 1.5 million acres of land containing vital water resources. In Simcoe County this includes almost 300,000 hectares of land covering the Lake Simcoe watershed, the Oro Moraine, the Nottawasaga River Wetlands, which supply and purify clean drinking water for most resident of the county, Prophet said.
“We’re hoping at the lest the vulnerable water areas of Simcoe County would be protected,” she added. “Only a portion of the Lake Simcoe watershed is protected.”
Cheryl Shindruk, a member of the Midhurst Landowners Group, declined comment on the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition’s plan to grow the greenbelt. The landowners group is made up of five development companies.
“When the Crombie report is made public, we will consider its recommendations and make comment if necessary, but we will not be commenting on any individual submissions from any group to the Crombie panel,” Shindruk said.
David Crombie chairs the six-member provincial growth plan review panel.
The Barrie Advance requested an interview with a County of Simcoe representative regarding the greenbelt expansion. In a prepared statement, Warden Gerry Marshall said the county does not comment on matters between the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition and the province. He provided a stateme4nt about the county’s planning policies.
Marshall said the county’s updated official plan, under review at the Ontario Municipal Board, would expand the amount of protected green lands, significantly increase protection of wetland areas and protect farmland.
“The county is setting density targets with fixed boundaries for all settlement areas,” he added.
“Once approved, Simcoe County would have some of the most stringent land use protection policies and designations in the province. These are very strong planning policies that provide a responsible balance to protect our lands and resources, while fostering growth by creating new regional transportation options, supporting economic prosperity and encouraging healthy, vibrant communities,” Marshall said.
During the next 26 years, the county’s population will expand by 164,703 residents and the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition questions what this means for our water supply. Prophet said greenbelt protection would ensure the water remains healthy throughout development.
“If we really want Simcoe County to grow in a sensible way, to make sure what we have now is preserved for future generations or even healthier than what we have, then now is the time to stand behind our water because once it’s compromised it’s compromised,” she said.
Margaret Prophet, co-chair of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition. SUBMITTED PHOTO
It said they would “not be able to handle much more effluent without he water quality being compromised and that was back nine years ago,” she said.
And we already see evidence the county’s water quality and supply is declining with summer water restrictions and beach closures, she added.
“Those things have started to impact our daily life and those are indicators that the water isn’t plentiful, or necessarily healthy in our area.”
Water restrictions have been commonplace in Barrie, Springwater and Orillia. This past summer, Thornton issued a water ban when water supply reached critical levels, Prophet noted.
Note: The public record shows the connections between the Midhurst Secondary Plan, Midhurst Landowners’ Group, Geranium Corporation and Ms. Shindruk. There are some related articles here about these relationships.