A development approvals swap – where permission to develop new housing is transferred from the Maple Lake Estates wetland and significant woodland property to a more appropriate location – could be the answer we are looking for to protect the North Gwillimbury Forest.
So it is good news that discussions of how such a swap might take place finally got underway last week, with a first meeting between North Gwillimbury Forest Alliance, the Town of Georgina, the Region of York, the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and Metrus Developments.
It is no secret that there are at least two options: move the development to farmland on the south side of Deer Park Drive that is also owned by Metrus.
Or incorporate additional development in Keswick, where Metrus also owns property.
We see a number of disadvantages with the first option. The land on the south-side of Deer Park Drive is farmland approximately one kilometre away from the north end of the area designated for urban growth in Keswick. It is also within the Greenbelt Plan Protected Countryside. So any development there has the potential to be classic urban sprawl located away from existing municipal services and urban areas.
This kind of development is costly: the Town of Georgina estimates that it currently recovers only 43% of the cost of accommodating such “greenfield” development through development charges. The shortfall is recovered by raising our property taxes.
It is also unhealthy, with study after study showing that such isolated car-dependent communities lead to longer commutes, more stress and reduced physical activity.
The second option which puts additional development where it is meant to be – inside the lands designated for urban growth in Keswick – will help Georgina meet both Regional and Provincial targets for creating more sustainable communities. It will also help to create a more vibrant and fully integrated community around Keswick instead of another standalone subdivision.
This is why we will be at the negotiating table talking about how to make any development approvals swap a win-win by both protecting natural areas in our forest and creating healthy, liveable communities that don’t eat up important farmland or undermine the Greenbelt.
You can help by contacting Mayor Grossi and Georgina councillors and encouraging them to also support a vision of a liveable, well planned urban community located within Keswick’s existing urban growth boundaries.
Please pass the message on to your friends.
Chair, North Gwillimbury Forest Alliance
416-260-2080 ext. 2