York Region Committee of the Whole has denied a request to amend Georgina’s Official Plan to prohibit development on Provincially Significant Wetland in the North Gwillimbury Forest.
At the heart of the dispute are the Maple Lake Estates (MLE) lands that are located on the Paradise Beach-Island Grove, Jack Gibbons, Chair, North Gwillimbury Forest Alliance, writes below:
Article by Jack Gibbons
Photo: Photographs by Jane Denise
In her written report to York Region Committee of the Whole on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016, the Region’s Chief Planner, Valerie Shuttleworth, asserted that there were transition provisions and Minutes of Settlement associated with the York Region Official Plan that would "protect" the MLE approvals. Our lawyer, Leo Longo, disputed this assertion. In response to questioning from Regional Councillor John Taylor of Newmarket, Ms. Shuttleworth admitted that Mr. Longo was correct — there are no such provisions.
But this astounding piece of misinformation didn’t seem to deter councillors from still looking for ways to justify allowing development in a provincially significant wetland (PSW).
Mayor Quirk of Georgina and Mayor Dawe of Aurora claimed that an October 2004 letter from the Ministry of Natural Resources to Metrus Developments exempts the MLE lands from the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) prohibition of development on PSWs. However, the Mayors failed to note that in March 2015, in response to an inquiry from the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA), the Ministry of Natural Resources rescinded its October 2004 letter to Metrus Developments. We have, of course, drawn attention to this letter many times, yet Mayor Quirk insists Town staff have never seen it.
Furthermore, Ms. Shuttleworth asserted that MLE is exempt from the PPS's wetland protection policies because it is designated as “Towns and Villages” in the province's Greenbelt Plan. This claim is also false. There is not one single sentence in the Greenbelt Plan that states that provincially significant wetlands located in areas designated "Towns and Villages" are exempt from the PPS prohibition on development in such sensitive areas. In fact, the Towns and Villages designation in the Greenbelt Plan simply means that normal planning rules apply in such areas — including and especially the PPS.
In response to Ms. Shuttleworth’s recommendation, Regional Council voted to approve the Georgina Plan, which permits the 1,073 unit MLE subdivision on the Paradise Beach-Island Grove Provincially Significant Wetland in the North Gwillimbury Forest.
Mayor Quirk says we must simply accept that DG Group has the right to proceed with this development and be resigned to whatever poor compromise is available to try to save the wetland, namely, a development approvals swap that would allow the DG Group to build a subdivision on prime farmlands in the Greenbelt between Deer Park and Boyers Road.
But this is simply not true since our local politicians have two better options to save the North Gwillimbury Forest. First, the Region of York can amend Georgina’s Official Plan to prohibit development on the MLE lands. Second, the LSRCA can refuse to provide the DG Group with the Section 28 permit that it would need to proceed with the MLE mobile home park.
For Mayor Quirk’s and the DG Group’s preferred solution to proceed, the provincial government would also have to agree to remove prime farmlands from the Greenbelt Protected Countryside. This would set a terrible precedent for Greenbelt protection when there are plenty of more sensible solutions available.
So essentially, Mayor Quirk is suggesting that we pave over prime agricultural lands to compensate DG Group for relinquishing 30-year-old development approvals that are of no value if our planning rules are properly followed. It’s a bad deal and not one we need to accept.
This matter will be brought back to Regional Council on Thursday, October 20th for a final vote.
Chair, North Gwillimbury Forest Alliance
416-260-2080 ext. 2
Photo: Photographs by Jane Denise