ERIN ‒ While staff is unsure the town can meet its future growth needs if the province stands by its decision to expand the Greenbelt further into Erin, some councillors believe it's more important to look at the "bigger picture."
In a new report, town staff recommended council endorse a letter stating there is "no technical rationale" for the provincial government to retain approximately 7,100 acres of Greenbelt it added to Erin last year to minimize the removal of 15 parcels of land from the provincial Greenbelt, that it's now proposing to re-add.
However, when it came down to a vote, three of five councillors said while they felt the province's process was "poorly thought out," they wouldn't call the expansion unnecessary.
"I would welcome everyone to look from a bird's eye view at what's going on with climate change," said Coun. Bridget Ryan, who, alongside Coun. Cathy Aylard, was against endorsing the letter. "This buffer is key to climate mitigation and...of course, I'm concerned for our constituents here but I also think we have to look at the really big picture."
In the letter, town staff claim the Greenbelt Plan was primarily developed to contain growth pressures from the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Areas, is doing its job "reasonably well," and is not under threat of urban development, which would warrant additional protection.
They also say the current provincial and county land use planning framework already achieves a high level of protection for agricultural lands, the natural environment, and groundwater resources.
In addition to their concerns, staff said several residents have also expressed "displeasure" with the province's process for expanding the Greenbelt boundary onto their properties.
"I'm not sure how much traction this is going to have with the province but I think we need to register a protest on behalf of the people who have been affected in these 7,000+ acres because it does place additional impositions and restrictions on them in terms of what they can and can't do with their properties," said Coun. John Brennan, who endorsed the letter, alongside Coun. Jamie Cheyne.
But Mayor Michael Dehn said he doesn't feel the town is protecting rural areas enough with their official plans and suggested council consider using its greenbelt responsibilities as "a carrot" with the province for help with other responsibilities.
"The more and more severances I see where there's just somebody putting a house in the middle of the cornfield, just kind've irks me," said Dehn. "The more protection we can put on some of this land, the better it is for the health of the community, maybe not the individual land owner (but) at some point we have to look out for everybody here."
Isabel Buckmaster is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for GuelphToday. LJI is a federally-funded program.
Isabel Buckmaster, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com