Wednesday, April 22, 2009

News/Hotspots Severe Leapfrog Development Pressure in Brant County

Brant County looks like a donut with Brantford in the middle. It has the Paris-Galt Moraine in the north end and prime farmland throughout that is seriously threatened by development and must be protected. Brant County abuts the Greenbelt on its western edge. Policy makers predicted severe leapfrog pressure in this area when the Greenbelt was being formed and Ontario Ministry of Transportation officials admit that the farming community is scheduled for extreme growth pressure.

Brantford is surrounded by a provincially legislated no-build zone. This zone, created in 1979 serves as Brantford’s very own form of “greenbelt”. Developers now want to pave over portions of this greenbelt, and the farmland between the no-build zone eastward to the Hamilton boundary.

The city of Brantford, interested developers, some pro-development politicians and a truckers’ lobby are also pushing for a provincial highway to connect Highways 401 and 403 (officially titled the Brantford to Cambridge Transportation Corridor). This highway would cause severe leapfrog development and convert Brant County farmland into Mississauga type sprawl. This highway is opposed by groups such as the STOP 424, the Smart Coalition and Sustainable Brant.

Sustainable Brant is a grassroots group that grew out of Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario, a member of the Greenbelt Alliance. Sustainable Brant monitors development pressures and works to protect farmland. They also review creative initiatives that people are taking to protect farmland, such as creating conservation easements, and setting up land trusts and co-op farms. The group is planning a conference in the future to address leapfrog development pressure in hotspots outside of the Greenbelt. For more information, contact ehaley@gmail.com or 519-647-0040.

The Brant-Hamilton-Halton chapter of the National Farmers Union of Ontario is petitioning to “greenbelt” all of Southern Ontario. Sustainable Brant’s petition challenges the new rules for growing the Greenbelt - rules that leave the request up to the local municipality, and asks the provincial government to consider the requests of citizen groups and conservation authorities to grow the Greenbelt.

Sustainable Planning for Brant County

For Earth Week, we would like to share a plan that was prepared by Sustainable Brant as a submission to the Official Plan on consultation with residents throughout the county, over a two year period. The residents come from Paris, Glen Morris, Oakland, St. George, Burford, Scotland, Cainsville, Six Nations, Langford, Onondaga, Mt. Pleasant, South Dumfries, the Airport/Oakhill Settlement Area and Tutela Heights.

We treasure Brant’s agricultural roots, want to preserve its rural nature and communities, and want to protect the environment, while promoting a sustainable economy. Here is a summary of our ideas for the revision of Brant County’s Official Plan.

Protect Farmland: protect our local environment and farmland to ensure the health and quality of life of present and future generations. Include Brant County in the Greenbelt.

Protect our environment: Conserve energy and water, protect our watershedsand reduce our waste.

Protect our cultural heritage and community infrastructure in the towns and in the small farming communities, including schoolhouses and community halls.

Plan for a more sustainable and healthy local economy that builds upon our agricultural economy and natural areas.
• Learn from our past and Brantford’s history of brownfields and restrict development to “clean jobs” that do not pollute our air, water or soil.
• Plan for a post-carbon economy where we reduce our reliance on oil.
• Ensure that all new construction uses low-energy building techniques.
• Foster local and value-added economies where our dollars stay within the community and help other local businesses.
• Foster the development of more business and housing cooperatives to protect our county from the effects of the recession.

Make travel more sustainable.
• Plan sustainable transportation to move people and goods.
• No more new highways on farmland.
• Plan for more walkable communities.
• Promote teleworking, video conferencing and web conferencing, and public transport to reduce the use of cars.

Limit growth to preserve the nature of Brant County.
• Keep new development within the existing urban settlement area boundaries.
• Keep the existing provincially legislated “standstill”/no-build necklace around Brantford. This is our “greenbelt”.

Be fiscally responsible – spend within our means.
• Follow Guelph’s example and reduce the growth numbers.
• Do not privatize our infrastructure, no private-public-partnerships.

Democracy:
• Make county planning documents more accessible and readable.
• Do not restrict the public from making delegations to council.