Proposed greenbelt taking shape

Task force hears from Halton area residents before submitting recommendations

John Burman - The Hamilton Spectator - June 17, 2004

The task force advising the Ontario government on the greenbelt proposed to run from Niagara to Rice Lake has decided the corridor must not be simply a holding area for future development.

And the task force, or its chair, Burlington Mayor Rob MacIsaac, believe the connected green spaces should never be used for utility or transportation corridors.

"What we are trying to do is define what should not go there," MacIsaac told about 200 people at the Burlington Convention Centre during the sixth and final public meeting for submissions before the task force makes recommendations to the minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing near the end of July.

In December, the province froze development while it establishes where the greenbelt should go by prohibiting any changes to agriculturally-zoned land in the area for a year.

MacIsaac said before the session began last night that the response to the task force and its discussions has been generally positive in meetings from Durham to Milton to |St. Catharines and, finally, Burlington.

At some of the meetings, farmers have objected to the idea of the greenbelt being one more thing foisted on them by government.

Indeed, last night one man who identified himself as a north Halton farmer calmly asked the task force to recommend the province compensate landowners for loss of equity, production use and heritage if their lands are affected by it.

MacIsaac told the audience the task force recognizes the agricultural industry is under intense pressure from population growth and will be recommending the province set up a task force to look at farming across the province and make recommendations.

MacIsaac said earlier he believes such a task force is one of the most important recommendations the group will make.

While there was some concern last night about a loss of farmland, there was also strong support for the greenbelt and its expansion to include Oakville's newly designated natural heritage system lands, and a large parcel of Ontario Realty Corporation lands west of Sixteen Mile Creek. Environmental groups Oakvillegreen, the Clean Air Coalition and Conservation Halton chair Jean Williams supported the idea.

"We need nature in our neighbourhoods," said Williams.

Conservation Halton has asked the province to turn the Ontario Realty Corporation land over to the authority for a "large park."

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