Durham Region will expand its urban boundaries by more than 9,000 acres.
Councillors representing the Regional Municipality of Durham voted in favour of a developer-backed plan to build housing on what is now farmland in spite of vociferous opposition from community and environmental groups and some municipalities within the region.
Durham, east of Toronto, encompasses Ajax, Brock, Clarington, Oshawa, Pickering, Scugog, Uxbridge and Whitby.
Ajax Mayor Shaun Collier released a statement earlier this month firmly against the boundary expansion, noting regional planning staff objected to the plan, which opens a larger area for development than what staff say is needed.
The province loses 70 hectares — about 173 acres — of farmland to development every day, according to the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.
“This loss is unsustainable, period,” wrote Collier. “It is derailing greenhouse gas emissions goals, impacting finite resources and natural heritage, causing flooding issues and damage, reducing local food production and triggering undue financial stress on municipalities.”
Ajax council worries about development in the Carruthers Creek headwaters, an ecologically sensitive area not included in a recent Greenbelt expansion plan. Studies have suggested development in the area could cause flooding downstream in Ajax.
Communities throughout the Greater Toronto Area are scrambling to meet a July 1 provincial deadline to devise land use plans that accommodate expected population growth or face the province making the decisions for them.
The Progressive Conservative government has consistently pushed for larger urban areas and a home-building blitz to tackle a housing crisis that only promises to worsen in the coming years. Critics argue the housing problem can’t be solved by a mere construction boom, but rather requires a wide range of measures that take into account the need to protect the environment and agricultural land and minimize urban footprints.
Hamilton and Halton Region voted against expanding urban boundaries, to the chagrin of provincial Housing Minister Steve Clark. Recently, Peel Region elected to grow its boundaries by 11,000 acres.
Councillors representing the Regional Municipality of Durham voted in favour of a developer-backed plan to build housing on what is now farmland in spite of vociferous opposition. #OnPoli