PICKERING -- Whitevale residents aren't willing to give up their quiet, quaint community without a fight.
The small hamlet on Concession Road 5, nestled just east of Altona Road, is also set to neighbour the future Seaton development. Seaton is a provincial development that's expected to attract 70,000 people and 35,000 jobs and will include schools, neighbourhood parks and mixed-use buildings.
A group of Whitevale residents attended the April 26 special council meeting in an attempt to keep the development from sprawling into the village.
After lengthy discussions and Ontario Municipal Board hearings, the City, the Province, the Seaton landowners and the Toronto and Region Conservation came up with the latest plans. By May 1, council was required to endorse the neighbourhood plans for Seaton or, according to Pickering staff, the item would most likely be challenged at the Ontario Municipal Board. City planners said this challenge could result in the Province going back to the initial plans, ones the City didn't favour.
“From my perspective I certainly wouldn't want to go back to the initial plans,” said planning and development director Neil Carroll.
Lloyd Thomas, president of the Whitevale and District Residents Association, listed a number of concerns with the latest plans that include elementary schools and neighbourhood parks in the buffer area, an expanded bridge on Whitevale Road, and a sewer system that will service Seaton but not Whitevale.
Mr. Thomas was concerned to learn the bypass that's meant to divert traffic around the village is set to go up after construction starts.
“We need the bypass before the construction starts,” he said. “You have to look at everything together.”
Residents fear if the bypass goes in after construction begins, drivers will get used to travelling through the quiet village instead of bypassing it.
Mr. Thomas and the other residents shared a common concern: development encroaching the buffer area. They felt schools and neighbourhood parks set to be built in the buffer area will take away from its natural significance.
“Parks with ... swings and cement just doesn't seem to cut it,” Mr. Thomas said.
Resident Mark Lowe expressed similar concerns.
“We're not standing here saying we don't want development, but when looking outside from in the hamlet, we don't want to see sprawl,” he said.
Mr. Lowe moved into Whitevale in 2005 and knew of the plans for Seaton, but said the neighbourhood is a complete turnaround from original ideas.
“There has been a 180-degree shift in the thought of what that buffer should be used for,” he said.
Other concerns included plans for the “monster bridge” planned to cross Duffins Creek, which has been damaged and deteriorating over the years and needs to be replaced.
“It's way bigger than what this town really needs,” Marion Thomas said.
Pickering chief administrative officer Tony Prevedel said the bridge is currently undergoing an environmental assessment and is envisioned as a two-lane bridge with a sidewalk on both sides.
The City's consultants assured they've fought for what the City and residents have shown concern over. And council agreed the City should continue the fight and supported amendments presented by Ward 3 City Councillor David Pickles.
Council accepted the plans in a four-to-three vote to keep them from the OMB, but stipulated that Whitevale should be given the opportunity to hook up to the sanitary sewers if residents choose, bypass construction be included in phase one of development and to let the Province know current buffer uses are inappropriate.
PICKERING -- Although the issue wasn't formally discussed by council at the latest planning and development meeting, a number of residents spoke against the Region's proposed urban expansion into undeveloped northeast Pickering lands.
The area, north of Hwy. 7 and west of Lakeridge Road, includes the headwaters of Carruthers Creek.
The Region of Durham included future plans to develop the land in its Growth Plan submission to the Province, and Pickering backed it.
At the June 7 meeting, Ward 2 Regional Councillor Bonnie Littley attempted to ask council to withdraw its support of the Region's plans by introducing a motion, but the committee didn't vote to even hear it.
She had hoped Pickering would change its position before the issue went to the Region's planning committee Tuesday. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing in March asked the Region to remove its plan to develop the land, but the Regional committee ignored the ministry's request at Tuesday's meeting.
“We are not translating efforts in sustainability into sustainable land-use practices,” Coun. Littley said after the Pickering meeting. “We are continuing business as usual development policies.”
Environmental lawyer Brian Buckles of the Greendoor Alliance was among those who spoke at the Pickering meeting, calling the Region's planning “immature”.
He also criticized the Region's projection of only 16,500 jobs in Seaton by 2031, while it still maintains its plan for 70,000 new residents. Pickering council has adamantly pushed for 35,000 jobs in Seaton.
“Use of such a low number is being used as an attempt to demonstrate the need for additional urban area expansion in northeast Pickering,” he said.
Ward 3 City Councillor David Pickles noted the Region argues it probably won't get the 35,000 jobs by 2031, but still aims for that number as its ultimate buildout.
Coun. Littley plans to address the issue at Regional Council June 23.
In the 1970s, the Province acquired about 12,000 acres in Pickering, to build a new community, adjacent to the proposed new airport.
In 1999, the Province reached an agreement with the City for the sale of lands on the west side of the West Duffins Creek in the area known as the "Agricultural Assembly". The agreement (among other matters) allowed the Ontario Realty Corporation to sell land to private interests but with Agricultural Easements.
In late 2001, the Province announced that to acquire and preserve lands on the Oak Ridges Moraine in York Region, it would exchange those lands for provincial lands on the east side of the West Duffins Creek in Pickering, in the area known as Seaton.
Many details about the land swap are still not clear. I have emphasized that the swap process be fair and transparent, protect environmentally significant areas, and be subject to full review and input by Pickering Council and residents.
The Province also put in place a rarely used Order under the Ontario Planning and Development Act. That Order covers the provincial Seaton lands, as well as privately owned lands to the west, in and around Cherrywood. The Order gives the Minister the right to prepare and approve a "development plan" for these lands. The Act also gives the Minister a great deal of discretion in deciding how the plan is to be prepared, and the manner and extent to which the community and Pickering Council may be consulted. City Council is on record as opposing this Order as well as a "zoning order" the Province placed on the agricultural assembly lands.
In March 2005, Pickering Council, as part of a settlement of litigation against the City, agreed to convert agricultural easements into Inhibiting Orders for lands within the southerly portion of the Agricultural Assembly in the area that Council recommended for future urban development through the City's Growth Management Study (known as the Cherrywood area). Inhibiting Orders provide the same level of control as agricultural easements. The Province passed special legislation to re-instate the agricultural easements and fix loopholes in Provincial legislation that were the basis for litigation against the City.
The Province hired a consulting team and prepared and released in early 2006 a plan for these lands, despite the fact that the City had prepared a Growth Management Study for the very same lands. In May 2006, the Province approved the Central Pickering Development Plan.
The Province also undertook a Class Environmental Assessment on its proposed land exchange. The City and a number of residents requested that the Province undertake a more rigorous individual environmental assessment, which was denied.
In 2002 Council decided to undertake a study of lands in Central Pickering south of Highway 7, including the provincial Seaton lands and the privately owned lands to the west known as the "Agricultural Assembly" / "Cherrywood" area.
A consulting team lead by Dillon Consulting Limited was hired to undertake the Study. The purpose of the Study was to determine how to accommodate Pickering's future requirements for jobs and population in central Pickering, in a manner that protects and enhances the natural and cultural heritage of the area, and best meets the other "smart-growth" objectives identified in the study terms of reference.
The Study was divided into three phases. Phases 1 and 2 are now complete. In June 2004, at the conclusion of Phase 2, Council endorsed a Structure Plan for the lands, and directed staff to prepare the required official plan amendments. Council adopted these amendments in December 2004, and forwarded them to the Region of Durham for approval. These amendments are now redundant with the approval by the Province of the Central Pickering Development Plan.
Phase 3 of the City's Growth Management Study is still underway. It involves the preparation of sustainable neighbourhood design guidelines, and will be applicable to the development of Seaton. This phase is being completed with the assistance of a grant from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities under their Green Municipal Fund. The guidelines will examine various elements of sustainability, including building design, energy efficiency, stormwater management and sustainable transportation. For more information on this project, please visit sustainablepickering.com.
I have supported the study on the basis that we need a "made in Pickering plan" for central Pickering to ensure that we the residents get to shape our community. I have not supported all aspects of the study and I am emphasizing the need for public involvement, participation, openness and accountability in addressing these land use issues.
The Cherrywood area of the City's Growth Management Study is now affected by the Province's Greenbelt legislation (see below). Despite the City's recommendation to allow development on some of these lands, the provincial greenbelt legislation designates the lands as permanent countryside.
The original Terms of Reference for the Growth Management Study was prepared by City staff with the assistance of a Working Group including myself, the Mayor, external agency staff from the Region of Durham and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, the Province of Ontario, landowners in the Study Area, and local community groups.
The provincial government's Greenbelt Plan became law on February 24, 2005. It protects 1.8 million acres of land in the Golden Horseshoe from development (an area larger than Prince Edward Island) including lands within the Niagara Escarpment and Oak Ridges Moraine. The greenbelt extends 325 kilometres from the eastern end of the Oak Ridges Moraine near Rice Lake, to the Niagara River in the west. It is about 80 kilometres wide at its widest point from the mouth the Rouge River to the northern tip of Durham Region.
Pickering Council supports the concept of a permanent greenbelt in the Golden Horseshoe. However, Council did not support the exact delineation of the greenbelt area (which the Province included as greenbelt despite City Council's recommendation to allow urban development in this area) and in the area around Greenwood. Additional information on the Provincial Greenbelt can be found by clicking on the link below.
I will be monitoring the impact of the Green Belt legislation on Pickering residents. As an example of the impact of such provincial regulation is the difficulty that existing Cherrywood East residents have in making improvements to their properties.
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