Last chance coming for public comment on Land Use Draft

Shirley Boxem, chair of the North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Taskforce (NDACT), reminded the audience at NDACT’s annual general meeting (AGM) last Thursday, July 28, that the Province’s Co-ordinated Land Use Planning Review only occurs once every 10 years and the last chance for public comment will be September 30th.

Speaking to a crowded hall in the Horning’s Mills Community Centre, Ms. Boxem said, “As we go through policy changes, public opinion does matter.”

She noted that 50 % of the responses to the recent review of the Aggregate Resources Act mentioned protection of farm land and water, with specific reference to NDACT’s  legacy movement Food and Water First.

Keynote speaker Victor Doyle, from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, addressed the Draft and what changes it holds for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, including expansion of protected lands and water under the Green Belt and the Niagara Escarpment Commission.

He advised residents that to control urban expansion, they must identify important water function areas when addressing the government.

Ms. Boxem said she believes “we are in the homestretch, and the mandate of NDACT will be fulfilled in the foreseeable future.”

However, the evening was not without concern regarding the proposed Land Use Planning legislation. In response to a question from the audience, Mr. Doyle confirmed that the legislation did not address or change anything about aggregate applications – that remained “status quo.”

Mulmur Councillor Janet Horner, Dufferin’s representative on the Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) and Executive Director of the Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance, expressed serious concern about the financial repercussions for Dufferin posed by an increase in protected NEC lands proposed in the Land Use Planning Review Draft.

She said “conservation land tax rebates” to taxpayers living in the Niagara Escarpment protection areas could grow to a $800,000 annual loss to Mulmur Township, making it very difficult for the municipality to fund necessary services for residents without significant land tax increases.

Ms. Horner also predicted financial consequences for areas of Melancthon and said the County of Dufferin could take a financial hit of $1000,000 in tax rebates should the expansion go through.

She said Mulmur already provides high protection for the escarpment and questioned the benefits of the expansion to the citizens.

Dufferin’s lower-tier municipalities needed to “take a close look at this (planned expansion of the Niagara Escarpment) and make sure that compensation is provided.”

Mr. Doyle responded that he was certain this concern would “get the attention of politicians.” 

In terms of climate change, Mr. Doyle stressed, “What we do locally effects us globally. … Canada has already paved over one-third of its agricultural land and must start planning hundreds of years into the future.”

He praised NDACT saying, “Food and Water First has sent a resounding message across the province” and the community “should be very proud.”

Public submissions on the Coordinated Land Use Planning Review Draft are due no later than September 30th.

By Marni Walsh
Published in the Orangeville Citizen, Aug. 4, 2016