…, when the province interferes with the local planning and public consultation process.
Many of us are experiencing a new appreciation for the outdoors and green space during COVID. We all understand that life is about balance, and enjoyment of the outdoors gives us that balance.
As the GTA grows, balance is just as important for our creeks, watersheds and wetlands which are increasingly stressed in their ability to function due to development. Complicated further by Climate Change or unusual extreme weather.
Our natural systems have value, they are our “natural capital”. They prevent flooding protecting property and lives, clean our drinking water, provide tree coverage for clean air and provide wildlife with a place to live.
They are irreplaceable and costly when tampered with.
To date, the Province has initiated 33 MZO’s (Ministers Zoning Order), more than the previous government did in their 15 yr term. Six were for industrial/commercial, distribution centres.
What’s an MZO and why are they so popular?
An MZO takes away the planning authority from local municipalities and places it in the hands of the province to fast track development. Historically used in emergencies such as in Elliott Lake to replace their grocery store which was lost in the collapse of a mall. MZO’s circumvent the planning process and public consultation process. Cutting the “RED TAPE” promised by this government during the last election.
Developers understand the message the province is sending. They can build without approvals. Don’t have to worry about public concerns, road access, traffic issues, infrastructure or protecting the environment. Hence the popularity.
However, development comes at a cost for taxpayers when good planning practices are ignored.
An MZO was requested by Pickering on behalf of the land owner of the Durham Live/Casino lands.
Prior to the Minister approving the MZO, the Province discussed the importance of entering into agreements with the landowner for the Region of Durham and Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA).
While the Casino development is progressing it’s 15 months late than it’s anticipated opening of April 2021. Zoned to facilitate this “Tourist Destination” on the Casino lands east of Squires Beach Road, the MZO now includes a high rise development of over 1600 residences and a film studio.
On lands to the west of Squires Beach Rd. the MZO includes a distribution centre , paving over 57 acres of Provincial Significant Wetland(PSW) , protected by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF). The Minister of MNRF requested that TRCA come to an agreement with the landowner for compensation costs of developing the PSW. However, only the Minister himself can declassify the importance of a PSW to negotiate compensation. Currently there is no compensation for PSW’s as they’re off limits. If the Minister declassifies the wetland and the developer agrees to compensation, then the site plan would come back to TRCA for Board approval.
The TRCA is the approval authority for the permit to develop. Or so we thought until the province introduced the Recovery Bill 229 giving greater power to MZO’s and taking away Conservation Authorities powers to protect important environmental lands.
The Province will remove amendments to the Conservation Act and Planning Act related to planning, permitting and, enforcement.
The only thing standing between the TRCA and the Ministers compensation agreement was the ability to decline the permit for development on the wetland Seems the province has found a way to get around this. This suggests that development is the road to recovery through destruction of this PSW complex, woodlots and habitat. Literally paving the way to recovery.
I will continue to oppose this new challenge and hope that you take the opportunity to voice your concerns to MPP.
I truly appreciate the thousands of emails I’ve received in support of saving the wetland!
Timeline of Events
May 13, 2020- Pickering requests a Ministerial Zoning order for the Durham Live lands.
July, Aug, Sept- Ajax continued discussions regarding traffic issue and concerns.
Sept. 2020- Region of Durham supported the MZO Request and entered into negotiations for an agreement with Ajax, Pickering and the landowner.
Oct. 23rd– Toronto and Region Conservation Authority enters into an agreement for compensation of the Provincially Significant Wetland if the MZO is approved and if the Minister of Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry declassifies the wetland to allow for compensation.
Oct. 26- Ajax motion opposes MZO
Oct. 28- the Region approves final agreement omitting Ajax at the request of Pickering and the landowner.
Oct. 30- Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing approves the MZO
Nov. 5- Province tables omnibus Bill 229- with proposed amendments to conservation Authority Act permitting, enforcement and planning. Gives the Minister the power to take over decisions on permits .