A healthy environment is critical to Simcoe County’s future. Farmland, water and natural heritage are key components of a healthy environment and thriving economy, and need better protection. 

Back in October we sat down with David Crombie to talk about his experience as Chair of the Advisory Panel for the Co-ordinated Land Use Review. Here are some shorter clips from that talk interview:

David Crombie explains the major concerns he heard from more than 20,000 people while Chairing the Co-ordinated Land Use Review Advisory Panel. (2:29 minutes long.)

David Crombie talks about water, about why many who are 'in the know' are increasingly concerned about our water, and about the productive value of nature in this segment. (3:48 minutes long.)

The Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition is calling for the  expansion of the Greenbelt in Simcoe County, so that current and future generations can benefit from clean water, local food and green spaces.

What is the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition (SCGC)?

The Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition is the result of 30 community groups from across Simcoe and the province that have agreed in principle that the Greenbelt needs to expand into Simcoe County to ensure our water, natural heritage and farmland is protected.

With representation from farmers, naturalists, environmentalists and ratepayer organizations, the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition is a balanced voice that believes that the Greenbelt would create a stronger Simcoe County.

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    Op-Ed in the Hamilton Spectator

    Agriculture groups band together to save farming and farmland By: Matt Setzkorn Published November 17, 2016, in the Hamilton Spectator Now is the time to protect at-risk farmland in Ontario for good. Collectively, we in the agricultural sector call on the province to freeze all urban expansion and introduce firm, permanent municipal growth boundaries in the Greater Golden Horseshoe to prevent the region's remaining farmland from being paved over and additional farming communities from being displaced. It's clear that more land for urban development in the region is not needed, with an excess of 25 years' worth of farmland already designated by municipalities to accommodate growth in both urban and rural settlement areas (Neptis Foundation, 2015). An area of prime farmland 1.5 times the size of the City of Toronto is in the process of being rapidly converted to housing subdivisions, warehouses and strip malls. The proposed changes to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe and Greenbelt Plan fail to protect the majority of our farmers and farmlands from ongoing and poorly-planned urban sprawl. Maintaining policy that enables status quo sprawl makes it difficult to see a future for local food and farming in the region, despite the great economic contributions of the Greater Golden Horseshoe's food and farming sector. Not just home to the best farmland in Canada, the Greater Golden Horseshoe is home to one of North America's largest agricultural and agri-food industry clusters, with a unique diversity of primary farm production, food processing, food service, food distribution and retail that represents the fastest growing employment sector in Ontario and generates $12.3 billion in annual economic activity. The Greenbelt protects some of Ontario's countryside, but there are hundreds of thousands of acres that continue to be at-risk and need protection now. We are at a unique moment in history where there is an opportunity to enact meaningful limits on urban expansion, plan for healthier urban and rural communities, protect our irreplaceable agricultural land resources, and sustain a vibrant and prosperous agri-food economy in the Greater Golden Horseshoe for generations to come. With an outpouring of public support for a larger provincial role in establishing firm urban boundaries and protecting agricultural land during the Coordinated Land Use Planning Review, now is the time for the province to demonstrate bold leadership to protect agricultural land and farming communities by implementing fixed, permanent urban boundaries on all urban and rural settlement areas in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Let's work together to stop urban sprawl, protect farmland forever, support our farmers and create a secure future for farming in Ontario.   Matt Setzkorn is Manager, Land Programs and Policy, Ontario Farmland Trust. He wrote this commentary on behalf of: Ontario Farmland Trust Ontario Federation of Agriculture Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario National Farmers Union – Ontario Golden Horseshoe Food & Farming Alliance Sustain Ontario Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society Food & Water First Farms at Work FarmStart Land over Landings Langford Conservancy Sustainable Brant Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition The original can be found here.
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    SCGC Comments on Draft Amendments - Coordinated Review

    Our submission to the Co-ordinated Land Use Review. You can download the submission, here: SCGC_Oct_31_submission.pdf  COMMENTS ON DRAFT AMENDMENTS – COORDINATED REVIEW Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition Recommendations The Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition (SCGC) is a not-for-profit organization that is comprised of close to 30 various organizations from across Simcoe County including naturalists, land conservancies, ratepayers, environmentalists, farmers and First Nations. The mandate of the SCGC is to promote and encourage expansion of the Greenbelt further into Simcoe County to balance the growth of our communities with water protection and land preservation. We applaud the government for undertaking such a thorough review and submit our recommendations for consideration. Greenbelt Expansion Considering the immense growth pressures on Simcoe County, large reliance on groundwater resources and pervasive nature of water systems throughout the county, the SCGC with its various member organizations, recommend that the Greenbelt be expanded to include all of Simcoe County and its supporting ecosystems. See Appendix 1 for source water mapping that we feel supports this call. We also support calls to grow the Greenbelt in other key areas of the Greater Golden Horseshoe including but not limited to:  Moraines and groundwater recharge areas in the Grand River watershed that provide clean drinking water to 80% of local residents. These moraines include the Paris-Galt, Waterloo and Orangeville Moraines. Significant headwaters features including the Luther Marsh, important headwater areas and source water protection areas in Brant County, as well as the Grand River as a key river valley connection between these important and vulnerable water supplies. Headwaters of rivers that flow through Peel, York, Durham and Toronto and reduce flooding for millions of residents. This includes the Carruthers Creek, Duffins Creek, Rouge River, Don River and Humber River.  The Lake Iroquois shoreline, which includes many features, that provides important groundwater functions and helps sustain groundwater baseflow. Further, we would like the province to consider additional recommendations for Greenbelt expansion consultation:  Ensure that areas identified to grow the Greenbelt are also included in the consideration of the water resources systems, natural heritage system and agricultural system. Adhere to firm timelines in your process of identifying, mapping, consulting and finalizing areas to grow the Greenbelt. We believe a draft map should be presented publicly for consultation on the Environmental Registry by January 2017, with final mapping completed and final amendments integrated by late spring 2017. Ensure transparency and full public involvement in local consultations regarding potential Greenbelt expansion.  Strengthening the Greenbelt Finally, in order to ensure the integrity of the Greenbelt as it is considered to be expanded, we offer the following recommendations to strengthen the Greenbelt: Settlement area boundaries should be frozen in the Greenbelt. Infill development should be prioritized before greenfield development for Growth Plan areas. Improvements and strengthening of aggregate and infrastructure policies within the Greenbelt including restricting aggregate in the Greenbelt and not allowing infrastructure exemptions in the Greenbelt. Further, commercial water taking (e.g. water bottling) should not be allowed in the Greenbelt. Large scale fill operations should not be permitted in the Greenbelt. To ensure long term integrity of the Greenbelt, a sunset clause for grandfathered development applications should be included. Many times, the implementation of land use plans is where it is weakened. We strongly support the province taking a strong lead in enforcement and monitoring of various provincial plans. This would include data taking, creation of benchmarks and outlining metrics to determine best practices and what “successful implementation” looks like. Further, the province should consider financial incentives to encourage municipalities to adhere to provincial plans and efficient land use. Better protection for alvars and savannahs. Do not allow any land swaps or land removals from within the Greenbelt. Do not allow settlement boundary considerations and applications every 5 years. This will become a death by a thousand cuts and threatens the very purpose of a permanently protected Greenbelt. Growth Plan Recommendations The implementation of the Growth Plan will have serious implications to the Greenbelt. With effective implementation and strong policies, the Greenbelt will be allowed to flourish for generations. Without this, the threat of killing the intent and spirit as well as function of the Greenbelt will be ever present. As such, we offer the following recommendations: Update growth forecasts using 2016 census data. Accordingly, until this is done and mapping of agricultural systems and natural heritage systems is complete, we feel a moratorium on settlement area expansions is in order. Density targets and intensification targets should be maintained as drafted. However, lower density and intensification targets for municipalities that do not have an urban growth centre should be eliminated. Best practices suggest that we need to use our land more efficiently – allowing a selected few to not meet this target weakens the integrity of the ask and makes the process inequitable. Consider adopting policies of “net benefit” in order for applications to proceed. Further, consider the comparison of removing carbon sinks (e.g. pastures, wetlands, forests) with the construction of carbon emitters (e.g. increased traffic/cars, removal of recharge areas, increase of impermeable surfaces, factories etc.) in the approval process. Other Important Recommendations  Stronger incorporation and recognition of indigenous rights, traditional knowledge and ensuring informed and prior consent when it comes to land use, watershed protection and development applications. This includes stronger protection of ancestral lands from development as well as providing legal vehicles for indigenous communities to say no without fear of reprisal. The Niagara Escarpment is a world recognized bio-sphere. This global treasure deserves the utmost protection. Therefore, we support calls to expand the Niagara Escarpment. Reform the OMB so that local planning decision, assuming they fall within provincial policies and support community interests, are not all under the purview of the board. Municipalities need to be able to make important community decision without fear of reprisals via lawsuits or OMB. Include policies that allow communities to deny applications based on areas where water resources are under threat or stressed. This would include PTTW, extractive industries, development and energy. Without this type of policy, we knowingly jeopardize our future. We appreciate the opportunity to submit our comments for your consideration. We applaud the province on many of the proactive policies it has drafted that strengthen agriculture, water preservation and build stronger, smarter communities. Now is the time to ensure we are leaving a proud legacy. Now is the time to take bold actions that will ensure that legacy. Sincerely, Margaret Prophet Sandy Agnew Co-chairs, Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition
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