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Ontario’s population is expected to grow by almost 5.3 million over the next 26 years. The big question is how to plan for that growth in ways we won’t regret.
Will the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan and our leaders’ concern about climate change protect us from poor planning decisions? I am here to tell you that they are not protecting York Region residents, and Simcoe County residents who want to avoid the same fate are going to have to speak up very loudly, in large numbers and right now.
The deadline for input into the municipal comprehensive review (MCR) for Simcoe County is Nov. 12, and the number of people who weigh in is going to matter. Many York Region residents gave input via their MCR process, letters to council members and deputations to council, and York Region council still voted to expand settlement areas, thus opening up 2,050 hectares of land in undeveloped farmland and countryside areas over and above the almost 20,000 acres that were already open to development.
Why, in spite of residents’ input, did the majority of York Region councillors vote for low-density settlement? Their rationale seemed to be that, in the past, their constituents had already spoken out fiercely against multistory buildings in their neighbourhoods.
Like those York Region councillors, you may balk at the idea of high-density settlement, but please consider what low-density settlement really means:
1. More people driving and emitting more greenhouse gas emissions.
2. Less available farmland in a time of increasing food scarcity.
3. Fewer natural green spaces in general and therefore fewer carbon sinks, higher temperatures, less protection from flooding, and more stormwater runoff washing more contaminants into rivers, groundwater and Lake Simcoe.
Speaking of phosphorus and Lake Simcoe, don’t be fooled into thinking that the proposed phosphorus reclamation plant will solve that problem. Current phosphorus loads are about 99 tonnes per year, the goal is 44 tonnes per year, and the plant would remove only 2.5 tonnes per year. And phosphorus is just one of many contaminants that will enter the lake in abundance when more vegetation is replaced with pavement.
A study conducted by the Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority back in 2015, shows that many streams entering Lake Simcoe rivers contained enough chloride (from road salt) to endanger aquatic life. As more countryside is paved — and with the prospect of the Bradford bypass looming very large — how can it be at all possible to protect rivers, which are nature’s fish nurseries and so much more, from deadly road salt?
Simcoe County residents, now is the time to speak out. Here’s hoping that if enough of you raise your voices, you can protect Simcoe County from the degree of sprawl that is threatening to overtake all of York Region.