Township Of Uxbridge Submission Regarding: "Share Your Vision for the Oak Ridges Moraine"
1) The Significance of the Moraine in Uxbridge
Forty-five percent of the Township of Uxbridge is located in the Oak Ridges Moraine, including extensive rural and natural areas, as well as some hamlets and a portion of the Uxbridge Urban Area. As a consequence, the Municipality has long recognized that the future of the Moraine is of significant importance to our community.
The Township of Uxbridge has demonstrated its commitment to the protection of the Oak Ridges Moraine. In particular, through the Regional and local plans, the Municipality has strong policies in place to protect the Moraine. More importantly, Council on behalf of its citizens, has together with the Region of Durham, defended the Moraine before the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) with respect to three major and many minor development applications at significant financial cost. We have supported through this process the policies of the Regional and local Official Plans which direct residential and other development to the Uxbridge Urban Area and the hamlets.
It is within this context, that Council has prepared the following submission with respect to the "Share Your Vision for the Oak Ridges Moraine" (Vision) document. The submission outlines:
the process which was followed to prepare the Township's recommendations;
the key directions in the Vision document which the Township supports;
major concerns which the Township has with many of the directions in the Vision document; and,
the Township's views with respect to implementation.
The proposed Vision is a good first step in the development of a detailed policy and regulatory framework to protect the Moraine. However, there is still considerable work which must be done to clarify the directions in the document.
Therefore, while the Township supports the following key directions, it reserves the right to comment further and possibly modify its position, once the detailed legislation and provincial plan are available:
3.2 Provincial Plan and Legislation Specific to the Moraine (page 12)
The Moraine, like the Niagara Escarpment, is of Provincial significance and the Township concurs that the Province must take the responsibility for its protection for all Ontarians through a Provincial Plan and specific legislation. Most importantly, the Plan and the legislation must include strong policy statements and directions that cannot be challenged or "watered down" should the Province continue to include the OMB as part of the appeal process related to the development on the Moraine.
It is unrealistic and financially destructive to continue to pay tax dollars to fight developers when the same tax dollars could be used for land acquisition and rehabilitation of the Oak Ridges Moraine. Strong policy directions will "up the ante" in any legal proceeding before the OMB or the courts, making it clear that all matters on the Moraine must be considered of key importance in a Provincial, as well as a local context. Hopefully, this will send a clear message to the developers that "no" means "no" and will substantially reduce any future litigation. In this regard, the Township would like to see a plan modeled on the Niagara Escarpment Plan, a plan which has withstood the "test of time", rather than the Parkway Belt Plan, which has not.
The Township supports a provincial plan and specific legislation for the Moraine which is substantive and not subject to a body such as the OMB, unless it is clearly identified that the provincial plan or local policy (whichever is more restrictive) must be upheld by the OMB.
3.3 Legacy Trust (page 10)
The Township concurs that achieving the vision and goals for the Moraine will require more than effective policy and legislation. This is particularly true because the majority of the lands on the Moraine are privately owned. The Trust provides the necessary mechanism, with proper funding, that can support the voluntary action and good stewardship, which will over time, ensure the success of the plan for the Moraine. However, the Moraine is a feature of provincial and national interest. Its protection should not be funded out of the property tax. The Province and the Federal government must be responsible for funding the Trust. In addition, other financial policies must support this initiative including provincial property taxation and federal capital gains policies.
The Township supports:
i) the creation of the Legacy Trust;
ii) the funding of that Trust by the Provincial and Federal governments; and,
iii) the development of financial policies at the Provincial and Federal levels which are supportive of the voluntary action and stewardship programs of the Oak Ridges Moraine Trust.
3.4 General Strategic Directions (page 5, 8 and 9)
Contingent on the modifications outlined in Section 4 of this submission, the Township supports the general approach outlined in the draft "Strategy for Community Growth and Natural Protection"(Strategy) specifically:
i) the establishment of four land use designations; and,
ii) the requirement that all permitted land uses in the four designations be subject to ecological constraints that ensure the protection of significant natural features and sensitive hydrological areas and the functions of both.
Contingent on the modifications outlined in Section 4 of this submission, the Township supports the general approach outlined in the draft "Strategy for Community Growth and Natural Protection"(Strategy).
3.5 Prohibition of Estate Residential Development
The Township supports the announcement by the advisory panel recommending that estate residential development not be permitted on the Moraine. Work done by the Township has indicated such development can result in environmental concerns, there is limited demand for estate lots, and other options are available for those who wish to reside in rural areas. However, there is no need to require a specific five year review of this prohibition. Any review of the Moraine policies should be comprehensive and, it is assumed that, similar to official plans, a regular review of the plan will be mandated in the legislation.
The Township supports the prohibition of estate residential development and recommends that there be no specific five year review of this prohibition.
3.6 Hamlets/Communal Servicing
The Vision document does not specify any policy direction with respect to hamlets. However, at the public meeting it was indicated that the advisory panel supports limited residential infilling and rounding out in hamlets and villages. The Township supports this general direction, and recommends that any development in such areas be subject to the preparation of a secondary plan. Further, the Township recommends that hamlets be maintained as privately serviced communities (except where health issues arise) because communal services dictate a scale of development in excess of that suitable for this scale of community, or in fact, any development in a rural area. The provision for communal servicing also has the potential to promote scattered and unplanned rural development, which is not supported by the Region of Durham or Township of Uxbridge Official Plans, and would weaken any protection legislation for the Oak Ridges Moraine.
The Township supports the limitations on the development of hamlets and recommends that:
i) any development be subject to the preparation of a secondary plan;
ii) hamlets be maintained as privately serviced communities to control the scale of development; and,
iii) no development be permitted on the Moraine which is of a scale which requires communal services other than in existing settlement areas.
The Township has a number of major concerns with the directions in the Vision document. These are outlined below:
4.2 Mapping (pages 6 and 7)
It is impossible to interpret the mapping in the Vision document. It is essential that the provincial plan contain detailed mapping similar to that found in the Niagara Escarpment Plan. In particular, any mapping should include lots and concessions, major roads and other key features to allow for easy interpretation. Without such mapping, it is not possible for the Township to properly determine the implications of the Vision document for its residents. This is one of the reasons that the Municipality reserves the right to modify its position, as noted above, once the draft legislation and provincial plan are available.
That the provincial plan contain precise, detailed mapping similar to that in the Niagara Escarpment Plan.
4.3 Mineral Aggregates (pages 5 and 8)
The Township of Uxbridge has more than 40 aggregate operations within its boundaries. The Township recognizes the importance of aggregate resources to the economy of the Province. However, the significance of the resource must be balanced against the need to protect the Moraine.
In this context, the Township supports the additional ecological constraints that are recommended for all development in the Moraine, including aggregate operations. However, it has the following concerns with the proposed policy directions:
i) Wayside Pits
Wayside pits are permitted without the full review required for other pits. The Vision document would permit wayside pits in Natural Linkage Areas and Countryside Areas . Given the number of existing pits in Uxbridge, the lack of substantive reviews required for a permit for a wayside pit, and in order to provide the maximum possible level of protection for the Moraine, the Township believes that no new wayside pits should be permitted anywhere in the Moraine.
ii) Natural Core Areas
Natural Core Areas are defined as "containing large concentrations of key natural features, significant hydrological areas and complex landforms."(page 5) At the same time, it is recommended that "the government develop a policy on aggregate extraction in conifer plantations, scrub growth and agricultural land in natural core areas" (page 8). It is unclear to the Township, therefore, what exactly is contained in Natural Core Areas.
As a consequence, while it recognizes that existing aggregate uses should be able to continue operation, it is not possible for the Municipality to determine a final position with respect to additional aggregate extraction in such areas. It is recommended therefore that the provincial plan permit only existing aggregate operations and that any other form of aggregate extraction be permitted only through amendment to the provincial plan when additional analysis has been carried out. Further, such an amendment must set out detailed criteria for such uses (e.g. where an expansion of an aggregate operation is considered the existing pit must be substantially rehabilitated and the core function enhanced on the rehabilitated portion of the site.)
iii) Natural Linkage Areas
Page 4 of the Vision document provides a strong statement about the role of linkages which imakes it clear that such areas are an essential part of any natural heritage system on the Moraine. Given the significance of such areas, it is unclear why new mineral aggregate operations would be permitted in such areas. The Municipality has concerns with significant additional aggregate extraction in linkage areas, and requires additional information before it can determine a final position.
With respect to existing aggregate operations, the Municipality recognizes that such uses should be able to continue operation. However, expansions of such uses should be subject to detailed criteria. In particular, it is suggested that no expansion occur until the existing pit has been substantially rehabilitated, and any corridor function which would be compromised by the expansion provided for and enhanced on the rehabilitated portion of the site.
The progressive and timely rehabilitation of new existing and abandoned aggregate operations is a significant issue. It is suggested that a specific role be identified for the Legacy Trust to work with the aggregate industry on issues related to rehabilitation. In addition, the Ministry of Natural Resources must play a more active role in the rehabilitation process by providing significant funding for the monitoring of materials used for rehabilitation purposes or provide funding for another agency to provide inspection on their behalf.
The Township recommends that:
i) Wayside pits not be permitted anywhere in the Moraine;
ii) The provincial plan permit only existing aggregate operations in the Natural Core Area designation and that any other form of aggregate extraction be permitted only through amendment to the provincial plan subject to detailed criteria;
iii) The provincial plan permit only existing aggregate operations in the Natural Linkage Areas and expansions of such uses subject to detailed criteria, including substantial rehabilitation of the existing pit and the provision and enhancement of the corridor function on the rehabilitated site;
iv) A specific role be identified for the Legacy Trust to work with the aggregate industry on issues related to rehabilitation;
v) The Ministry of Natural Resources must play a more active role in the rehabilitation process by providing significant funding for the monitoring of materials used for rehabilitation purposes or providing funding for another agency to provide inspection on their behalf.
4.4 Settlement Areas (pages 8 and 9)
The Township concurs with the recommendation that expansion of settlement areas should only be permitted in countryside areas and only after detailed review and an amendment to the provincial plan. However, additional criteria are required.. For instance, benchmarks should be established as to when expansion will be considered (e.g. when 80% of the urban area as been committed for development, when specific intensification objectives have been achieved).
The Township recommends that the provincial plan establish detailed criteria for any expansion of a settlement area in the Moraine including:
i) that expansion only be considered when 80% of the settlement area has been committed for development; and, ii) that expansion only be considered when specific intensification objectives have been achieved.
4.5 Municipal Policies (page 9)
The section on Municipal Policies is unclear. When the entire document is examined, however, the general direction appears to be that municipal policies must comply with the provincial plan (See in particular page 11 role and responsibilities of municipalities). However, in situations where the local policies are more stringent than the provincial plan, the Township recommends that the municipal plan take precedence. This will provide clarity of interpretation and maximize protection of the Moraine.
Further, with respect to implementation of the provincial plan, the preferred approach would be for the legislation to "deem" official plans to be amended, except where policies are more stringent. This ensures that the policies are the same across the Moraine and avoids the need for a series of official plan amendments, and potential litigation.
Finally, the Township believes that the Provincial Plan and legislation should be protected from appeal to the OMB, and that the local plan should be similarly protected. If this is not the case, it should be clear in the Plan and the legislation that the Province is responsible for the defense of the Plan before the Board and the courts.
The Township recommends that:
i) where the local official plan is more stringent than the provincial plan, the local plan should take precedence and should be recognized as having the same force as the Provincial Plan;
ii) the legislation should "deem" local official plans to be amended to incorporate the provincial plan, except where policies are more stringent;
iii) the Provincial Plan should be protected from appeal to the OMB;
iv) If the Provincial Plan is protected from appeal to the OMB, the local plan should also be protected, particularly if it is more stringent then the Provincial plan; and,
v) If the Provincial Plan is not protected from appeal to the OMB, then it should be clear in the Plan and the legislation that the Province is responsible for the defense of the Plan before the Board and the courts.
4.6 Permitted Uses in Land-use planning applications approved before May 17, 2001(page 8)
The Township is unclear as to the interpretation of "approved" with respect to land use planning applications based on discussions with Ministry staff. This is of concern for only a few applications in Uxbridge, but has significant implications for those owners. Specific examples include a development which has site plan approval and zoning with a holding provision, a second phase of an industrial park which is designated in the Official Plan, but not zoned or subject to a plan of subdivision and an application which have been adopted by Council, but which could not be circulated because of the Moraine legislation. A comprehensive, clear and fair definition of this term needs to be provided which takes into account circumstances such as the use of holding zones and long standing official plan designations. In particular, where an application has been subject to full public review and approval, such as a holding zone, it should be allowed to proceed.
The Township recommends that a comprehensive, clear and fair definition of "approved" development needs to be developed which takes into account circumstances such as the use of holding zones. In particular, where an application has been subject to full public review and approval, such as a holding zone, it should be allowed to proceed.
4.7 Water Taking (pages 8 and 12)
The Township concurs with the general direction outlined on page 8 with respect to the need for implementation strategies to ensure the maintenance and enhancement of the quality and quantity of water resources. However, as recognized in the section on "Issues Pending Further Discussion" there are still significant matters which must be resolved in order to achieve this objective. It is recommended that major new development, including new golf courses, expansion of settlement areas which utilize wells beyond their current boundary, and permits for the taking of water for bottled water operations, be prohibited until an approach to water taking has been developed which allows for sustainable groundwater levels and regulations have been established for the protection of water quality.
The Township recommends that :
i) development which utilizes significant amounts of water (e.g. golf courses) be prohibited until an approach to water taking has been developed which allows for sustainable groundwater levels and protects water quality; and,
ii) any water taking permits issued by Ministry of the Environment should have input from the local municipality and conservation authority prior to issuance.
4.8 25 Acre Lot Severances
This is an additional panel recommendation and one with which the Township cannot agree. It has long been recognized by the Region and the Township that lots in the order of 100 acres are required to maintain the rural character and protect agriculture. However, other options are provided for those who wish to live in a rural area including hamlet development and infilling and minor extensions of existing clusters. The Township recommends that regard be had to the policies in the Region of Durham Plan in dealing with this issue.
The Township recommends that:
i) the minimum lot size in the Countryside Area designation not be reduced to 25 acres; and,
ii) rural residential development be directed to hamlets or the infilling and minor extensions of existing clusters.
4.9 Institutional, Industrial and Commercial Uses in the Countryside (page 8)
The Vision document states that institutional, industrial and commercial uses are permitted in the Countryside designation. Further elaboration has been provided by the panel indicating that such uses are limited to farm and aggregate related uses, as well as home based uses. This limitation should be clearly established in any provincial plan.
The Township recommends that the provincial plan:
i) clearly define the type of institutional, industrial and commercial uses permitted in the Countryside Area designation; and,
ii) limit such uses to those which are farm and aggregate related uses, as well as home based uses which do not require major water taking or large septic tank systems.
4.10 Existing Land Uses (page 8)
Expansion or alteration of existing land uses is permitted. However, it is not clear how an expansion would be defined. The limitations on this term should be clearly set out in any provincial plan, and, in particular specific criteria should be established as to what is an appropriate level of expansion (e.g. an appropriate level of expansion for an existing estate lot subdivision might be set at a specific number).
The Township recommends that the provincial plan clearly define the manner in which an existing land use can expand including specific criteria which must be met.
4.11 Peat Extraction
Peat extraction and its impact on stream baseflows and recharge capabilities is as significant as the impact of aggregate extraction. No laws exist to protect these sensitive areas and this type of extraction is not addressed in the Vision document. Appropriate legislation and other controls need to be established.
The Township recommends that the provincial plan address the issue of peat extraction and controls on this use.
4.12 Other Concerns
In addition to the concern with the lack of direction with respect to peat extraction, the Township feels there are a number of other issues which must be addressed as part of any legislation or provincial plan with respect to the Moraine. These include:
i) enhanced legislation to limit tree cutting;
ii) enhanced legislation to limit top soil removal; and,
iii) prohibition on the dumping of human septage and paper sludge on the Moraine.
In addition, the Township believes that there must be stronger regulation of nutrient management procedures with respect to agriculture on the Moraine. At the same time, the Municipality recognizes the financial difficulties that this may cause farmers and the need for financial subsidy to farmers who must incur significant expenses to meet such new regulations.
The Township recommends that any legislation or Provincial Plan for the Moraine be comprehensive in nature and deal with all issues which have the potential to affect the Moraine including tree cutting, top soil removal, dumping of human septage and paper sludge and nutrient management for agricultural operations (subject to appropriate subsidies for farmers).
The directions established in the Vision document are a good first step. However, the protection of the Moraine hinges on the implementation of these directions. This requires a strong commitment by the Provincial government both with respect to staffing and funding. Over the past five years there have been significant cutbacks, this will need to change if the plan for the Moraine is to achieve its objectives. Necessary steps include:
i) legislation and a provincial plan which clearly establishes that "no means no";
ii) funding for the plan and the Legacy Trust;
iii) increased staffing at the provincial level to enforce these new directions, particularly at the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Natural Resources, or the provision of resources to the conservation authorities and local municipalities to do so;
iv) resolution of key issues such the development of a wellhead protection strategy; and,
v) conducting additional research into key issues and monitoring the implementation of the plan.
The Township of Uxbridge and its citizens are committed, as demonstrated by their past actions, to the protection of the Moraine. They welcome the recent initiatives by the Province and support any actions which will strengthen the Provincial role in the protection of the Moraine.
In addition, the Township is concerned that it is not sufficient to protect only the Moraine. Projected growth must be accommodated and if it is "pushed" off the Moraine, it will simply increase the pressures on prime agricultural land and natural features elsewhere. A true "smart growth" policy must be developed for the Province as a whole with legislation and provincial policies which clearly establish the parameters for growth and areas which will be protected for future generations.
The Township recommends that:
i) the Province make a strong commitment to the protection of the Moraine by:
a) approving legislation and a provincial plan which clearly establishes that "no means no";
b) providing appropriate funding for the plan and the Legacy Trust;
c) increased staffing at the provincial level to enforce these new directions, particularly at the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Natural Resources, or the provision of resources to the conservation authorities and local municipalities to do so;
d) resolution of key issues such the development of a wellhead protection strategy; and,
e) conducting additional research into key issues and monitoring the implementation of the plan; and,
ii) the Province develop a true "smart growth" policy for the province as whole with legislation and provincial policies which clearly establish the parameters of growth for areas outside the Moraine.