Puslinch does not support proposed expansion of provincial greenbelt within Wellington

Puslinch councillors agree with a county report which suggests the province is intruding too far into municipal plans with Ontario’s proposed greenbelt expansion legislation.

As part of the mayor’s update at the June 15 council session, Mayor Dennis Lever brought forward a report from Wellington County’s manager of policy planning Mark Paoli.

In 2015, the province began a coordinated review of policies related to land use planning and the growth plan for the greater GTA area, and a potential expansion of the greenbelt plan, both of which would impact Wellington County.

Lever noted a few of the report highlights for council to think about.

Paoli had expressed concern that citizens would have little room to provide meaningful input in the future of their own communities.

Lever said “the issue of density is not as much an issue for us as it is to urban areas.”

He pointed to the “aggressive growth targets” being laid out for Centre Wellington.

Lever noted there are also concerns being raised about the definition of employment lands and prime employment areas.

Within the report Lever said Paoli has emphatically stated “we do not support the proposed policy which would impose greenbelt expansion in Wellington County. We believe that the protection we have is already adequate … and is doing a really good job at this point.”

Councillor Matthew Bulmer was ready to endorse Paoli’s report as is.

"To me it drives home the point about the provincial policy statement. Some issues do not recognize municipal boundaries.”

He added there is a burden related to being within the greenbelt.

“I am all for environmental protection … but this is duplicating what we are already doing and in sometimes a more complicated fashion.”

Bulmer added “this is creating extra work for our staff to conform to a policy which essentially does no more than our existing plan or bylaws.

“There seems to be a misconception out there that the greenbelt (expansion) is going to preserve farmland,” Bulmer said.

Though marketed as such, he said there has been no shortage of aggregate operation approvals within the greenbelt.

“You may not be able to build a bungalow – but you can certainly haul out 100 acres worth of aggregate.”

Bulmer stated “the reality of the greenbelt is to preserve resource use.”

Councillor Susan Fielding said, “I would certainly be happy to support this right now.”

She believed Paoli’s report was strongly worded and gets the point across.

Fielding said she lives in the greenbelt which includes a southern portion of Puslinch township.

“It’s like a double standard on how some people are treated.

“I would not like to see it expanded in our township right now as it is very restrictive in certain ways.”

Councillor Ken Roth said “the county has done an excellent job on this report.”

He noted that he attended the planning meeting “… and there was a lot of good discussion.”

As to the greenbelt legislation and the proposed expansion “… it’s typical, (the province) is trying to fix something that is not broken.”

“We have a greenbelt plan that is doing what it was supposed to do – now they want to take away municipal input into planning.”

He added “there is so much redundancy in there that it muddies the waters.”

Roth said, “I would hate to be a developer and have to deal with all of these different plans. The plans all have a purpose, but the government seems to be finding new ways to make things more complicated.”

Lever also supported Paoli’s report.

“I think he did an excellent job in the summary report.”

He said it appeared in regard to the greenbelt proposal, each aspect seemed done in isolation without taking the bigger picture into regard.

Councillors received and supported the report of Wellington County’s planning committee regarding the provincial plan.