ROPA 49 Position Statement

Stop Sprawl Halton

March 8, 2022

Position Statement re: Halton Region's Official Plan Amendment 49

In advance of regional staff's updated growth plan release

What we want to see:

Climate Action

Save farming, not just farms

Design complete, walkable mixed-use communities

Rethink employment areas

Allow for growth right to 2051

End exclusionary zoning

Community Consultation

It is the mission of Stop Sprawl Halton to bring a halt to decades of continuous land-based expansion of Halton’s municipalities as a means of accommodating population and employment growth. It is our belief that stopping land-based expansions will, by necessity, create a shift in planning. It is time to transition to more mixed-use, denser, transit-supported neighbourhoods. Doing so will make our communities much more efficient and at the same time preserve more land for agriculture and essential natural systems that protect us from natural disasters.

The Climate Threat is much worse than we thought

Stop Sprawl Halton’s supporters collectively recognize that climate change is a clear threat to the future of our country and the future of our children. The most recent IPCC report released on February 28th, 2022, is the most alarming to date. Although we can hope that Climate Change will be less devastating than predicted by scientists, the mounting evidence shows it to be worse. Climate change: Five things we've learned from the IPCC report - BBC News. This analysis by the BBC points out that preserving as much nature as possible and making the world’s cities more energy efficient are the most promising tactics we can employ to have a positive effect on climate change impacts.

You saved the farms: Now Save Farming

Stop Sprawl Halton supporters believe that it is time for the agricultural system to be acknowledged for the very significant role it plays in the economic, environmental and human health of our province. One in eight jobs in Ontario are in the agri-food industry and farmland is the base for this important economic driver. (Implementation Procedures for the Agricultural System in Ontario’s Greater Golden Horseshoe) We note that the recently approved Halton Hills Foreign Direct Investment Strategy has two of its four focus areas identified as food and beverage processing and agri-business, illustrating the enduring importance of this sector.

For far too long, the significance of agriculture has been downplayed, ignored or harmed to the point of driving farmers further away onto land that is less productive and further from markets. This trend must be stopped. We advocate for the opening of discussions with farmers, agri-food businesses, natural heritage advocates, conservation authorities, planners, public health advocates, political leaders and the public to explore how farming can co-exist in the near-urban context and help address the climate crisis. Stop Sprawl Halton would welcome the opportunity to participate in a forum of this nature.

Plan walkable Mixed-Use Communities

Although our overarching goals are to address greenhouse gas emissions and to preserve farmland, we believe that these changes also offer an opportunity to work with developers and builders to plan for complete, walkable mixed-use communities. Ending the current practice of separating uses, which in effect creates car-dependent living, will move us towards healthier, more vibrant neighbourhoods.

Employment Areas: there’s a better way

Stop Spawl Halton supporters are aware that municipal staff and political leaders often focus first and foremost on economic development and the creation of jobs. However, as land supplies becomes more restricted, ways of accommodating jobs and systems to handle goods must become more land efficient. For example, Vancouver is now seeing applications for Multi-Storey Warehousing. As higher standards for employment uses are adopted, we expect the logistics industry to react by becoming more efficient as well.

At the same time, we believe that denser, mixed-use communities will generate more jobs close to home.

It is acknowledged that we are in a state of rapid change due to the rising impacts of climate change and the pandemic’s effect on workplaces. It is impossible to accurately predict the ramifications of these impacts. It is therefore prudent to take the next 2 or 3 years to understand what our needs are before designating any more prime agricultural lands to employment uses.

Leave Room to grow 2041 to 2051

The direction to Halton Planning Staff to create an Official Plan Amendment that holds the urban boundaries firm until 2041 is a bold move indicating that the majority of Regional Councillors understand the dire nature of our situation regarding climate change and the importance of preserving prime agricultural land. However, post 2041 continues to be a concern. Stop Sprawl Halton expects that in the coming year our local municipalities will re-examine secondary plans where no building permits have been issued or where there has been no activity for over two years with a view to adding more mixed use and density. There are also thousands of acres of land approved for urban development that do not have approved secondary plans. These lands should also be planned with a view to making existing urban lands accommodate all growth to 2051.

Rethink Zoning

We also advocate for the four local municipalities to immediately re-examine their zoning by-laws to reduce or eliminate exclusionary zoning. This zoning was created when car-dependent living came into being and was based on every household having at least one car. However, car dependent living is now recognized as a major contributor to the climate crisis. Cities in Europe are making changes to greatly reduce car dependence and in the process, they have reduced greenhouse gas emissions per capita and made their cities far safer and more pleasant for pedestrians and cyclists. Mayor Anne Hidalgo steps up plans to ban most cars from Paris city centre. It is past the time that North American cities and towns begin this process as well. It will certainly take time and many interventions to see concrete changes but making more housing choices more easily available will be a good first step. This can be facilitated by increasing the range of housing that can be built as-of-right. This change would mean that a greater range of housing forms such as townhouses and duplexes would be permitted in low density zones without the uncertainty of requiring rezoning approval. Any change in zoning permissions would only occur within a transparent public process. This is also an important step in addressing the serious affordability problem.

Broad inclusive Community Consultation

The pandemic created challenges in conducting public consultation during the past 2 years. Virtual consultations attracted more participants but failed to create conversations and exploration of issues that are the hallmark of high-quality engagement. As the pandemic wanes Stop Sprawl Halton expects a return to in-person consultation with a concerted effort to reach BIPOC residents, particularly Indigenous voices, and our youth, who will live to see the year 2051.

Support for the Change We Need

Stop Sprawl Halton is greatly encouraged by the vast number of residents who requested “Save our farms” lawn signs, took the time to make submissions and waited patiently for hours to make their deputation to council. These people share the belief that now is the time for change – change in how we grow our communities and change in how we protect and support our farms and natural areas. These people will continue to be engaged in the Official Plan Review process and look forward to seeing the necessary changes come into fruition. It is recognized that change is rarely easy, but we remain committed to our goals and will continue advocating in the years ahead.

For more information, please contact stopsprawlhalton@gmail.com

To contact your Councillor, click HERE

Click this link for a printable PDF version of our Stop Spawl Halton Position Statement