Halton Regional Council reaches compromise on growth

Halton Regional Council has reached a compromise on its concept of preferred growth between 2031 and 2051. The decision was made following a council meeting lasting over 8 hours with 57 stakeholders. The region expects to see a population increase to 333,000 over this 20-year period.

The choice was an initial plan that would see 80% or 266,000 people within the current urban limits, with 20% or 62,000 people placed in a “new community area in Milton and Halton Hills. The new land would include 1,670 hectares of agricultural land. Or to accommodate growth within current urban limits. Burlington-area farmer Vanessa Warren wants to save the land. She urged the council to determine its priorities. “That’s really the only explanation for what’s going on here today,” she said. To compound the problem, Georgetown will need a new hospital and Halton Healthcare is looking for land.

“We cannot afford to lose the ground. Literally,” said 17-year-old Brooke Nelson. Nelson was so passionate about the subject that she even missed time at school to speak to the council. Other presenters spoke about the need to preserve the environment. Resident Sandi Amodio believes connecting with nature is good for mental health. As a social worker, she has seen an increase in mental health issues over the past two years. “If more people were connected to nature, I think there would be less depression than I see every day,” she said. Eleanor Hayward, member of the Green Party of Ontario, points out the financial cost of growth. “Growth doesn’t pay for itself,” she told the board.

Milton councilors are divided over the urban growth plan

Milton’s board approved the plan by a 7-2 vote at its Jan. 18 board meeting. Krantz, along with regional councilors Zeeshan Hamid (Ward 4), Mike Cluett (Ward 3) and Rick Malboeuf (Ward 2) supported the plan as it was, with the boundary expansion. Krantz sent a letter to Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark about the growth plan and accompanying motions, stressing how important it was to expand the boundaries. “Based on recent discussions at Halton Regional Council, we are concerned that the preferred growth to be approved will not allow for the expansion necessary to strategically and appropriately manage growth,” the letter was dated February 16, 2022; on the same day, the Council met.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward (Burlington) and Mayor Rob Burton of Oakville introduced a motion directing area staff to prepare a modified growth concept before 2041 and one for the decade 2041-2051. “The housing and job market may be changing. That may change significantly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s hard to know,” Burton said as part of his introductory speech for the motion. He continued to argue that this would give the region time to assess the impact of the pandemic, as well as the recent release of the provincial affordable housing report. “So much is changing right now, that we can’t predict 30 years from now, so we have to wait and get better information,” Meed Ward added.

Ward 1 Regional Councilor Colin Best was one of two Milton councilors who voted against the growth plan with expanded urban boundaries at the Milton council meeting on January 18, 2022. Best proposed an amendment , which was seconded by Halton Hills Councilor Jane Fogal, asking that the boundary expansion review be deferred for five years until the next official plan amendment. Fogal argued that it was about climate change. “We have lost thirty years and we have to change. This is the time when municipal leadership needs to step up, “we need to do this,” she said. The land has already been allocated to 2041.

The motion as presented by Mayors Meed Ward and Burton, and the amendment passed 15-9. Councilor Mike Cluett expressed his disappointment in a post on his Facebook page where he thanked the other regional councilors for voting in favor of expanding the city limits. “I’m even more disappointed that there wasn’t unanimity from our city – when the chips were down Councilor Best voted against Milton’s vision,” he said. The councilwoman who voted with Best was Ward 1 Councilwoman Kristina Tesser-Derksen.

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Elna M. Lemons