Public urged to boycott Hamilton’s new Greenbelt survey

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Published August 30, 2023 at 1:38 pm

COURTESY OF GASP4CHANGE VIA TWITTER
COURTESY OF GASP4CHANGE VIA TWITTER

Greenbelt advocates want the public to boycott the City of Hamilton’s new survey about Ontario’s controversial removal of the biologically rich areas.

“We are discouraging people from filling out the survey as there is no box to tick for ‘not wanting any development,’” Martha Howatt, a  volunteer for Grand(m)others Act to Save the Planet (GASP) and Stop Sprawl Hamilton, wrote in an email to inthehammer.com. “It comes in as a done deal by only asking ‘how’ do we want the development to proceed. We do not want any development.”

The grassroots climate and social justice organization GASP on Aug. 25 posted its concerns about the City of Hamilton’s new survey on X, formerly known as Twitter:  “Hamiltonians are being asked to determine HOW, not IF we develop on the Greenbelt in our area ….”

“Why should we comment on how to build on the greenbelt when a possible crime has not been fully investigated on how the land was removed from the greenbelt? Like diamonds were stolen from us and now we’re being asked how they should be set in a ring!” wrote Lilly Noble, a volunteer, in another post by the group, which describes itself as a non-partisan, intergenerational group of grandmothers and “grand ‘others.'”

Howatt said advocates’ goal is to have the land protected and returned to the Greenbelt. 

“By filling out this survey it assumes that we are wanting unnecessary development into the Greenbelt and ignoring Hamiltonians’ votes and our Mayor and Councillors’ votes and plans to protect our farmland,” she explained. “It has been proven, repeatedly, that there is enough land within our Urban Boundary to fulfill our housing plans.”

Howatt said Hamiltonians do not want huge tax increases to finance the infrastructure needed to service any development within the Greenbelt.

Instead of filling out the survey, she encourages people to write or phone their MPP to let them know their feelings on developing the Greenbelt, as well as attend rallies and the meetings the City has organized about the issue on Sept. 6 and Sept. 14. 

The City of Hamilton recently announced it is seeking input from the public about the three areas the province removed from the Greenbelt. It is holding an open house and a Q&A session about the issue Wednesday, Sept. 6 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Peller Hall in Ancaster Memorial Arts Centre starting at 7 p.m. 

The public feedback will be presented at the special planning committee meeting on Thursday, Sept. 14 starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Ancaster Memorial Arts Centre. Then it will be submitted to the provincial land and development facilitator.

Ontario removed 795 hectares of land –  larger than the size of two Binbrooks – from the Greenbelt within the City of Hamilton on Dec. 16, 2022. Although the City of Hamilton opposed the move, the province still plans to move forward with Greenbelt land development in the city. 

Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk’s recently released report criticized Doug Ford’s government for opening parts of the Greenbelt for development. Ford said the housing crisis was behind the moves, saying the protected Greenbelt land was needed to build at least 50,000 new homes.

“Provincial government actions in 2022 to open parts of the Greenbelt for development failed to consider environmental, agricultural and financial risks and impacts, proceeded with little input from experts or affected parties, and favoured certain developers/landowners,” Lysyk wrote.

Moreover, Lysyk found that the Greenbelt land owners could see more than an $8.3-billion increase in the value of their properties.

In response to advocates’ concerns about Greenbelt development, Victoria Podbielski, press secretary for Steve Clark, minister of municipal affairs and housing, said Ontario is “acting decisively to fix” Ontario’s housing supply crisis.

“We are considering every possible option to get more homes built faster so more Ontarians can find a home that meets their needs and budget,” she said in an email to inthehammer.com last month.

She said the lands removed from the Greenbelt “provide a unique opportunity for the provincial government to ensure Ontarians’ housing needs are addressed.”

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