Will the Durable Plan give the Town of Halton Hills control of its own fate? That was the key question posed by Wards 3 & 4 Regional Councillor Jane Fogal to Halton Region's Manager of Long Range Planning during his presentation on future growth at a recent council meeting.
The Durable Plan is the moniker given to a planning exercise that will involve the Region, its four municipalities -- Halton Hills, Milton, Oakville and Burlington -- developers, and residents on how this region will grow in the next 25 years to 2031.
It is in response to the Province's Places to Grow Plan which decrees that Halton Region will double its size from 400,000 to 800,000 by 2031.
"This is the first time in many years that the Province has come out with very strong planning policies," said Wong. "In terms of the population targets, you (the Region and municipalities) have very little room to manoeuvre. There is the target you have to do planning for. It doesn't necessarily mean that by 2031 we will have 800,000 people but we have to do planning for that." Some of that new population will be housed in new developments within existing urban boundaries in intensification zones. In fact, had growth continued at the same pace and at the same density (single detached homes), all lands would have been gobbled up within 50 years, but with the new intensification rules-- mainly in downtown urban centres such as around the GO station in Georgetown -- open land is expected to remain for another 120 years. But the building will continue. The majority -- six of every 10 new developments by 2015 -- will be located in expanded urban boundaries within the 30,000 hectares of prime soil in south Halton Hills and Milton. Many developers have already bought most of those lands -- in Halton Hills they are from 10 Sideroad to Steeles Ave. and from Tenth Line to Trafalgar Rd. No urban expansion (for example in Acton) can occur above the Escarpment due to the restrictive polices in the Province's Greenbelt Plan. "Basically growth will be Halton Hills (Georgetown) versus Milton," said Wong, adding the percentage of division occur depends on what unfolds with the Durable Plan. "This will basically be your last chance to say what the future will be like in the next 50 to 100 years in Halton Region and Halton Hills." "Not all of the 30,000 hectares (dubbed the White Belt) will be needed in the next 25 years and we do have choices now if we want to protect our green space and open agricultural space," he said, adding only one quarter to one-third of those hectares will be needed to accommodate the additional 400,000 people depending on the densities chosen. While the Province has provided the foundation for planning for the future, there will be site specific issues in each municipality and that's why people should be involved in the process so they have a say, Wong urged residents. While the process has already begun, the decision-making year will be 2008, with implementation in 2009 with new Official Plans and a financial plan. The public will have a chance to have their say during public meetings to be scheduled next year. For more information about the Durable Plan go to Halton Region's website, www.halton.ca (Cynthia Gamble can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)