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Ontario opening up parts of York Region Greenbelt for housing

Lands just west of Newmarket included, but province said it will offset changes by designating new lands for protection
One of the proposed sections of Greenbelt, west of Newmarket (outlined in blue) that the province is proposing to open up for housing development.

Ontario is planning to redesignate several swaths of York Region’s Greenbelt for housing development, including lands adjacent to Newmarket.

The province has begun a 30-day commenting period for its proposal, which would include the addition of new Greenbelt land to make up for the changes. Under the proposal, several pieces of Greenbelt through York Region would be removed, including in Richmond Hill, Vaughan and Whitchurch-Stouffville.

Also up for new designation are lands in King directly adjacent to Newmarket’s western edge of Bathurst Street, south of Miller’s Sideroad.

“These proposals will support our municipal partners’ plans for responsible growth and help build at least 50,000 new homes while leading to an overall expansion of the Greenbelt,” Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark said.

In total, 7,400 acres of the Greenbelt would be designated for housing, while 9,400 acres would be added to the Greenbelt, including part of the Paris Galt Moraine and 13 urban river valleys.

Absent from changes is most of York Region’s official plan amendment 7, which proposed rezoning 1,400 acres of Greenbelt land to make way for recreational uses in Vaughan and Markham. Only portions of the land included in ROPA 7, which was subject to provincial approval, are included in the maps put forward by the province. That proposal garnered opposition from several organizations, and Newmarket Mayor John Taylor, who said it would set a bad precedent.

As opposed to what York Region proposed for that amendment, the province has also said the Greenbelt changes will be for housing development, versus recreational space.

Other areas of the Greenbelt opening up including Pickering, Ajax and Hamilton. 

The move is a shift from the province’s position last year when Clark said the government "will not in any way entertain any proposals that will move lands in the Greenbelt, or open the Greenbelt lands to any kind of development.''

If the changes go through, homes could spring up on the lands quickly. The province said that it expects new home construction would begin on them by no later than 2025, and “significant progress on approvals” must be achieved by 2023. Otherwise, the lands go back into the Greenbelt.

“These changes are an important part of our government’s balanced strategy to build a stronger Ontario by protecting environmentally important lands while tackling Ontario’s housing supply crisis,” the province said in a news release.

The public can submit comments on the proposal up until Dec. 4 through the government website.

-With files from the Canadian Press