Halton Regional Council Comes to a Compromise on Growth

By Laura Steiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Halton Regional Council has come to a compromise on their Preferred Growth concept between 2031-2051.  The decision was made following a council meeting lasting over 8 hours with 57 speakers. The area is expecting to see a population increase to 333.000 over that 20 year period.

The  choice was an initial plan that would see 80% or 266,000 people within the current urban boundaries, with 20% or 62,000 people placed on “new community area within Milton and Halton Hills.  The new land would include 1,670 hectares of farmland.  Or to accommodate growth within the current urban boundaries.  Burlington Area Farmer Vanessa Warren wants to preserve the land.  She urged council to figure out its priorities.  “It’s really the only explanation to what’s happening here today,” she said.  Complicating the issue is the fact that Georgetown will need a new hospital, and Halton Healthcare is looking for land.

“We cannot afford to lose the soil.  Literally,” 17-year old Brooke Nelson said.  Nelson was so passionate about the subject, she even missed time at school in order to speak to council. Other presenters spoke on the need to preserve the environment.  Resident Sandi Amodio believes that connecting with nature is good for mental health.  As a social worker, she has seen an increase in mental health issues over the last two years. “If more people connected to nature, I believe there would be less of the depression I see everyday,” she said. Green Party of Ontario Member Eleanor Hayward points out the financial expense of growth.  “Growth is not paying for itself,” she told the council.

Milton Councilors Split on Urban Growth Plan

Milton Council endorsed the plan with a 7-2 vote at their January 18 council 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 the Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark on the Growth Plan, and its accompanying motions emphasizing how important it was to expand the boundary.  “Based on recent discussions at Halton Regional Council, we are concerned the Preferred Growth that will be approved will not allow for the expansion required to strategically and appropriately manage the growth,” the letter was dated February 16. 2022; the same day the Council met.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward (Burlington), and Mayor Rob Burton of Oakville  introduced a motion calling for Region’s staff to prepare a modified Growth concept pre-2041, and one for the decade 2041-2051.  “The market for housing and employment may be changing.  It may be changing significantly  due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s hard to know,” Burton said as part of his speech introducing the motion.  He continued to argue that this would give the area time to evaluate the impact of the pandemic, as well as the recent release of the provincial report on affordable housing.  “So many things are changing right now, that we cannot possibly predict out 30 years.  So we need 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 when it came before Milton Council’s January 18 2022 meeting.  Best proposed an amendment, that was seconded by Halton Hills Councilor Jane Fogal asking that the consideration of boundary expansion be delayed five years until the next official plan amendment.   Fogal argued that it was about climate change.” We’ve wasted thirty years, and we have to change.  This is the moment in time when municipal leadership must step up,” we have to have to do it,” she said.  The land has already been allocated to 2041.

The motion as presented by Mayors Meed Ward, and Burton, as well as 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 favour of expanded urban boundaries.  “I’m further disappointed that it wasn’t unanimous from our town- when the chips were down, Councilor Best voted against Milton’s vision,” he said. The Councilor that voted with Best was Ward 1 Municipal Councilor Kristina Tesser-Derksen.