Richmond Hill City Council has voted to consider opening protected lands in the Oak Ridges Moraine to future development.
At a city council meeting on Feb. 26, councillor Tom Muench introduced a motion to redesignate agricultural lands contained within the Province of Ontario’s Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan (ORMCP).
Muench’s motion noted that the countryside area designation of the ORMCP is intended to protect prime agricultural areas and maintain the rural character or a rural settlement, but it stated that the agricultural industry along the Leslie Street and Highway 404 corridor is no longer economically viable, practical or safe.
The motion noted the countryside designation clashes with the provincial direction to produce housing faster and provide for land-use intensification in urban areas as well as Metrolinx’s desire to see an intensification in the vicinity of GO stations.
“It’s now time to say we don’t have farming,” said Muench at the council meeting. “Farming is not a growing area in Richmond Hill, and to enshrine those lands for farming is not in the best interest of residents or the business community. Especially along the Leslie-to-404 corridor, it doesn’t make any sense that we have that.”
Muench noted that out of the 69 farms in the area in 2001, only 14 remain and that number is declining.
The motion resolved that the City of Richmond Hill and the Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville work together to approach the Region of York and the Province of Ontario to develop the Highway 404 economic corridor, to facilitate the province’s housing and economic development aspirations, and, in addition, that the region and the city provide direction toward secondary plans in the area as part of their ongoing municipal comprehensive reviews.
The motion noted that there would be no change to the ORMCP’s core area or natural linkage areas. The motion was seconded by regional and local councillor Joe DiPaola. The motion was carried with seven councillors in support of the motion, and councillors David West and Karen Cilevitz voting against.