Developers begin approaching cities with plans for former Greenbelt lands

Click to play video: 'Premier Ford refuses to back away from plans to build on Greenbelt'
Premier Ford refuses to back away from plans to build on Greenbelt
RELATED: Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Friday that his government will not reverse course from plans to build on the protected Greenbelt. Alan Carter reports. – Aug 11, 2023

As opposition parties at Queen’s Park call on the Ford government to reverse its controversial Greenbelt decision, developers are preparing to build on the previously protected land.

Two Toronto-area cities told Global News they were in talks with developers about their plans to build on land removed from the Greenbelt.

The cities of Vaughan and Pickering both confirmed that, while no formal applications have been lodged, discussions between planning staff and developers have taken place.

Just over 4,200 acres of land were removed from the Greenbelt in Pickering’s Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve, while around 16 acres were removed in Vaughan.

The province is under pressure after a scathing auditor general’s report concluded that developers had direct influence over a November 2022 decision to remove 7,400 acres of land from the Greenbelt to build housing.

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The report said a team of six staffers had been given just three weeks to evaluate which areas of land should be removed from the Greenbelt. Most of the parcels of land considered were suggested by housing minister Steve Clark’s chief of staff.
Click to play video: 'Hundreds protest Ford’s Greenbelt deal following AG report'
Hundreds protest Ford’s Greenbelt deal following AG report

Responding to the damning report, the Ontario NDP demanded that the Ford government recall the legislature and return the previously protected land to the Greenbelt.

While Premier Doug Ford said his government “could have had a better process,” he said he would not be returning any previously removed land to the Greenbelt unless developers failed to build.

“We need to make sure they build those homes and that’s a message to the people, the landowners that have these properties,” Ford said at a news conference in Mississauga.

“You don’t get shovels in the ground, we don’t see progression rapidly, that land’s going back in the Greenbelt.”

Some have wasted little time getting their projects moving.

A spokesperson for the City of Vaughan told Global News said conversations had taken place about development on its former Greenbelt lands.

“Staff have had discussions, following the Ministry’s decision on the Greenbelt lands, with the landowner and Ontario government staff about the future development of the lands,” the spokesperson said.

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It is standard in Ontario for developers and their consultants to have formal and informal conversations with local planning staff before submitting official planning applications.

In Pickering, a spokesperson said plans were progressing to build 1,300 homes on former Greenbelt lands.

“The City has held a formal pre-consultation meeting, in preparation for submitting an application for a draft plan of subdivision for some of the lands,” the spokesperson said.

The pitch from the developer included some affordable housing, parkland and a school.

Global News also asked other municipalities including Markham, Ajax and Clarington with former Greenbelt land if they had received formal or informal approaches from developers, but did not hear back in time for publication.

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