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Economy vs. environment: York Region seeking a process to develop Greenbelt lands

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Economy vs. environment: York Region seeking a process to develop Greenbelt lands

Newmarket mayor says public should be consulted after environmentalists sound alarm

York Region councillors voted Thursday to ask the province to open up parts of the Greenbelt to developers — but a vocal few are saying the public should have been consulted first.

At a committee of the whole meeting Oct. 8, regional councillors and mayors debated a resolution asking the province to “unlock” protected land along the 400-series highways to allow for employment growth.

In the days before the scheduled vote, environmental activists sounded the alarm, blasting the region for “attacking the Greenbelt.”

Environmental Defence Executive Director Tim Gray warned that caving to pressure from developers and land speculators would set a dangerous precedent.

The region has been asking to develop the 400-series land for years and asked staff to prepare a report examining benefits.

Iain Lovatt, mayor of Whitchurch-Stouffville, led the charge, calling the activists’ accusations “utterly false and offensive.”

All municipalities “support, cherish and celebrate” the protected lands, but it’s been a polarizing issue and it’s time to address it head-on, he said.

“I believe there’s a fine balance that needs to be found between local municipal financial viability and managing the burden on local taxpayers while maintaining the importance and improving the Greenbelt.”

It’s an especially important issue for Whitchurch Stouffville, with 95 per cent of land protected under the Oak Ridges Moraine and most employment land in the south of the region, he said.

His town is targeting three areas along the 404 — at Stouffville Road, Aurora Road and Davis Drive — for employment, he said.

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