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Councillor raises red flags over NE Pickering growth plans

A Pickering councillor has questioned the use of ‘strong mayoral powers’ by city mayor to push forward development plans for northeast Pickering.

Pickering Mayor Keven Ashe had written to Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Paul Calandra, on May 17 referring to the grant of strong mayoral powers and requesting that the minister remove a Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO) O. Reg.102/72 that would restrict most development in Northeast Pickering. The request was in keeping with the provincial aim of buildng 1.5 million new homes, he said.

“The request to revoke O. Reg 102/72 and push forward with the development of Northeast Pickering, as outlined in the letter, raises several red flags,” said Councillor Lisa Robinson.

“While addressing the housing crisis is crucial, it must not come at the expense of thorough environmental assessments and sustainable development practices. The potential environmental impact of such large-scale development cannot be overlooked. Rapid, unchecked development could lead to significant ecological damage, harmful to farming and agricultural, increased pollution, and the loss of green spaces that are vital for the well-being of our community and its habitats.”

Greenbelt Lands

“Furthermore, the exclusion of councillors from these critical discussions prevents a comprehensive evaluation of the long-term implications for Pickering. Our community deserves a transparent, inclusive decision-making process that considers the environment, social, and economic impacts of development projects. By sidelining the council, Mayor Ashe is not only disregarding the input of us as elected representatives but also the voices of the residents we serve,” she added.

In an issued statement, Mayor Ashe siad: While some Greenbelt lands are reflected in the overall land mass of what constitutes Northeast Pickering, these sensitive parcels were never considered for any type of development and were intentionally excluded from the Urban Area Boundary as set out in the Durham Regional Official Plan. My letter to the minister does not seek to change that. We all want to see the continued protection of the Greenbelt lands in Northeast Pickering.

Picketing Mayor Ashe (left) and Councillor Lisa Robinson

He said Pickering Council passed a resolution in support of the future development of Northeast Pickering, and subsequently Durham Regional Council adopted its new Regional Official Plan, which included Northeast Pickering within the Urban Area Boundary. “My letter to the minister is consistent with the positions of both Pickering Council and Durham Regional Council.”

Councillor Robinson said: “While the goal of addressing the housing crisis is important, it must be pursued through democratic and environmentally responsible means. I urge Mayor Ashe to reconsider his approach, engage with the council, and ensure that the development of Pickering is both sustainable and reflective of the collective will of its residents.”

Mayor Ashe pointed out that a previous provincial government enacted this MZO over 50 years ago as a way to mitigate any resulting housing and resident related issues associated with it being in close proximity to a future airport. “We are in a housing crisis now, and my focus is on building more homes as part of Pickering’s plan for sustainable growth. This plan has no bearing on the development of an airport in any capacity.”

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