Regional councilors voted unanimously this week to adopt an option for the new official plan that provides the most protection for Niagara’s natural heritage system and water resource.
Advisors previously narrowed down the planning options to two, but couldn’t make a decision and approved both while asking staff for additional mapping and information.
Senior Urban Planner Sean Normantold and City Councilors both options represent an improvement over the existing system.
A key difference is that one option extended the municipality’s oversight of natural heritage links in settlement areas.
Links are natural areas such as abandoned fields, meadows, thickets, hedges and woodlands that ecologically connect the core areas of natural habitat and may cross municipal boundaries. The characteristics are similar to roads, in that plants and wildlife move in response to environmental changes and life cycles.
Wednesday’s decision allows staff to work on balancing the official plan with enough time to prepare a consolidated draft to meet the provincial deadline of July 2022.
The work is part of the first comprehensive review of the Region’s official plan since the early 1970s. The new plan aims to manage growth in Niagara over the next 30 years while balancing competing land uses.
Liz Benneian, speaking as a Lincoln resident, called for the decision one of the most important advisers will be making during her tenure.
“With the increasing pressure of development, there won’t be a second chance,” Benneian said.
She compared the desirability to Ontario’s decision to create Conservation Authorities to manage land based on the entire watershed, which protects citizens from the planning follies of individual municipalities that do not. do not take into account how the natural system as a whole is articulated.
“The province is now taking a similar systematic approach to land and water planning for the same reason,” said Benneian.
“Natural heritage system planning, like the watershed planning it encompasses, can only be done effectively over a large geographic area. If each municipality did what it wanted, there would be no system and none of the protections or benefits that system-wide planning offers. “
Fort Erie Mayor Wayne Redekop said, “The idea that removing land from potential development won’t impact land values, I think, is naïve. The reality is that there will be land that will not be developed, and that is fine.
“If we really want to be good stewards of the land, we need to change the way we think and plan… I know that the people who come to my community value natural heritage, wildlife habitat and forests. , lakes and river wetlands. Why would we allow ourselves to grow up without protecting what we value?
“The challenge is to ensure that we can manage the growth that is happening to Niagara whether we like it or not, and to ensure that it fits into our vision for the future.
Fort Erie County. Tom Insinna said it was time for advisers to take a stand.
“I asked my granddaughter what she thought about it and she said, ‘Why wouldn’t adults do everything to protect the environment for them, for their future and for their grandchildren. ? ‘
“I had a hard time saying why we wouldn’t do this.”
Dahlia Steinberg of St. Catharines told councilors she has been following the debate on natural heritage and water resources for almost a year.
“I was baffled to hear that the crux of the debate ultimately boiled down to one question: who will have control over the system of the natural environment, the municipalities or the region,” she said.
“It’s not about power and control. It is about responsibility, not about the personal interest of a few beneficiaries. It is about the community as a whole and, ultimately, future generations.