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Puslinch councillors express concerns over water study, potential Greenbelt expansion

by Mike Robinson

ABERFOYLE - Puslinch councillors are concerned a study to protect water in the Greenbelt - and its potential expansion area - will affect the municipality’s control of its water supply.

The item came up on Dec. 20 following a review of correspondence from Minister of Municipal Affairs Bill Mauro regarding public consultation on Protecting Water for Future Generations.

Mauro wrote that his ministry “is undertaking a consultation on a study area for a potential Greenbelt expansion to protect important water resources in the outer ring of the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH).”

The study area is based on locations where water resources are under pressure from current or forecasted urban development.

The purpose of the consultation, stated Mauro, is to seek input on:        

- the province’s approach to identifying moraines, coldwater streams and wetlands as important features for protecting water in the outer ring;

- the process followed for mapping a study area based on the locations of these features; and

- other factors to be considered when mapping a proposed Greenbelt boundary.        

The ministry will accept input and feedback about the study area and the parameters for potential Greenbelt expansion until March 7.

Input received through the consultation will help inform decisions on how to move from a study area to a proposed Greenbelt boundary, Mauro stated.

Puslinch Mayor Dennis Lever said that he was contacted by the minister’s office regarding this issue to provide a “heads up” that it was coming.

“They were very emphatic that this was a consultation around potential for a study area only at this time,” said Lever.

He added he was told that if there was to be any expansion of the Greenbelt, it would require another consultation process.

Councillor Matthew Bulmer said, “It is somewhat ironic that it was 10 years ago when the same government removed similar protections from this community.”

Bulmer said much of the form and function of the moraine was protected under its ANSI (Area of Natural and Scientific Interest) designation.

“Contrary to the will of this municipality, that protection was removed,” said Bulmer.

He stressed that while he supports the objective of protecting water, he is not certain this was the right vehicle (legislation) to do so.

He said he doubts Puslinch would be able to change the study area, but he hopes it might affect the outcome to determine  a better way to achieve the objectives.

Bulmer said another irony is that the area is considered as under pressure by existing and planned urban development (Cambridge and Guelph).

“That pressure was created by the province through its growth targets and permits to take water which were issued to those municipalities that stressed our natural environment,” he said.

Bulmer added he believes the province already has the tools needed to address the problems that it created.

Councillor Ken Roth voiced similar concerns. He said if one looked at the study area map - “all of Puslinch would be included in the Greenbelt discussion.”

Roth said it may be just about boundaries now, but he questioned how much more could happen as a result of lobbying efforts to the province.

He asked how many types of water protection legislation are required.

Roth also asked, “where did the Greenbelt fail so much that it needs to be expanded? Is it not doing what it was set out to do?”

He stated, “We need to get our guns prepared to fight this ... because this could lead to the end of Puslinch Township as we know it.”

Councillor Susan Fielding said Roth made some very valid points.

“A lot of things which have been happening make me very fearful of Puslinch’s sustainability ... if some of these things come to fruition,” said Fielding.

She agreed Puslinch needs to be vocal now before additional legislation and policies are imposed.

“For the sake of our residents we need to stand up and be heard.”

Councillor John Sepulis agreed with the sentiments expressed.

He indicated he considers the moves regarding the Greenbelt as another means for bureaucracy to extend its reach.

Sepulis also considers this move a duplication of what is being accomplished by the local conservation authorities.

He asked whether the township should be taking a proactive approach.

Mayor Lever agreed with comments regarding all the layers of legislation now affecting the municipality.

“I strongly believe we already have protections in place that are adequate protections - and in fact are more stringent,” said the mayor.

‘Silver bullets’

Lever added current efforts seem intended to appease those who believe this would be “one of the silver bullets to save us in the future.”

He said he believed the township should object to being included in the study area and object to the expansion of the Greenbelt.

Bulmer agreed “this would affect a significant swath of our community.”

Lever noted Wellington County intends to bring forward a report as the Town of Erin is greatly impacted by the proposal as well.

 

January 12, 2018

 
 

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