October 26, 2020

Tabling a motion to continue work on the proposed environmentally protected (EP) zoning amendments in rural Clarington has stalled and stopped all further work and discussion for months.

During debates at Clarington Council and even more recently when responding to enquires, the Mayor, some Councillors and the planning staff have repeatedly stated that they were awaiting the outcome of the East Gwillimbury case regarding that municipality’s proposed zoning bylaw amendments. The reason given was that their situation was similar to Clarington’s.

Originally, East Gwillimbury and the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA) proposed adding 25,000 acres of EP land to their official plan. Responding to local dissension, that Council decided not to add more EP land and to go back to using their 2018 mapping.

LSRCA then decided to file an appeal to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). Here in Clarington an important difference is that our local council has made no movement to respond to local opposition to increase EP designation to over 50% in rural areas.

On September 22, it was reported that an agreement was reached between East Gwillimbury and the LSRCA. On October 5th, the appeal to LPAT was withdrawn and the proposed 25,000 acres of private property will not be designated as EP.

The reported agreement includes four key aspects. The first step is for the LSRCA to withdraw their appeal to LPAT. The second aspect is that the agreement uphold the private property rights of residents by retaining the zoning in place prior to their May 2018 Zoning By-law review. The third important aspect is that no new lands become zoned for environmental protection. And finally, the agreement avoids having a decision made by LPAT through a potentially lengthy and costly process.

The report to the East Gwillimbury Council goes on to say that the agreement is aligned with residents ensuring that no new lands become zoned EP, and upholds the private property rights of residents. Additional schedules will be added to the zoning by-laws for reference purposes only to make residents aware of all land use regulations that may exist on their property beyond the Town’s own by-laws. This practice is common across other municipal zoning by-laws throughout the Province.

If the outcome of the East Gwillimbury case is what Clarington Council has been waiting for, the results are now in. It shows how a strong elected municipal council listened to its landowners and is able to resolve controversial issues without needlessly pursuing a legal or LPAT procedure. It needs a willingness to mutually respect each party’s position and a serious intent to reach agreement in good faith to come to a settlement that most can accept.

Clarington has an opportunity to move forward on the issue of zoning by-law amendments affecting rural properties. As in the East Gwillimbury settlement, it is important to uphold property rights, that no new EP lands be added other than to meet current mandatory provincial EP designations and that every effort should be made to avoid unnecessary costs and delays to the landowner and to the taxpayers in Clarington.

A full copy of the East Gwillimbury Report can be read by clicking here.