Government's Definition of Oak Ridges Moraine Protection Remains Dangerously Ambiguous

Earthroots and Ecojustice are in the throes of opposing the Westhill development in Aurora, a transitional development application (an application that pre-dates the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act but never received approval).  This is the first transitional development on the Oak Ridges Moraine to go to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).

Concerned residents of Aurora, lawyer Rod Northey, and the environmental community have been seeking a consolidated hearing, bringing together the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) and the OMB.  Having a consolidated hearing would increase the chances of seeing environmental considerations streamlined into planning decisions.  A consolidated hearing is important in bringing all three approval layers together (Planning Act approval, Water Resources Act approval and Environmental Assessment approval).  Furthermore, the presence of the ERT would be an incredibly valuable asset during the hearings, as this would mean that there would be a greater understanding and sensitivity to the preserving ecological and hydrological integrity.

Unfortunately, the OMB declined the request for a consolidated hearing, a decision which is now being appealed by Mr. Northey, to be heard in court in March or April 2009.  Earthroots has gained status to intervene as a ‘friend of the court’ during these hearings, to 1) provide a unique perspective regarding the importance of considering the cumulative impacts of development on the Moraine, which our research on surrounding golf courses has shown are not being properly considered, and 2) to speak to the importance of integrating planning decisions with environmental concerns through a proper interpretation and application of the Consolidated Hearings Act.

On Saturday, February 7, freelance writer Peter Gorrie wrote a piece entitled, “How about protecting Ontario’s ‘protected’ areas”.  To read the article, please click on the following link: http://www.thestar.com/article/583734