Big win for the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan

Wed, 02/12/2014 - 15:10 -- eshapero

Recently we’ve written about Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) decisions that have favoured the interests of developers over local communities and their environment – think the battle of Waterloo. But thanks to the Stewards of the Moraine, King Township and York Region, the OMB did the right thing and stopped a problematic development in its tracks.  

In late January, the OMB denied a permit to a developer who proposed building a large event venue on ecologically sensitive land of the Oak Ridges Moraine in Ontario’s Greenbelt.

The proposal included plans for building a wedding banquet facility, a water feature with a pond and canal over a km long (previously dug without approvals) capable of holding a volume of water equivalent to 14 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The proposal also included plans for the largest parking lot in King Township, for more than 600 cars. After the Township turned down the proposal, the owner appealed to the OMB.

The OMB hearing focused largely on whether the outdoor event facility was allowed, under the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan (ORMCP), as a major recreational use. The Stewards of the Moraine, represented by David Donnelly – long-time legal counsel to Environmental Defence – argued that weddings are not a major recreational use, but a commercial use. In the end, the OMB agreed, stating in its decision that the proposed banquet/wedding/ event facility is not a recreational use as anticipated by the Province in the ORMCP.” 

While this might seem like an academic debate over definitions, approval of the facility could have had profound consequences for the Moraine. It could have opened the door to pseudo-recreational development applications popping up all over the Moraine (including paintball, go-cart and laser tag facilities) putting this natural area at risk. The Conservation Plan was put in place precisely to protect farmland and headwater areas, while diverting growth to more suitable areas.

By finding that the developer’s proposal was not for recreational use, the OMB upheld the Conservation Plan’s strict conservation mandate – something so important to communities, their water sources and environments across the Moraine and greater Greenbelt. Now, that’s a reason to celebrate.

Check out this Toronto Star article about this victory for the Moraine.

To read the decision, click here.