Greenbelt, two municipalities ask for compensation

TORONTO – Doug Ford’s government’s about-face on the Greenbelt is starting to produce the first “side effects”: two Ontario municipalities are asking the provincial government to reimburse them for more than $400,000 in costs incurred during the procedures for removing some land from the Greenbelt, now cancelled. 

The premier admitted last month that his government’s decision, made in November 2022, to remove 15 lots from the protected Green Belt for housing development – ​​a move now under an RCMP investigation over alleged links between the affected developers and some members of the provincial government – ​​, it was a mistake, and new Housing Minister Paul Calandra has begun the process of returning them to environmental protection.

But, as the Canadian Press reports, the municipalities of Pickering, where the largest plot of land is located, and Grimsby, where two other sites were scheduled to be removed, say they have spent a lot of money and staff time working on those projects. And they want to be compensated.

“While we appreciate the Province’s reconsideration and commitment to preserving the integrity of the GreenBelt, we cannot overlook the significant amount of resources that have already been expended by our Municipality in anticipation of housing development, sometimes at the direction of Province itself” wrote the mayor of Pickering, Kevin Ashe, to minister Paul Calandra.

Pickering city staff tallied $360,135 in direct and indirect costs that Pickering taxpayers are now on the hook for. Of that, about $90,000 was due to staff time working on those projects, while the largest item in direct costs came in the form of more than $178,000 paid to an economic consulting firm for a financial impact analysis of the proposed Cherrywood development, a Greenbelt site owned by Silvio De Gasperis’ TACC Group, which at 4,262 acres is nearly two and a half times larger than the next largest of the 15 sites the provincial government wanted removed. The City of Pickering also spent $90,000 on outside legal services and $930 in recruiting costs for a new Cherrywood master planner position.

However, Grimsby Town Council recently unanimously approved a motion to ask the Province to reimburse the City approximately $82,000: these costs were incurred in legal and consultancy services fees, as well as staff time, “as a direct result of the pressure placed on the Town by the provincial government to reach agreements with developers and make decisions regarding changes in the Greenbelt” the Town states in its motion.

The government has not yet said how it will respond to the requests of the two municipalities. But these requests for “compensation” will certainly become a problem for the Ford government, especially if others are added to those of the two Municipalities.

In the pic above, Pickering Mayor Kevin Ashe (photo from his Twitter page – X @MayorKevinAshe )