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Hamilton & Ontario Process FAQS

Who decides if the proposed quarry application gets approved and what land uses are allowed in a municipality?

The proponent has indicated that he is proposing to develop a limestone quarry on his lands. He has submitted an application to the City of Hamilton seeking a change to the Official Plan OPA - 04-17 to allow the extraction of aggregates and a change to the Zoning By-law ZAC-04-89 to permit the same use. Land use approvals are one of the approvals needed to permit aggregate extraction.

The City of Hamilton has accepted the application as an active file for review, after a pro forma determination of its completeness, and has referred the application for review to the Planning and Economic Development Committee.  The Planning and Development Department is the lead department.

City staff is in the process of reviewing the application. Examples of relevant City departments and agencies include Planning and Development, Water and Wastewater, Transportation, and the Environmentally Sensitive Areas Inventory Group (ESAIG). Input is being sought from other Commenting Agencies like neighbouring municipalities that might be affected.  These include the Town of Milton, the City of Burlington, the Region of Halton, School Boards, and Conservation Authorities.  Preliminary reports from these agencies indicate major concerns, which echo those raised by FORCE, regarding the potential impact on groundwater quantity and quality, ecological features, and lack of haul route, among others.

This input from other Commenting Agencies is being taken one step further.  A technical review team of government stakeholders has been established known as the Combined Aggregate Review Team (CART) (36 KB). Discussions have taken place and CART formally commences meetings in June 2005.  CART provides a “hands on” approach to the application review process for these government stakeholders, allows sharing of perspectives and expertise, and develops a unified approach to dealing with the proponent and arriving at positions on key issues.  Consensus will be sought through CART but CART does not prevent any participating government stakeholder from submitting its own independent submission on the application.

The City of Hamilton has also chosen, consistent with FORCE's recommendation, to have the proponent's expert technical studies undergo third party examination by a Peer Review Team (41 KB) as part of its analysis. This means that experts will be hired by, be accountable to and report to the City (but be paid for by the proponent) to examine the proponent’s technical reports and comment on their findings.  The peer review process is important because it provides access to resources and expertise that would otherwise not be available in-house at the City.  It helps to ensure that sufficient information is provided by the proponent to evaluate the proposal, to ensure a thorough technical review, and to make sure that interests and issues that are within the City’s mandate are properly addressed.

Public participation opportunities, such as public meetings and occasions to appear before the Planning and Economic Development Committee and Council, are required when changes to the Official Plan and Zoning By-law are considered. The City has retained Steven Rowe (84 KB)as the Aggregate Planning Advisor to assist with its review of the application and with its consultation process.

A Process Flowchart (63 KB) of the application review and expected decision making process has been developed by the Aggregate Planning Advisor.  The Process Flowchart (63 KB) helps to identify key steps and milestones in this complex process such as upfront Peer Review and CART technical reviews, opportunities for public input, formal public meetings, Committee and Council decisions.  The Process Flowchart describes how and when the process for land use planning decisions will interact with the process for license application under the Aggregate Resources Act.  The chart helps everyone involved to better understand what steps will occur and in what order as the application is reviewed. 

FORCE welcomes the intervention opportunities to be provided for us whenever there is something to review for input and/or to provide feedback.  FORCE is on the record as being concerned about the lack of timetable attached to the Flowchart and will continue to advocate for mutually agreed upon working deadlines by CART and the proponent in order to ensure effective time management.

With respect to the land use planning decisions, City staff will make a recommendation on the proponent’s application to the Planning and Economic Development Committee. Committee Councillors will make a recommendation to full Council. Full Council will then make a decision.

Decisions of a Municipal Council can be appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) by the proponent if his application is rejected, by opponents of the application, such as FORCE, if the application is approved, or by the Province (as represented by one or more of its Ministries), depending on its interests. A decision of the OMB can be appealed to the Provincial Cabinet (the Premier and Ministers) under certain provisions - such as where the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing provides written notice to the OMB that an appeal to the Board may affect a Provincial Interest.  For appellate procedures, the Planning Act and the Strong Communities (Planning Amendment) Act should be consulted.

What is an Official Plan?

The Official Plan of a municipality is a policy document that describes and outlines "the big picture" in the municipality. It spells out in words and maps key information like where are the Urban areas and where are the Rural areas; which land uses are allowed in each; how and where environmental planning is to take place; how and where services like roads, sewers, transit, recreational facilities and public health will be provided; where open spaces will be; and how the local economy will be supported.

The Official Plan is supposed to be used as a guide for governments and other public sector organizations, the private sector, and area landowners when they are making decisions. In an ideal world, decisions will be taken consistently, growth and change are managed, and the (future) relationship between land uses and municipal services is clear.

Currently, our area has:

Copies of the Official Plans may be reviewed at the local Flamborough municipal office on Dundas St. in Waterdown.

What is a zoning by-law?

Zoning by-laws help describe in words and maps the "detailed picture" in the municipality. Zoning by-laws are one of the tools municipalities use to make sure that land uses in specific areas and specific lots are allowed and are consistent with the "big picture" in the Official Plan. Zoning by-laws tell us whether a lot can be used for residential purposes (and what kind, for example, estate residential or high density) or agricultural purposes or industrial or commercial purposes. Zoning by-laws tell us very detailed information like how close a building can be to the lot line, including something as small as a backyard tool shed.

A copy of the Zoning By-law for the former Town of Flamborough may also be reviewed at the local Flamborough municipal office on Dundas St. in Waterdown.

What is the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB)?

The Ontario Municipal Board is an independent administrative tribunal - it is responsible for resolving disputes on a variety of land use planning and municipal matters. The members of the OMB are appointed by the Ontario Cabinet (the Premier and Ministers). Appointments are reviewed by a committee of the Ontario Legislature known as the Standing Committee on Government Agencies. The members represent a wide variety of professions including lawyers, planners, engineers, accountants, teachers and municipal administrators. Although the OMB is headquartered in Toronto, the members are also selected to provide regional representation.

The Ontario government is currently considering changes to the planning system in Ontario. It is reviewing the OMB's mandate, accountability, qualifications of members, and the public's ability to participate. For more information, go to http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/Page1755.aspx.

What is a Consolidated Hearings Board?

A Consolidated Hearings Board is made possible by the Consolidated Hearings Act. This law allows the provincial government to "join" several administrative tribunals, like the Ontario Municipal Board, the Environmental Review Tribunal, and the Environmental Assessment Board. This is done in cases where an application for a development, like aggregate extraction, requires approvals under a number of laws, some or all of which could provide or require a public hearing. A single hearing panel, usually with three panel members, with representation from the involved boards, is set up so that there is a single hearing process rather than separate hearings before each board.

What is the Provincial Policy Statement?What does it have to do with the land use planning decision?

The Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) is a statement of the Provincial government's land use priorities. It includes topics like agricultural land protection, environmental protection, wetlands, and aggregates. The PPS is issued under the authority of the Ontario Planning Act and is designed to provide direction to municipalities and the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).

The PPS which applies to the Lowndes Holdings Corp. application is the 1996/97 PPS. Municipalities and the OMB are to "have regard to" the policy statement when making land use decisions. Historically, it has not been clear exactly what that means - “have regard to” has been a less demanding test than “be consistent with” and is viewed as more directional than mandatory.  Also, the PPS reference in this case is directed at the decision maker as opposed to the outcome or the decision.

For these reasons and as part of a cyclical 5 year timetable, the PPS was reviewed by the Ontario Government. One change made was an amendment to the Planning Act so that land use decisions " shall be consistent with" the policy statement. For more information, go to http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/Page216.aspx .

The 2005 PPS came into effect on March 1, 2005.  While it does not technically apply to the Lowndes Holdings Corp. application from a legal time of commencement perspective, it will hold meaning for the review process.  This is because many of the Greenbelt Plan definitions are derived from the 2005 PPS and the revised PPS provides a “temperature reading” of the desired future land use planning directions of the Provincial Government.

What is the Provincial Greenbelt Plan?
The current Ontario Government ran on an election platform in 2003 that included protection of a Greenbelt from Niagara to Peterborough.

Upon forming the Government, steps were taken to bring that general commitment to an operational reality.

First, a Minister's Zoning Order was issued by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing on December 16, 2003. Its formal name is Ontario Regulation 432/03. It was issued under the authority of the Ontario Planning Act as a protection measure prior to passage of the original Greenbelt Protection Act (known as Bill 27).The Zoning Order placed a temporary one year moratorium or freeze on urban uses on rural and agricultural lands within the Greenbelt until a long term strategy for the Greenbelt could be established.

The original Greenbelt Protection Act provided the legal framework for the Greenbelt study area being examined by the Greenbelt Task Force and for its long term protection. That Act was passed on June 24, 2004 and replaced the Zoning Order. It should be noted that amendments to Bill 27 clarified that rural uses such as forestry and aggregate extraction were permitted rural uses and not affected by the moratorium.

The Greenbelt Task Force was appointed in February 2004 by the Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. The Task Force was made up of a team of respected, knowledgeable and diverse stakeholder representatives. They formulated recommendations on a proposed long term strategy for the Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt. For more information on its work, please go to the Task Force's website at http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/Page187.aspx.

Based on the Greenbelt Task Force’s work, a draft permanent Greenbelt Act and Greenbelt Plan, including maps, were released for consultation in November 2004.  That Greenbelt Act was passed on February 24, 2005 with an in effect date of December 16, 2004.  The final Greenbelt Plan - approved as Order-in-Council No. 208/2005 - and two companion regulations - were released on February 28, 2005 . Ontario Regulation 59/05 addresses the Greenbelt boundaries and Ontario Regulation 61/05 addresses transition provisions.  Transition provisions provide the legal framework to include applications in progress under an initiative. Transition regulations were similarly used in the case of the Oak Ridges Moraine Plan.    

What land is included in the Greenbelt?

The Greenbelt includes lands from the Niagara Peninsula through to Peterborough - these are lands under the jurisdiction of the City of Toronto, the Regions of Durham, York, Halton and Peel, the City of Hamilton, tender fruit and grape lands designated in the Region of Niagara's Official Plan, the Niagara Escarpment Plan and the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan. For maps, go to http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/Page1392.aspx.

Does the Greenbelt Plan apply to the Lowndes Holdings Corp. application?

Yes.  First, the Lowndes Holdings Corp. lands are within the Protected Countryside and within the Natural Heritage System of the Greenbelt.  Second, Ontario Regulation 61/05, the Greenbelt Transition Regulation, says that prescribed regulations are subject to the Greenbelt Plan.  Specifically, any Official Plan amendment applications to permit mineral aggregate uses where the application was commenced after December 16, 2003 and before December 16, 2004 and where no decision was reached prior to February 28, 2005 are subject to the Greenbelt Plan.  The Lowndes Holdings Corp. application meets this criterion - it was submitted in September 2004 and no decision has been made - and so is subject to the Plan.

What does the Greenbelt Plan mean for the Lowndes Holdings Corp. application?  Are quarries allowed?

The Greenbelt legislation does not ban the establishment of new quarries within the protected area. In fact, aggregate extraction is still considered an appropriate rural land use by the new law. The Greenbelt legislation does not prevent the proponent of a new quarry from applying to the local and provincial governments for the permission to extract aggregate. Nor does the legislation provide a basis for the summary rejection of such an application by any level of government.

What the Greenbelt legislation does is to increase the protection of sensitive ecological and agricultural areas within proposed aggregate extraction areas, making it more difficult for a proponent to win approval for the new venture. The process of application and the process of approval or rejection must still continue, exactly as before. Only the criteria for approval or rejection have changed.

Tougher rules have been placed on greenfield aggregate developments in the Natural Heritage System of the Greenbelt.

No new aggregate development is to be permitted in key natural heritage features or key hydrologic features. Examples of key Natural Heritage features include provincially significant wetlands, significant woodlands, and significant habitat of endangered and threatened species. Key hydrologic features include both surface and groundwater streams and flows as well as other wetlands.

New aggregate development may be permitted near other natural and hydrologic features only where the application demonstrates how it will meet new additional restrictions.  These include: protection for water resources, no impact on linkages between surrounding natural heritage and hydrologic features and no loss of habitat. In addition there are new extra operational and rehabilitation requirements.

The detailed implications of the Greenbelt Plan on the Lowndes Holdings Corp. application and proposed land use will be examined during the application review.

What is the Golden Horseshoe Growth Management Strategy?

The Ministry of Public Infrastructure Renewal (PIR) is undertaking a complementary initiative to the Greenbelt initiative.  The Growth Management Strategy is designed to promote more compact forms of urban growth and related infrastructure planning.  This initiative is important because how we grow our communities is an important factor in how we protect our natural spaces and how much aggregate we need.   In particular, redeveloping downtown cores, minimizing sprawl, and effective 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) policies for aggregates will help to reduce the amount of land we need to expand to and will help to reduce demand for new aggregate from key environmental areas like the Niagara Escarpment, the Oak Ridges Moraine, and the rest of the Greenbelt. 

PIR first released "Places to Grow: Better Choices, Brighter Future - A Draft Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe" in July 2004. Based on feedback during public consultation, the Ministry introduced legislation known as Bill 136, the proposed Places to Grow Act, and a revised Draft Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.  The Places to Grow Act came into effect June 13, 2005.  A regulation was also passed identifying the Greater Golden Horseshoe as the first area in the province to receive a growth plan. The Proposed Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe Area was released on November 24, 2005. Public comments will be accepted until January 27, 2006. For more information, visit http://www.placestogrow.ca.

What is a Public Liaison Committee or Citizen's Advisory Committee?

A Public Liaison Committee (PLC) or Citizen's Advisory Committee (CAC) is a citizen's committee set up by the proponent, in this case, Lowndes Holdings Corp. The PLC or CAC is used to advise and assist the proponent on matters related to its application, in this case matters related to the establishment of a limestone quarry. When established, the PLC or CAC will have its own specific mandate or terms of reference and composition.

A PLC or CAC typically:

Will FORCE be participating on the Public Liaison Committee?

The proponent has contacted the Chair of FORCE about participation on the PLC. FORCE's mission is to protect our rural communities and the environment and to oppose the proposed aggregate operation on the 11th Concession East. FORCE's Steering Committee and supporters will focus on efforts to those ends.

Should I participate if I am asked by Lowndes Holdings Corp.?

Whether you as an individual choose to participate is your own personal decision. You will weigh and balance your own sense of personal and community interests.

At the present time, the proponent’s outreach to the community is through household distribution of periodic print information brochures and seasonal ‘open house’ meeting opportunities at the Carriage House at 515 11th Concession East.


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