Saving the 14 Mile Creek Valley Merton Lands

Karen Brock Photographer, People tour woodlands during the fall
Saving the 14 Mile Creek Valley Merton Lands

About the Author

Rob Burton

Rob Burton

Rob Burton is the mayor of Oakville, Ontario, in Canada. He was elected in the municipal elections of 2006. He was re-elected to a third term in office in the 2014 municipal elections.

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Like you Council and I are concerned about what will happen to the lands in the Merton Study area, which encompasses all the undeveloped land between 3rd Line and Bronte Road and from North Service Road to Upper Middle, including the Deerfield and Saw-whet golf courses.

I will be proposing to Council at its next meeting, Monday, April 14, important steps that will enable us to protect all of the Merton lands. This e-mail explains what they are and how they will work.

In 2012, Oakville Council approved Staff’s plan for a Town-led, comprehensive study of the Merton lands. Without this decision and Town planning staff’s work, I know these lands would already be in development. Instead, we now have an evidence-based framework with which we will be able to save all of these lands.

The Merton study work is to provide important groundwork for the environmental protection of these lands. I have said that success under the Planning Act requires that we must make evidence-based policy decisions and not “just-say-no” or arbitrary decisions. The Merton studies will be the foundation for an evidence-based decision at another Council meeting later this summer, a decision with which Council will be able to protect all the Merton lands.

Two vitally important things remain to be done before we can make a sound decision.

First, Council must specify the additional environmental work that needs to be done before any further work on any landowners’ applications will take place. The Town’s team of external experts has provided peer review comments on the technical studies done by the landowners. We have learned from our peer reviews that at least five critical environmental issues have not yet been satisfactorily examined – and I believe they must be. Monday night I will put the required motion before Council.

Second, we must do additional work to assure that our work and our decision will fully comply with new, greener Provincial planning rules. After the Merton study work and the Town’s peer reviews were finished, the Province adopted a new “Provincial Policy Statement” (PPS), rules governing land use planning, which will apply to the
Merton decision.

The new PPS contains policy changes which have significant bearing on the protection of the Merton lands. The policies emphasize the importance of identification, protection and enhancement of Natural Heritage Systems of green space and elevate the importance of the matters identified by the Town’s team of experts as requiring more
work.

I have always believed that natural heritage systems must include lands which support natural processes and that these lands can include what we call “cultural meadows” and even golf courses. The new Provincial Policy Statement now recognizes this by including “working landscapes that enable ecological functions to continue” in the definition of Natural Heritage System. This is a breakthrough with a made-in-Oakville pedigree, born in the evidence-based creation of the 2300 acre Oakville Natural Heritage System of green space across the north of Oakville.

In order to continue to develop evidence-based policies to enable strong protection of the Merton lands, staff now needs the opportunity to consider the new PPS policies and direct the Town’s expert team to do the same. Town staff has arranged to meet with Provincial staff in order to gain a better understanding of how these new policies are to
be interpreted and applied.

Therefore, I will be asking Council to direct staff to develop a schedule to complete this critical follow-up work and to stop the application processes for rezoning, subdivision and condominium approvals until staff reports back to council on their plan to complete this additional work that now must be done.

I commend Staff and Council for the foresight shown in initiating these studies in the first place back in November 2012. Monday night I will explain how without these important studies, these lands would already have been approved by the Ontario Municipal Board for development.

Our Council has an eight-year track record of success with our methodical, evidence-based approach. “Just say no” has never saved an inch of land. Our method has saved 502 square kilometers to date, with more to come. Oakville should be proud of its green Council and its track record of successful evidence-based decisions.

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