Opening northeast Pickering to development is “developer-led” and “sprawl-intensive” – activist


Published May 25, 2024 at 2:42 pm


Pickering Mayor Kevin Ashe is insisting his letter to Housing Minister Paul Calandra asking him to revoke a 50-year-old ban on development in northeast Pickering is entirely about building more homes in the city and has “no bearing” on a potential Pickering airport or about encroaching on the protected Greenbelt.

“We all want to see the continued protection of the Greenbelt lands in northeast Pickering,” Ashe said in an email in response to a request from indurham, adding that his request will have no affect “in any capacity” on the airport lands.

“While some Greenbelt lands are reflected in the overall land mass of what constitutes northeast Pickering, these sensitive parcels were never considered for any type of development and were intentionally excluded from the Urban Area Boundary as set out in the Durham Regional Official Plan. My letter to the Minister does not seek to change that.”

Ashe said his position is also consistent with the positions of both Pickering Council and with Durham Regional Council, though his letter to Calandra was issued under Strong Mayor Powers and not as a result of any decision by his council.

Irene Ford, a Vaughan resident and environmental activist who has been fighting the Doug Ford provincial government for years over the proposed Highway 413 and of the destruction of the Greenbelt, takes issue with Ashe’s response, however.

“I am tired and exhausted of this developer-led, sprawl-intensive development, council-appeasing charade. Please put an end to this nonsense,” Irene Ford said.

She also called Ashe’s statement misleading, “not in the public interest” and lacking in any “reasonable rationale” because it did not come from duly elected council members. “You did not receive a letter from the City of Pickering; you received a letter from the Mayor of Pickering using Strong Mayor Powers to make a request. One that has already been made and refused or remains in limbo.”

Ford also hinted at political influence, claiming the secondary plan outlining how the area can be developed is both premature and a “funding arrangement” between the City and developers represented by the Pickering North East Landowners Group.

“How staff and Council so easily proceeded to start the development of a secondary plan prior to these lands coming into the urban boundary … and funded through development charges that are impossible to charge or collect is beyond my understanding.”

“A letter from a mayor who is pro-development, ignoring his constituents, is weak justification. To suggest that land development and an airport are independent of each other is absolutely obtuse.”

Ashe, however, said the goal of building more homes in northeast Pickering to meet provincially mandated housing targets is a “shared commitment” of the Province, the federal government and the two levels of local government.

“My letter to the minister reinforces this collective priority and outlines decisive action that should be taken in order to help achieve our critical goal of sustainable development.”

Irene Ford is not convinced.

“You are not interested in building housing, you are interested in upzoning and increasing the value of land that has been speculated upon,” she said. “The question is … at what point does this become illegal?”

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