Ajax and Durham Councils Support Protection of Carruthers Creek Headwaters

July 29, 2020, an important victory was won for the protection of the headwaters of Carruthers Creek. The Durham Regional Council, acting in response to an earlier motion by the Town of Ajax, and many residents, opposed a request by the City of Pickering to urbanize these lands through the imposition of a Ministerial Zoning Order. (MZO)

Thirty-one residents of Durham Region sent emails opposing this MZO. Of these, the most detailed arguments came from veteran environmentalist David Hogg. Hogg called the headwaters urbanization “unconscionable in today’s environment.” The urbanization would destroy “the engine for nature.” He warned, “The Town of Ajax and its residents are at increased risk of flooding due to destruction of a stormwater sink and the commensurate issue with water run-off from residential development.”

The reasons for Durham Council’s decision to protect the headwaters are expressly detailed in a comprehensive report from its planning department. It stressed, “The majority of the subject lands area is designated Prime Agricultural Area in the Durham Regional Official Plan. Prime Agricultural Areas are to be used primarily for agriculture and farm-related uses. Portions of the subject lands are also identified as Key Natural Heritage and Ecological Features.”

The Durham regional planners concluded, “The proposed MZO would constitute a permanent land use decision to permit urban development on over 1,600 hectares of land without benefit of detailed analysis, agency review, public comment and input. Open public consultation of significant land use planning matters is a cornerstone of Ontario’s land use planning process.”

Regional planners disputed any “need” justification under provincial policies to justify the MZO to urbanize the headwaters, making Carruthers Creek vulnerable to a tide of toxic stormwater pollution. They argued, “There is no immediate shortage of land for new residential development in Durham. There are numerous intensification opportunities within the built-up area...”

Durham Region endorsed a July 7, 2020 request from the Mayor of Ajax, Shaun Collier to save the headwaters. Collier wrote, “Using an MZO as a mechanism to plan a new community of...1,650-2200 hectares is highly unusual and inappropriate as it would not allow for proper public consultation, or address serious cross-jurisdictional concerns ie. the impact of downstream flooding on south Ajax.” 

Collier sees the proposed MZO as overriding “the published Draft Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.”. Public meetings on this plan have been suspended because of the COVID crisis.

A giant problem with MZOs is they do not have clear deadlines for consultation in legislation. To save the headwaters act quickly and write to the Honourable Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing via email: minister.mah@ontario.ca

Photo by Joanne Dies (joannedies.com), Ajax waterfront blue-green algae bloom, Aug2018

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