This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Congratulations to Councillor Richard Bartley for organizing an electronic waste collection day on Saturday, October 20th. Over 270 residents filled three huge containers with their electronic items for recycling. In a small way the event puts environmental awareness and action back onto the agenda at Town Hall. While each of our neighbouring municipalities in York Region has an appointed environmental advisory committee, ours was disbanded in 2006, and has been off the radar ever since. The role of such a committee is to “give advice and assistance to Council and staff of the town on environmental issues impacting the municipality,” and to “promote the stewardship, preservation, conservation, protection and enhancement of the natural environment in the town” (that’s from our neighbours in Georgina). The work reflected in the online minutes of those same committees in Aurora and Newmarket is as inspiring as it is important. The minutes indicate that their councils see them not as a nuisance, but as critical partners for reaching community goals. Richmond Hill, for example, had a vision to become the first community in Ontario to reduce their corporate greenhouse gas emissions to 20% below 2000 levels, which they accomplished. While Whitchurch-Stouffville has accepted and worked within provincial environmental guidelines, we have hardly embraced environmental leadership as our signature feature, unlike Markham or Richmond Hill, for example. The newly released “2012 Monitoring the Moraine Status Report” makes special mention of Whitchurch-Stouffville as the last of 24 lower-tier municipalities to finally adopt morainespecific zoning by-law amendments. Though we’ve caught up in that regard, we are absent from that list of municipalities (all of our neighbours) that have a tree cutting/ conservation by-law. (The last attempt at such a by-law for Whitchurch-Stouffville failed in 2006; a vague site-alteration by-law was passed in 2008). In our neighbourhood (Millard St. and Ninth Line), we lost dozens of century-old trees recently without notice. The Report recommends that municipalities like ours take a more proactive approach to create and-or improve these by-laws.
Even with some newer, moraine specific by-laws in place, they have not been rigorously enforced in Whitchurch-Stouffville. Earlier this year a subdivision proposal and zoning by-law amendment for a portion of the Oak Ridges Moraine Natural Core outside the designated Settlement Area in Ballantrae flew through council without opposition. And when the only thing feared more than sprawl is density (i.e., apartments), it is easy for council to submit to the forces of NIMBYism, and approve more houses instead. The town’s current growth strategy plan considers a revision of the town’s official plan with a possible application for new lands on the moraine. Future residential and employment growth targets set by the region must be accommodated, and the plan assumes that the alternative--increased intensification—
could create undue “pressure for redevelopment in residential neighbourhoods.” Is this really worse than sprawl? The plan also states that action beginning now “is important to maintaining an uninterrupted supply of land and building lots following the build-out of phase 2 development lands in Stouffville.” Why so? In this context of on-going rapid growth, an environmental advisory committee to council is sorely needed. Councillor Bartley’s “e-waste” collection event was a welcome sign that greater environmental awareness may be creeping back onto the agenda Town Council--though we’re still a long way off from embracing environmental leadership as the mark of our town.