Monday, October 21, 2013

Final ANSI Boundary Protects Fonthill Kame!

I was jubilant when I received the letter and the map.

After nearly four-and-a-half years, the Ministry of Natural Resources recently issued the final ANSI (Area of Natural & Scientific Interest) boundaries for the Fonthill Kame-Delta. This final ANSI boundary includes most of the former area and increases the protection from 930 acres to 993 acres.

You will recall that the “Fonthill Kame-Delta” is our rare, 75-metre-tall landmark that was formed by retreating glaciers 13,000 years ago. The Kame boasts the highest point in Niagara and the headwaters of Twelve Mile Creek. It’s the “hill” in Fonthill and Shorthills and the “ridge” in Ridgeville. The Kame’s microclimatic and soil conditions create an ideal environment for tender fruit production.

MNR identified the Fonthill Kame as provincially significant in 1976 and as a Provincial ANSI in 1988. This designation restricts development for reasons of heritage, science or education.

In May 2009, MNR recommended significantly reducing the ANSI’s coverage to “representative samples.” Pelham Council, Niagara Regional Council, Niagara Escarpment Commission, Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, scientific experts, dozens of Pelham residents, Tim Hudak, MPP, and Minister Jim Bradley, St. Catharines MPP, voiced opposition to these changes.

As a result, in early 2010, Pelham received a strong commitment from Donna Cansfield, MPP, Minister of Natural Resources:  “Please let me assure you that it is our intention to maintain and, where feasible, enhance the current ANSI boundary.”

Despite that assurance, in 2011, MNR proposed reducing the ANSI to “Swiss-cheese” by failing to protect huge portions of the Kame – especially those areas that are under direct threat of new or expanded development. Again we expressed our significant concerns.

In June 2013, MNR informed Council about proposed improvements to the ANSI boundaries and the plans to expand the ANSI. Both Pelham and Regional Councils acknowledged these 2013 improvements but sought MNR’s rationale for not including the entire Kame.

In their letter, MNR clarified that the parts of the Kame not included in the new ANSI boundaries “…have been extensively disturbed or impacted by various land uses and development.” The two major areas now excluded are the Chestnut Ridge subdivision and the Lafarge Pit.

To better preserve the ANSI area, MNR suggests that the Town and Region incorporate the new ANSI boundaries in municipal planning policies and in all planning decisions moving forward.

I believe that these protections are great news for Pelham and the Region! I appreciate MNR living up to the goal of maintaining and enhancing the former ANSI boundary.

In the past I have asked you to write to the Minister to encourage ANSI protection; now, I invite you to write to Minister Orazetti and thank MNR for protecting the Fonthill Kame:

Hon. David Orazietti, MPP
Minister of Natural Resources
Whitney Block, 6th Floor, Room 6630
99 Wellesley St. West
Toronto ON   M7A1W3

Please click here for a copy of the Ministry of Natural Resources letter and a map of the final boundaries.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Wind Energy Votes and the Region

A few people have written to me about my position during a recent vote on wind energy at Regional Council.

In July 2012, I was among the majority when Regional Council approved a motion that designated Niagara as the Green Energy Capital of Canada. The positioning makes sense to me because of Niagara’s long history of hydro-electric power generation and of the number of recent green energy businesses and initiatives developing in Niagara.

But, during our June 20, 2013 Council meeting, we considered a motion brought forward by Mayors Jeffs and Joyner:

That the Regional Municipality of Niagara supports Wainfleet and West Lincoln in their request to the Province of Ontario to be deemed an 'unwilling host' for Industrial Wind Turbines.

During the debate, I voted in favour of postponing the vote so that we could receive additional information; when that vote lost (11 in favour, 12 against), I voted in favour of the motion as presented. At the time, it seemed to me that the motion essentially highlighted the “unwilling host” resolutions from West Lincoln and Wainfleet to the Province. Others must have thought the same, because that vote carried 15 to 8.

On August 1, Councillor Katzman gave notice that she wanted Council to “reconsider” the vote on the June 20 motion.

When the issue returned to Regional Council on September 19, we heard four presentations – two in favour, and two opposed. If not expressly stated, I asked each presenter what the motion meant to them.

For those in favour, the motion meant that Regional Council “supports” the efforts of Wainfleet and West Lincoln; for those presenters opposed, the motion gave a signal that Niagara was “closed” for green energy business. These answers clearly show that the motion means different things to different people.

With this type of dichotomy, I felt that we needed to discuss the motion further and, perhaps, clarify the wording.

As a result, I voted to "reconsider" – that is, to consider again – the motion. I hoped that we could support residents concerned about wind turbines while balancing the feedback from the business community. (Because our “rules of debate” don’t allow discussion on the “reconsideration” of a motion, I could not publicly state my reasoning.)

Unfortunately, the “reconsideration” motion (which required a two-thirds majority vote) lost with 17 in favour and 11 opposed.

The story is not yet over.  Regional Council will consider Councillor Zimmerman’s motion to reconfirm our “support for development and investment in the green energy sector” during our October 10 meeting.