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Long-term growth plan in the works

WALLACE IMMEN

Thursday, June 14, 2001

The province expects to develop a long-term “smart-growth action plan,” from the results of public consultations, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Chris Hodgson said yesterday.

The government should be looking as much as 30 years in the future, Mr. Hodgson said. Based loosely on the “smart growth” principles first developed by the U.S. federal government, the Ontario plan would aim at reducing the sprawl of cities and highway gridlock while maintaining economic growth.

From a separate set of discussions, the province hopes to develop a policy for the Oak Ridges Moraine, north of Toronto, that could cover 50 to 100 years, Mr. Hodgson said at a conference on urban sprawl sponsored by the Canadian Urban Institute.

The 17 public consultations that have been held across the province found broad support for policies that create more liveable communities and maintain a healthy environment but still promote growth, Mr. Hodgson said.

People across the province have concerns about steadily increasing traffic on highways, Mr. Hodgson said.

While people in the Toronto area were most likely to support limits to the spread of the urban area, people in northern and eastern Ontario said they would like to promote more business and population growth.

Ed Sajecki, assistant deputy minister for provincial municipal relations, said Toronto and its surrounding regions face an enormous challenge.

While finding places to house a projected population growth of 2 million over the next two decades, planners will have to look at how to move more people on roads that are already near capacity.

“Unfortunately it often takes a crisis to force everyone into action,” said Ronald Terwilliger, chairman of the Urban Land Institute in Washington, D.C., a think tank for urban planning supported by the development industry.

Mr. Terwilliger described the experience with Atlanta, a city whose growth rate in the early 1990s was similar to Toronto’s current rate. It was only when the federal government threatened to stop all transfer payments unless the city acted to meet air-quality guidelines that Georgia’s state government appointed a regional authority with sweeping powers, Mr. Terwilliger said. “Someone has to use a bully pulpit to over-ride home rule,” he told the planners at the meeting.




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