All candidates for Cobourg Council were invited to present responses to important environmental and sustainability questions issued to them by Sustainable Cobourg. Their responses have been received and published below.
It can take thousands of years to make one centimetre of topsoil needed for farming, so agricultural land should be considered a limited resource. Between 1996 and 2006 Ontario lost more than a half-million acres of prime farmland to sprawling development. Only 5% of Canada’s total land base is classified as prime agricultural land (Class 1 to 3 according to the Canada Land Inventory), and more than half of Class 1 farmland is in Ontario. The development of the Cobourg East Community Secondary Plan would remove hundreds of acres of productive farmland as well as woodlands and natural areas. If future development were focused in the existing built areas of Cobourg, the future development of the Cobourg East Community Secondary Plan would be un-needed for decades.
If elected to Cobourg Council, what will you do to ensure that our remaining farmlands serving Cobourg and Northumberland County are not destroyed by development?
I would resist any rezoning that would negatively impact farmland.
With its “Places to Grow” policy and legislation, the Province has placed a significant barrier to further development in the rural areas. Too bad this did not occur 50 years ago when we were actively converting Niagara peach orchards into strip malls. I support the goals of “Places to Grow” and will continue to do so in the years ahead. I too share the concern as to where our food will come from if we do not put an end to urban sprawl. I will fully support the Provincial initiatives in this regard.
I believe firstly that we need to re-focus our approach to development both within our town borders and beyond. There are a number of areas in Cobourg where in filling can occur. These areas already have access to town services and wouldn’t require the additional expense and environmental impact that arises from new development.
It is my understanding that the Cobourg East Community Secondary Plan is part of Cobourg’s Official Plan and has been on-going for the past six years. I believe approval has been given for Phase 1. I am pleased to see that the present council has committed the present builder to mixed housing/commercial development/light industrial, bicycle paths, gateways, public spaces and established biodiversity guidelines for this area.
With this being said, I also realize that with the Provinces “Places to Grow Document” the new Town of Cobourg Council will need to address intensification targets, affordable housing targets, and transit plans, to name a few to ensure that we are meeting new employability standards of 1:3 (one job within our community/Northumberland County for every three persons). I do not believe that these provincial policies are presently incorporated into Cobourg’s Official Plan. The development of the East Secondary Plan will ensure that Cobourg has more than adequate land capacity to handle any future population growth to 2031 without having to develop any further agricultural lands within its boundaries. The new council will be responsible for ensuring that these provincial policies are integrated into our newly updated Official Plan (2010).
There is very little prime agricultural land in Cobourg. It is currently protected as such under our newly amended Official Plan. I would support maintaining the land under its current use and any change in use would have to follow provincial and local guidelines for reviewing such a change. Most prime agricultural land lies in rural townships of Northumberland County. Cobourg Council can best support the County’s Rural Economic Development Policy. This policy favors retaining and supporting farmland use for crops and herds so that produce can be processed and consumed locally thus sustaining and hopefully increasing local employment.
The Cobourg East Community Secondary Plan Area was specifically planned for re-development that also respects the existing natural systems and provincial planning policy statements. There is significant protection to existing natural areas and the Town needs to be vigilant in protecting these despite future requests for any changes to the approved plans which would erode the original concept. Perhaps, enacting by-laws with punitive fines and/or permit withdrawals.
Council has also recently adopted Urban Design Guidelines and this document is helpful in guiding the look and layout of our community. Also, the Growth Management Plan recently undertaken by the County guides future growth patterns and directs most development to existing built-up areas.
As an urban municipality, I believe we need to better promote Cobourg’s connection with where our food comes from and especially with the highly agricultural County of Northumberland. We need to encourage quality compact home design that promotes energy efficiencies and encourage healthy practices including food gardens. We need by-laws on the handling and re-use of productive soils from within our jurisdiction and the control on imported soils and fill material. We need economic development that does not require disruption to huge tracts of land to be viable, and, we need to encourage creative intensification/re-development of existing large consumers of land area like big box stores and industry.
We can protect valuable productive farmlands by ensuring new development is matched with job creation with living wage jobs and services; and that re-development in already built up areas is respectful to the existing neighbourhoods, provides choices and is affordable, and, has a full range of services at a lower tax rate.
I must admit that I am torn regarding the Cobourg East Community Secondary Plan. On the one hand many if not most people believe that a certain amount of residential growth is desirable, so it seems inevitable that some of the land surrounding Cobourg will be consumed by housing over the long term. Although urban infill is the most desirable solution because it makes efficient use of existing infrastructure, it is constrained both by limited space and, unfortunately, the economic inefficiency of small developments versus larger ones. Concentrated new subdivisions, with provision for schools and other services, may be unavoidable.
On the other hand, I was raised near the Niagara Peninsula and it has been shocking to witness the destruction of long-standing fruit growing and traditional farming near Grimsby and Beamsville and throughout the area generally. On balance, my preference would be to preserve Cobourg as a still-beautiful small enclave in Eastern Ontario with all the attendant quality-of-life benefits but I’m not sure that any individual Councilor can reasonably promise to withstand the pressure of housing growth. I guess the best that I can do is to state honestly that I am alert to the perils of untrammeled development and will be a constant questioning voice on Council as projects are proposed. Perhaps the slowing national economy will cause such projects to decelerate, giving more time for dissenting voices to be heard. Certainly I will be listening to those voices.
The east end of Cobourg is being planned on the secondary plan. I was involved with annexation with Hamilton Township & Cobourg in the 1990’s at that time the province of Ontario and the Ministry of Agriculture were involved with the negotiations. The east end of Cobourg has very limited prime farm land and at that time the province convinced the two municipalities that the boundaries be set to accommodate fifty years of growth. Since that time the Places to Grow Act , and the Green Space act have been passed by the province. This controls the density of future growth and also protects our green spaces that are environmentally sensitive. I will work with the planning departments to bring all parties to the table including the public to plan for the future growth of Cobourg in a timely and productive manner, making sure we include all economical business adventures. If elected I still want to live in this feel-good town and be proud of all the accomplishments of the past and on into the future.
My initial reaction to your statement “the future development of the Cobourg East Community Secondary Plan would be unneeded for decades” comes as a question – Then what?
It seems that your presumption is that eventually this area will indeed be developed, if only delayed for a time. Is your question then “How do we propose to delay its development?” or “How do we prevent its development?”
In my opinion, development in the past has usually taken the easiest route, developing greenfields. This has required extending services further and further beyond our traditional built up areas and the results have been uncontrolled sprawl. To their credit, the provincial government has taken some responsibility and is reasserting new levels of control to restrict this pattern of development.
Development throughout the county is outside of Cobourg’s jurisdiction, but perhaps still within some level of influence. Cobourg sits at the County Council table and has input there. However, it is difficult to convince other municipalities to forego expansion and development when Cobourg has been actively approving development of its own areas. Only the firm control from the provincial level seems to be the control that can ensure such restrictions.
The new plans and guidelines call for exactly what you call for, “If future development were focused in the existing built areas of Cobourg”. These plans and guidelines require new developments to remain within the built borders where still feasible. To the best of my knowledge, the Area ‘C’ secondary plan has been adopted. As well, the area immediately to the south of it will be developed within the year. These lands are indeed farm lands of the past. The only way to actually stop any development is to acquire ownership and deny any potential development that way. Short of that, little else presents a viable option of non-development.
We must work with our provincial MPP to ensure they know how important this issue is to this area. Our representative on County Council must let our concerns be heard.
See answer above.
If elected to Cobourg Council, how will you protect the land in the Cobourg East Community Secondary Plan from further development?
The land in Cobourg East already has 30% of the land protected as EC, parkland or green space and I think this is significant.
I really believe increased densities and infilling are in conflict with the current housing market. People don’t want more compact design in homes and builders will not build homes they can’t sell. Until there is a concentrated education program to convince the general public of the need for compact design it won’t take place. I would support any education programs that would target such initiatives and over time we will convince people of the benefits.
Compact design is also in conflict with the Ministry of Health as their objective is to keep people in their homes as long as possible. This cannot happen with 2 story homes. I believe that education is needed in this area as well. Both home owners and builders need to realize the potential for “bungalofts”, which are 2 stories but the main living space and main bedroom are on the main floor with the extra rooms that are used less frequently upstairs.
The Cobourg East Community or Area C as it is also known is within the Cobourg Municipal boundary. It is deemed therefore to be urban rather than rural. In this situation, the Town does not have the authority to prohibit development in Area C. What we can and must do is to encourage development to be contained within the ‘Built Boundary” of the town where services exist. We can and will strive to achieve our intensification targets through redevelopment projects such as we are seeing in the downtown and new developments in the built area.
In time, if nothing else changes, we may be faced with development in Area C. If, and when this happens we must be diligent in our planning and management of this change. We have the tools to do this in the form of an updated Official Plan, the secondary plan for this area, newly developed Urban design Guidelines and an experienced planning staff.
As for our east secondary plan we must ensure that the impact both on our services and land is done so in a way that will diminish environmental impact while ensuring that we all realize the best return for our hard earned tax dollars. Farmland must be preserved and protected this is not a renewable resource and when it’s gone it’s gone forever. If we choose to encourage in filling of our town spaces we would be able to preserve lands not already impacted by development. Well into the future. We need to grow as a community and not simply sprawl. We must preserve our town identity as a wellness and sustainability community dedicated to growth from within.
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On this issue, my wife and I have walked in this area and I feel we could turn this area north of the CN tracks into a wilderness learning facility just like the one on Telephone Road where schools could go and teach their students the importance of nature and the need to hold onto it.
See answer above.