Provincial Promise to Respect Whitevale Heritage District Buried under Urban Sprawl
Whitevale, Ontario -- Monday, January 28, 2013 marks the start of Phase 2 of the Ontario Municipal Board hearing into the colossal, taxpayer funded development known as Seaton, a.k.a. the Central Pickering Development Plan. Residents of Whitevale have intervened to try and save one of Ontario’s best remaining heritage districts and agricultural land in the Hamlet of Whitevale.
“It’s all well and good to compensate developers for preserving the environment of Richmond Hill with a land swap for valuable agricultural land in Pickering, but that swap came with a promise that the farmsteads and Heritage District of Whitevale that we worked so hard to create would be preserved,” exclaimed Marion Thomas representative of the Whitevale and District Residents’ Association (WDRA), a party to these hearings.
“Proceeding under the Ontario Planning and Development Act, no matter what the result of the hearings, they can easily be overturned by Cabinet and should be if Pickering is allowed to approve incompatible development on the land surrounding Whitevale Hamlet ”, Thomas added.
In 1890, Whitevale contained a stave and heading factory; a barrel factory; three general stores; a wagon and carriage factory; a cheese factory; the butcher shop of Israel Burton and the tinsmith shop of S.B. Wigmore; two blacksmiths; two wagon shops; a school house; undertakers; harness shop; grist mill; brush factory; grindstone factory; barber shop; three dressmakers; three gardeners; money order and post offices; hotel; brass band; two churches and four lodges.
Then in the early 1970’s, a heart wrenching expropriation of heritage properties led to the creation of the Seaton Land Preserve. Many of the farms and homesteads had been passed down through generations, along with 25,000 acres of prime farmland – some of the best in North America.
Now, four decades later, the province is poised to move one large step closer with plans for a mammoth, sprawling development in North Pickering.
“In Ontario, we protect outright Class III wetlands but carelessly allow heritage landscapes to be paved and negatively impacted by nearby incompatible development” said David Donnelly, counsel for the WDRA.
“This case turns on the crucial point of whether an old-fashioned guarantee given to the community of Whitevale by the province to preserve our history is worth the barrel-head it was signed on”, Donnelly added.
Community groups such as the WDRA worked in good faith with the province in an effort to be part of a development that could be truly sustainable. Residents feel the new development does not measure up to expectations.
Phase 2 of the hearing is expected to last two weeks. Phase 3 will deal with the critical issue of whether Whitevale will be inundated with the scourge of commuter traffic from new sub-divisions nearby.
The WDRA is a small community organization committed to preservation of Canadian heritage, protection of farmland and a commitment to sustainability for future generations.
Over the past 30 years, more than two million acres of Ontario farmland has been lost to non-farm developments such as urban expansion and mineral aggregate extraction. We continue to lose more than 100 acres, or one farm, per day. In the GTA alone, more than 2,000 farms and 150,000 acres of farmland were lost to production between 1976 and 1996.
Whitevale and District Residents' Association Website: http://www.whitevale.ca/index.html