Eco-friendly community for 70,000 `truly looks like a go' after developer fails to get Supreme Court hearing
Canada's top court has cleared the way for the province to build Ontario's largest environmentally friendly community for 70,000 people in north Pickering.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled yesterday it would not grant developer Silvio De Gasperis leave to appeal a lower court decision that rejected his argument that planning for Seaton was flawed and done without adequate consultation.
"This plan has become law and it clearly sets a strong direction for the community of Seaton," said Bruce Singbush, a senior official with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
"It means the plans for the community of Seaton are final," he said yesterday, pointing out that – if municipal planning decisions move ahead on time – shovels could hit the ground within five years.
The ruling allows for the real work to begin – planning for what environmentalists and government officials promise will be Canada's largest, most complex and significant eco-friendly community, built on 55 per cent of a 6,000-hectare land parcel east of West Duffins Creek.
About 45 per cent of the Seaton lands are already protected as green space and a natural heritage system that is defined by numerous streams and brooks.
In addition to the 70,000 residents, the plan calls for the creation about 35,000 jobs in the area.
If the plan, the result of three years of consultations, comes to fruition, it would result in a one-of-a-kind community of 15 compact neighbourhoods bordering forests and streams.
The plan calls for, among other things:
The disappointed developer said the ruling "is what it is," adding he thought it was unfortunate for Pickering taxpayers but the law of the land must be respected.
Seaton's planning principles, laid down by the province, now have to be executed by the city of Pickering, which still prefers development on De Gasperis's lands.
The Seaton lands saga began in the 1970s when Ontario expropriated about 6,000 hectares of land bordering West Duffins Creek and the Pickering-Ajax boundary between Highway 7 and the railway corridor for a planned federal airport and community.
Plans for the community lay dormant for decades until kick-started by a Liberal-engineered plan to swap developers' land in the environmentally sensitive Oak Ridges Moraine for land in Seaton.
That swap and the decision to include in the greenbelt the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve – where De Gasperis owned land – triggered a bitter battle between the developer and the government. De Gasperis said the Seaton lands were more environmentally sensitive than his and it made more sense to build on his lands because they were serviced, a position supported by Pickering.
De Gasperis still has one outstanding court challenge that questions the environmental assessment of the land swap.
David Donnelly, a lawyer for Environmental Defence and an aboriginal group called the Founding Nations Circle – which worked with the province during the planning process for Seaton – said the community "truly looks like a go."
But Donnelly cautioned that the key to Seaton's success lies in the fulfillment of a Liberal promise that Seaton would be built to the highest possible environmental standards – and that it would set the bar for how future growth will be handled.
Pickering Mayor Dave Ryan said he was disappointed with the ruling but he is willing to work with the province.
"Seaton has the potential to be the most sustainable development in Canada," he said.
But Ryan warned that will happen only if the provincial and federal governments pay for some key costs, including the mass transit and jobs component. "It's not something Pickering can do on its own," he said.
Toronto Star: http://www.thestar.com/News/article/182457