Press Release: Heritage Speed River Valley Lands Working Group seeks Party Status at Ontario Municipal Board Hearing on OPA 48 – Monday, October 20, 2014

For Immediate release

Heritage Speed River Valley Lands Working Group seeks Party Status at Ontario Municipal Board Hearing on OPA 48 – Monday, October 20, 2014

The Heritage Speed River Valley Lands Working Group’s goal is to protect the Heritage Speed River Valley Lands from inappropriate development on lands owned by the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA). We strongly believe that the 116 acres of open space owned by the GRCA on both sides of Niska Road should be protected as open space and natural heritage in perpetuity for ours and future generations as promised in 1977 when the land was purchased.
The GRCA Niska Lands are currently Zoned P1 (Conservation). In the City of Guelph’s The City of Guelph Zoning Bylaw (1995) – 14864: Section 3, Definitions:

“Conservation Area” means a Place designated by the Ministry of Natural Resources or the Ministry of Energy and Environment as environmentally sensitive and includes any Place owned by the Grand River Conservation Authority”

The lands, which include the former Kortright Waterfowl Park, were purchased in 1977 with funds contributed from the City of Guelph (40%) Ministry of Natural Resources (50%) and Grand River Conservation Authority (10%) in order to protect them from development. (See the attached Guelph Mercury News article) In 2014, with a much greater city population and an identified deficit in open-space parkland there is every reason to continue to protect these lands according to the original plan.

We are disappointed, frustrated and angry that members of the public have to ask for Party Status at the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) for an Official Plan Amendment (OPA) to try to correct a policy change that was included in OPA 48 without notification to the neighbourhood of this major change in designation of a large block of land.

The 2012 Envision Guelph’s update to Guelph’s Official Plan (through OPA # 48) could allow up to 6 storey or more apartment buildings within the Speed River Valley Lands. These lands are unique within the City of Guelph because they represent an area where one can still view a part of Guelph much as it has been since it was settled in 1800’s: a cultural heritage landscape with beautiful sunsets and night skies within backdrop of the forests of the Heritage Speed River and its valleylands.

Any proposed development on these lands, and especially mid-rise apartments could alter the heritage view shed forever. The valleylands are ideally situated to provide the experience of nature that was the first-priority goal of the most recent City of Guelph Parks and Recreation Master Plan.

There is a Guelph transit stop immediately adjacent to the Niska Lands making this area accessible to all of Guelph to visit and enjoy.

As the City of Guelph grows and becomes denser, Guelph residents will need areas such as the GRCA Niska lands where individuals and families can spend time in nature and experience a quiet respite area of great beauty away from the increasing noise of a dense and busy city. William Wyte said, “Great Cities need a place of respite, inspiration, beauty and wonder”. We believe the Speed River Valley lands are Guelph’s place.

Our beautiful, river valley viewscape must be protected as an unique example of an evolved pre-settlement landscape, a natural setting that provides a gateway to the continued pastoral valley lands of Puslinch and Guelph Eramosa Township. This area provides a sense of place which allows Guelph’s residents to envision the setting where the early agricultural roots of Guelph and Puslinch were formed. We value this heritage and want to protect it for future generations.

In 2010 the current Guelph City Council voted to place all publically owned river valley lands in Guelph into the Provincial Green Belt under the Urban River Valley Land designation. The Niska lands were purchased with public money therefore they should have been placed into the Green Belt. Instead, part of the Niska lands were re-designated for development. An amendment to the Green Belt Act was passed in 2013 which could allow the Niska lands to be placed in the Greenbelt, but the City of Guelph has not made an application to add Guelph’s publically owned river valley lands into the Greenbelt despite their 2010 resolution.

As one of the “Municipal Leaders of the Greenbelt” Mayor Farbridge in 2011, said:

“That the Greenbelt area is undergoing tremendous growth and that has to be properly handled. How we manage that growth is really going to be important in terms of our quality of life moving forward.”

In 2013, Mayor Farbridge as Co-Chair, Municipal Leaders for the Greenbelt endorsed and supported the following report “Good Things Are Growing in Ontario, Expanding Ontario’s Greenbelt through Urban River Valleys.”

The Map of Guelph located on Page 24 of the report “Good Things are Growing in Ontario” shows the addition of all 116 acres owned by the GRCA along Niska Rd. as part of the expanded Greenbelt.

In fact, the Municipal Leaders for the Greenbelt, including Mayor Farbridge, are urging municipal voters to elect council members and mayoral candidates that support the expansion of the Greenbelt.

We urge the Mayor and City Council to reconsider their past decisions and align those decisions with their stated past positions on the protection of these lands. And, if their positions have changed, to please give us an opportunity to tell our side of this important planning and heritage matter.

In a recent canvassing of our neighbourhood, the vast majority of over 100 homes state they support preserving and protecting the Niska Valleylands heritage and protecting the GRCA lands from development as originally envisioned.

We further urge Guelph Voters to ask all candidates if they support the greenbelt expansion into Guelph including all of the Niska GRCA lands.

Finally, we also urge all like minded residents of Guelph to support our protection of the Heritage Speed River Valleylands.

For more information please contact:

Laura Murr: Spokesperson for the Heritage Speed River Valley Lands Working Group
Telephone: 519-824-3606

Further Information and References:

GRCA mapping of the Niska lands (please see attached)

JPEG of the Heritage Speed River valley Lands taken in August 2013 from the observation point at the top of the Niska Road Hill between Whittiker Court and Ptarmigan Drive Intersections

Press Release - October 19, 2014
Press Release-Oct 19-2014.pdf
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