Why not expand rural settlements?

Why did the 2006 Growth Plan (as well as the 2005 Greenbelt Plan and the 2014 Provincial Policy Statement) seek to limit outward growth in settlements without full municipal services? The two main reasons are environmental and economic.

First, suburban-style subdivisions built alongside established rural settlements without municipal water and wastewater services are auto-dependent, consume agricultural and rural land, and may have adverse effects on nearby natural areas. The Growth Plan was designed to limit development that “contributes to the degradation of our natural environment, air quality and water resources, as well as the consumption of agricultural lands and other natural resources so critical to the future economy.”[1]

Second, these types of development entail long-term infrastructure costs, as pressure mounts to bring full municipal servicing to formerly rural areas. Water and wastewater plants, and the pipes required to extend servicing to rural settlements will cost millions, if not billions of dollars, at a time when much of the province’s existing infrastructure is in need of upgrading or replacement. The Growth Plan was created to address the problem of building “new infrastructure…to service lower-density areas, while existing infrastructure in the older parts of our communities remains underutilized.”[2]

The costs of new infrastructure will be paid partly through development charges (which are passed on to homebuyers), partly by the municipalities (which may affect property taxes), and partly by provincial or federal grants (which will reduce the money available for repairing or replacing existing infrastructure). Municipalities will also need to finance ongoing operating and maintenance costs for these subdivisions, which may not be sustainable in the long run.

 

[1] Ministry of Infrastructure, Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, 2006, Office Consolidation, Toronto, 2013, Section 1.1. Office consolidation retrieved from: https://www.placestogrow.ca/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=35....

[2] Ministry of Infrastructure, Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, 2006, Office Consolidation, Toronto, 2013, Section 1.1. Office consolidation retrieved from: https://www.placestogrow.ca/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=35....