A note about the “Whitebelt”

The lands that lie between the outer edge of the urban settlement area boundary in the Inner Ring and the inner boundary of the Greenbelt have become known as the “Whitebelt,” because they are not subject to the policies of the Greenbelt Plan or the Growth Plan and are consequently shown as a whitish colour on the Growth Plan maps. The Whitebelt lands are indicated in Figure 3.16.  These lands are currently used primarily for agricultural and rural uses.

The Whitebelt landscape is similar in appearance and land use to the Protected Countryside component of the Greenbelt, but does not have the same level of protection from urban development. At present, these lands have not been designated for urban growth. The development community would like these lands to be made available for future urbanization,[1] while others would prefer to add the lands to the Greenbelt, create an agricultural land reserve, or put them to other non-urban uses.[2]

Figure 3.16: Location of the Whitebelt

Figure 3.17 indicates the location of Whitebelt lands in the GGH.

Figure 3.17: Location of the Whitebelt lands

As Table 3.13 indicates, there are 46,000 hectares of Whitebelt lands in the GGH, primarily located in the Regional Municipalities of Peel, Halton, and Durham.[3]

Table 3.13: Inventory of Whitebelt lands, by municipality

Upper- or Single-tier Municipality

Area

Lower-tier Municipality

Area

Region of Durham

11,500 ha

Municipality of Clarington

4,600 ha

City of Oshawa

1,100 ha

City of Pickering

4,700 ha

Town of Whitby

1,000 ha

Region of Halton

11,700 ha

City of Burlington

500 ha

Town of Halton Hills

6,800 ha

Town of Milton

4,300 ha

Town of Oakville

100 ha

Region of Peel

11,300 ha

Town of Caledon

11,300 ha

Region of York

6,200 ha

Town of Aurora

100 ha

Town of East Gwillimbury

1,700 ha

Township of King

100 ha

Town of Markham

2,000 ha

Town of Newmarket

100 ha

City of Vaughan

1,800 ha

Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville

400 ha

City of Hamilton

5,200 ha

-

5,200 ha

Total

46,000 ha

-

46,000 ha

1 Calculated by the Neptis Foundation as determined through the review of municipal official plans, official plan amendments, and other planning documents; see Appendix A for methodology, Appendix B for sources, and Appendix C for the land area inventory by municipality, and the Greenbelt Plan Area defined though Ontario Regulation 59/05 by the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. 36 hectares in Niagara Region (Town of Grimsby) were not included in the total.
*Numbers may not sum to total due to rounding.

 

If all of the remaining Whitebelt lands were to be designated for future urban development as a result of the updated 2031–2041 forecasts or at some other point, the combined area of the Whitebelt, the designated greenfield areas, and new designated greenfield areas that would be urbanized is 153,100 hectares or 1,500 square km, an area more than twice the size of the City of Toronto. This 1,500 square km would represent a 46% increase in the size of the built-up urban footprint from 2006 (see Table 3.14). Given the large quantity of land currently designated for development, there is no immediate need for the Whitebelt lands to be designated for urban development at this time.

Table 3.14: Summary of land supply in the Greater Golden Horseshoe as of 2006

 

Area

Designated Greenfield Areas (as of 2006)1

88,000 ha

New Designated Greenfield Areas (added since 2006)1

19,100 ha

Whitebelt Lands2

46,000 ha

Total

153,100 ha

Built-Up Area (as of 2006) 3

329,800 ha

1 Calculated by the Neptis Foundation as determined through the review of municipal official plans, official plan amendments, and other planning documents; see Appendix A for methodology, Appendix B for sources, and Appendix C for the land area inventory by municipality.
2 See Table 3.13
3 Built Boundary for the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, 2006 (2008), Ontario Ministry Infrastructure.

 

 
[1] See, for example, Ontario Home Builders Association and Building Industry and Land Development Association, EBR 011-7468 Joint Submission, February 8, 2013 (http://www.ohba.ca/publications/328/hits); B. Tuckey, “Places to Grow: Implementation Challenges,” Ontario Planning Journal, November/December 2012, vol. 27, no. 6, pp. 1-2; G. Gregoris and A. Sjogren, “Constrained Land Supply: A Community Builder’s Perspective,” Ontario Planning Journal, November/December 2012, vol. 27, no. 6, p 3.
[2] B. Mausberg, “A Legacy Landscape: Protecting Ontario’s Greenbelt,” Ontario Planning Journal, January/February 2013, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 16-18; R. Tomalty and B. Komorowski, Inside and Out: Sustaining Ontario's Greenbelt, Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, June 2011.
[3] Note that R. Tomalty and B. Komorowski in their 2011 report for the Greenbelt Foundation used a figure of 58,696 hectares in the Whitebelt. Since then, 11,000 hectares (19% of the land area) have been removed from the total of 57,000 hectares that existed when municipal Growth Plan conformity exercises began in 2006.  Tomalty and Komorowski’s Whitebelt total does not exclude the New Designated Greenfield Areas that were added through settlement area expansions since 2006. The figure also differs from that in the David Suzuki Foundation report of February 2013, Nature on the Edge: Natural Capital and Ontario Growing Golden Horseshoe, which refers to 94,472 hectares of land in the Whitebelt. This number includes approved vacant greenfield lands already designated for urban expansion.