Home Canada Wealthy Ontario developer close to winning long battle to build homes on protected Greenbelt

Wealthy Ontario developer close to winning long battle to build homes on protected Greenbelt

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Nearly 20 years after taking the state to court, after trying to embarrass a former prime minister and calling for changes to local zoning rules, a prominent Ontario developer has finally landed a multi-million dollar deal involving Greenbelt. You may be ready to profit from gambling.

In 2003, Tacc Group’s Silvio De Gasperis began buying plots of cheap farmland north of Pickering, Ontario, east of Toronto. This hopes to turn them into lucrative residential subdivisions. Only two years later, those plans began to fall apart.

Much of the land purchased by the developer was located in what is now known as the Duffin’s Rouge Agricultural Reserve (DRAP) and was protected by easements and zoning orders. In 2005, former Prime Minister Dalton McGinty’s Liberal government banned development, including reserves, in what he called the Greenbelt, a vast stretch of his 810,000-hectare farmland, forests and wetlands stretching from Niagara Falls to Peterborough. marked as

De Gasperis told the National Post in March 2005 that the state’s move to include DRAP in the Greenbelt would cost his company an estimated $240 million in lost revenue.

“McGinty has already hurt me,” De Gasperis said. 2006 Toronto Star. “I’m going to hurt him”

De Gasperis then launched a campaign to sabotage Greenbelt’s plans, working with Pickering to develop the reserve anyway, eventually bringing the state to court. It remained protected and De Gasperis was unable to build the new lot as originally planned.

But that could change soon, thanks to the Ford administration. Proposal to free up thousands of hectares of greenbelt land In 15 regions of the state, including DRAP. This could pave the way for housing and multi-million dollar development gains for landowners, including De Gasperis.

Critics of the Ford administration’s plan raise questions.

Victor Doyle, a former senior state planner who helped design Greenbelt, said he was “cheated both as a planner and as a citizen,” given earlier promises made by Prime Minister Doug Ford and Housing Secretary Steve Clark. He said he felt leave the green belt alone.

“From my point of view, it’s all about owning this land and rewarding stakeholders for land development, which is clearly the government’s main concern,” Doyle said.

View | Doug Ford on developing Ontario’s Greenbelt.

Here’s what Doug Ford has to say about developing Ontario’s Greenbelt over the years.

From pledging not to build on it in 2018 to saying it’s part of the solution to Ontario’s housing crisis in 2022, how the prime minister’s position on the controversial issue has changed. Here’s what you did:

Protection of reserves

According to the Toronto and Regional Conservation Authority (TRCA), the DRAP includes approximately 2,000 hectares of primary agricultural land.

The state government confiscated much of it ahead of the planned construction of nearby Pickering Airport in the 1970s. When the airport was not doing well, the government began selling land to renters and farmers at discounted prices in his late 1990s. This is because the easements imposed on the land were designated for agriculture only permanently.

Still, developers, including De Gasperis, bought the plots and began working with the City of Pickering to obtain permits to build the homes.

After the McGuinty government included the reserve in the Greenbelt in February 2005, the city attempted to revoke part of the easement. In response, the state passed the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Conservation Act, which legislated the agricultural status of lands and restored them.

(Neil Joyce/CBC News)

By then, De Gasparis had launched a campaign to embarrass the McGuinty administration.

According to media reports, he leaked a letter containing details of an invite-only $10,000-per-dish fundraising dinner held with developers before the Greenbelt border was drawn.

De Gasperis told media in 2006 that he spent at least $5 million in a series of lawsuits against the Ontario government. A court ruled against him and the land has been protected ever since.

“I thought we were done”

Pickering’s DRAP and surrounding land is the largest chunk of protected land that could be opened for development as part of the Ford government’s proposed changes to the Greenbelt.

In addition, the government last week Bill to Repeal Laws Protecting DRAPremoving barriers to housing development.

a Analysis of CBC Toronto Property and Business Records Published earlier this month, found the company of De Gasperis and his brothers Carlo and Michael De Gasperis. The directors are said to have paid approximately $8 million for 16 properties on the reserve totaling 506 hectares.

Aerial view of part of the Duffins Creek watershed east of Toronto near the border of Pickering, Ontario and Ajax, Ontario. (Toronto and Regional Conservation Service)

Bonnie Littley, co-founder of the Rouge Duffins Greenspace Coalition, which campaigned in the early 2000s to protect DRAP, said he was shocked to hear that DRAP could soon be opened for residential use. rice field.

“We won. I thought we were done then,” Little said. “Probably the most protected land in all of Ontario.”

Littley said he’s trying to revive his former network of interested citizens and connect with new citizens who oppose the state’s Greenbelt proposal.

“What happens to all the other developers who own land in Greenbelt if they are allowed to touch Greenbelt? Are they already lined up at Doug Ford’s door?” she asked. .

In a statement last week, conservation officials said the state’s proposals, including DRAP, could result in “massive unplanned urbanization” that could adversely affect nearby watersheds.

“Unlike the typical process that follows other urbanization proposals, there is no watershed or sub-watershed plan to support the environmental studies completed in the region. [TRCA] to inform you of this decision,” the statement read.

A spokesperson for Clark, the housing minister, declined to comment on whether developers have lobbied to open up certain lands.

Housing Minister Steve Clark said the government had selected land for removal from the greenbelt that is located near existing urban areas and could be developed quickly. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

“Ontario is facing a housing crisis and the government is considering all possible options to build more homes faster,” Victoria Podbielski wrote.

“The 15 sites identified had to meet very clear criteria to be able to build housing quickly and achieve greenbelt expansion.”

Podwielski said the state moved to repeal the DRAP law at the request of Pickering’s former and current mayors.

Mayor says tight construction schedule can be met

It is unclear if the De Gasperis family or other landowners in the area plan to build on their land or sell it.

CBC Toronto contacted Tacc Developments to request an interview with one of the De Gasperis brothers or a company representative, but the executive assistant said they were out of the country for a family wedding and were unable to respond. Told. A list of questions that were then emailed did not have an answer.

If the Greenbelt land swap goes ahead, the Ford government says it expects landowners to prepare housing plans quickly and start construction by 2025 at the latest. If not, the land will revert to its previous protected state.

Pickering Mayor Kevin Ash said the local council had been calling for the development of DRAP for 20 years, arguing that its inclusion in the Greenbelt was based on “political science” rather than “real science.” .

Pickering Mayor Kevin Ashe has said he supports opening the Duffin’s Rouge Agricultural Reserve for development and encourages building a residential mix. (Yan Jun Li/CBC News)

He believes the state’s tight timeline can be met.

“I think it’s a good mix to have housing options — low-rise, single-family homes, and other options — and I think this will be a welcome addition to our community,” Ash said.

political contributions

The de Gasperis brothers, who also own properties in Vaughan and Richmond Hill, which are slated for removal from Greenbelt, have made significant donations to Ontario political parties.

The De Gasperis brothers and their businesses (Tacc Developments, Tacc Construction, Arista Homes and Opus Homes) have donated at least $163,362 to the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party and its politicians since 2014, according to Ontario election data . Available online.

WATCH | Plans to develop Ontario’s greenbelt for housing spark criticism.

Coalition denounces plans to build homes in Greenbelt, Ontario

A coalition of 200 groups and individuals wrote a letter calling for the Ontario government’s plan to place tens of thousands of homes in the province’s Greenbelt, a belt of protected green and agricultural land.

Data also show that they contributed at least $84,413 to the Ontario Liberal Party when it was in power, and $27,981 to the Ontario NDP.

Other families apparently donated tens of thousands of dollars more.

CBC Toronto matched the listed names, but was unable to independently confirm that the contributors were the same person.

According to records kept by the Office of the Integrity Commissioner, the De Gasperis family of companies also employs at least three lobbyists with close ties to the PC government who were hired to influence decisions regarding the Greenbelt. There are no records to indicate that

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