Natural Systems and Alternative Urban Development
The preservation of the Oak Ridges Moraine has forced an unprecedented examination of the ramifications of traditional urban growth patterns on natural systems. In 2000 and 2001, the focus of the debate became the relatively narrow corridor of undeveloped land that runs through the Town of Richmond Hill linking more undisturbed halves of the Moraine to the west and east. Using this 'ground zero' as a springboard, this paper, informed by the tenets of landscape ecology, examines the planning framework as a source of, and possible solution to, the ecological issues engendered by the forces of urban growth in the GTA. The planning framework is defined to include the legal framework, the policy framework and the effect of the Ontario Municipal Board, which interprets the planning framework in arbitrating land use decisions to finality. The planning framework will be revealed as largely pro-growth, inhibiting ecologically innovative approaches to land use, such as is needed presently on the Moraine. It concludes that an ecologically comprehensive and legally binding policy framework would allow more ecologically informed and innovative land use decisions, by mitigating the pro-growth effects of the legal structure and by providing appropriate direction for the OMB. Interestingly, this paper was completed only a few months before the Ontario Government introduced and then passed the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, a measure that went beyond anything this author would have predicated possible from the government of the day. A remarkable example of the effect public protestation can have on governments in power.