STORM Coalition (Save the Oak Ridges Moraine)
The Moraine
Monitoring the Moraine
Resource Centre
Legislation & Maps
News Room
Get Involved
Designed by Polly Ko

Lawyer defends greenbelt land swap
Alleges developers' opposition based on self-interest

by Phinjo Gombu
Toronto Star:
Feb. 7, 2007

[Return to News Room]

Developers who have expressed concern about the environmental impact of building a massive community in north Pickering are concerned about their own interests, not the environment, a provincial government lawyer told a panel of judges yesterday.

Jack Coop, who represents the Ministry of Environment, made the allegation at a judicial review of the environmental assessment done for a controversial land swap between developers and Queen's Park involving land in the Oak Ridges Moraine in Richmond Hill for the Seaton lands in Pickering.

In particular, Coop targeted developer Silvio DeGasperis – the man behind the court challenge – who wants to build on thousands of hectares of land he owns adjacent to the Seaton lands but can't because they were included in the province's protected greenbelt last year.

"Their only concern is that they want to develop (their) land," Coop told the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. "That's what they are hot and bothered about. Their true interest is to use the court to pressure the (government) to develop on their lands."

Coop said proof lies in the fact that throughout an extensive province-wide planning process initiated by the government in 2003, DeGasperis and his partners never said anything about the dangers of development on the Seaton lands; their only concern was to be allowed to build on their lands, the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve.

In court documents, he said environmental concerns about Seaton mask a "hidden political and financial interest" because the province decided to include the Duffins Rouge lands around the hamlet of Cherrywood in the provincial greenbelt. It was done despite support for DeGasperis' development proposal from the Town of Pickering.

The Liberals proposed the controversial swap to reduce development on the Oak Ridges Moraine, considered an environmentally sensitive stretch of land from which all of Toronto's watersheds originate. It forms a key part of the province's protected greenbelt which stretches around the Golden Horseshoe.

DeGasperis' lawyers say the environmental assessment on the Seaton lands – first expropriated by the government in the 1970s for a planned airport and community – that was conducted by the Ontario Realty Corporation on behalf of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing was flawed.

His lawyers also allege in court the real scope of a complicated land swap was hidden from both the Ministry of the Environment and the realty corporation and resulted in a "process" that didn't undergo a full environmental assessment hearing. The government argues the swap is exempt from the assessment process.

[Return to News Room]


Copyright 2007 Save the Oak Ridges Moraine (STORM) Coalition