Intervenor: Vol 25. No 3 & 4 July-December 2000

Rouge River Restoration Committee wins OMB Hearing


CELA represented the Rouge River Restoration Committee (RRRC) at an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing v. Map Realty Ltd. The OMB's decision was issued on October 23, 2000 and is cited as decision No. 1548. The following is an extract of RRRC's press release regarding their success at the hearing ...

An Ontario Municipal Board decision to save a forest has ended a heated battle over proposed high-rises near the Amos Ponds, a provincially significant wetland straddling the eastern border of Toronto's Rouge Park.

"We've beaten the odds and saved thousands of trees!" said Pickering resident Ian Glyn Williams, president of the Rouge River Restoration Committee. "This is one of those rare occasions when residents win!"

In a written decision, OMB chair MA Rosenberg ruled that two eleven-story high-rises proposed by Map Reality Ltd. would have had "an unacceptable adverse impact on the environment" and would have broken the natural link between the Amos Ponds in the west and the Petticoat Stream Corridor in the east.

"This type of link - especially one that is forested-is crucial not just to the health of those two sensitive areas, but also to the health of the whole 1,000-acre Rouge-Duffin's Wildlife Corridor", said Glenn De Baeremaeker, president of Save the Rouge Valley System, another group that opposed the development.

"Connecting smaller green spaces to larger ones allows wildlife to move back and forth and ensures genetic diversity", said De Baeremaeker. "Natural areas become small, green islands when surrounded by development, but when you link them, they add up to a thriving ecosystem."

Map Realty had claimed that wildlife could use a railroad and hydro-corridor to pass by the proposed development, but both environmental groups had argued that these areas are highly disturbed by regular cutting of all woody vegetation and spraying of particularly toxic herbicides. "These skinny, treeless strips could hardly be called migration corridors." De Baeremaeker said.

As well as destroying the forest itself, the OMB found that development so close to the Amos Ponds would have "seriously and negatively impacted" the wetland, an area so rich in wildlife that it is considered one of Pickering's most significant natural assets.

Glyn Williams said sensitive wood frogs, grey tree frogs and spring peepers are among the many species that live or breed in the Amos Ponds, but also need adjacent wooded areas to survive. "The wetlands and woodlands are two sides of the same coin. It's not enough to save one or the other, if you want the wildlife to survive," he said. Glyn Williams said he and his children have been lucky enough to spot a whole family of deer while visiting the Amos Ponds. It's experiences like this, he added, that have endeared the area to many Pickering residents.

Both Glyn Williams and De Baeremaeker said legal aid from the Canadian Environmental Law Association was key to defeating the developer's appeal, which was launched after Pickering Council rejected the development proposal.

Ramani Nadarajah is a lawyer at CELA