Local farmer applauds greenbelt

Some farmers will need help from province if they can't sell land because of new controls, he says

Peter Van Harten The Hamilton Spectator - Oct. 29, 2004

Phil Krakar figures his 39-hectare Flamborough farm isn't worth as much now that it's covered by the provincial government's draft greenbelt plan preserving agricultural lands.

But that suits him just fine.

He wasn't looking to sell to speculators wanting to plant homes or plazas on the land.

"It's bad for those hanging onto their land and planning to sell out big for the speculative value," said the grains, oil seeds and beef farmer. But the greenbelt is all for the greater good because land has to be saved from urban sprawl if Ontario wants to continue to grow its own food.

The Hamilton area will be an important test case to judge the Dalton McGuinty government's commitment as it rolls out the policies and guidelines for the final greenbelt plan in the months ahead, Krakar said.

Agriculture is still viable in the Hamilton area and although the tender fruit growing land here may not be as productive as land in Niagara, it should be protected, Krakar said.

Hamilton's airport sits on some of the best agricultural land and it will be a test of government will to see how many new housing subdivisions it allows on rural Mountain farmland, he said.

Draft maps released yesterday with the greenbelt plan show large areas around the airport that are not part of the protected zones and are potential urban growth areas for Hamilton.

In addition to the draft greenbelt proposal, David Caplan, Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal, also introduced the Places to Grow Act. It provides the legal framework for growth plans in geographic-specific areas, including Hamilton.

The province plans to focus its infrastructure spending on areas that are already serviced in order to build on existing sewer, road, water and public transit opportunities. The Liberals hope that by spending money on transportation links to these areas, developers will respond by offering new housing options, such as higher density dwellings, to homebuyers.

Krakar, who is active with the Hamilton-Wentworth Federation of Agriculture, said land severance battles are a problem in Flamborough and productive land is being taken out of use for rural estates.

"The first thing they do is buy a farm, put a big house smack in the middle with a big lawn and a great big long laneway. You can't do that with all your good land for too long and think you are going to have any."

Krakar said the government must help farmers who can't survive but can't sell because of new controls.

"If you can't make a living off agriculture because of BSE (mad cow) or everything else that goes wrong and you can't sell, you're in a real box.''

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