There is a social media cartoon meme that has two characters talking about 2022.
One with a worried look says, “What do you think is going to happen in 2022?”
The other says, “Flowers”.
“What? Why?” The first responds in startled confusion.
“Because I am planting flowers,” reply’s the one working the ground.
For many reasons, pandemics, climate change, uncontrolled development, invasive species, inequality, intolerance…(the list is long) we are entering a year, and probably a decade, of significant, and not always welcome, change. Nonetheless, we can plant seeds that help others, make our communities inclusive, strengthen our democracies, and create a more peaceful, sustainable and just world.
Onward into 2022.
Johnson Point Update
A few weeks back I sent around a notice about a possible violation of the environmental protection plans for the Johnson’s Point condominium development.
Dozens of people responded. Within a couple of days an agreement was reached with the developer to ensure that the septic location conditions were met for all the lots on Johnson’s Point.
Over the holidays I was telling a friend, who is very active in provincial environmental issues, about the protections covering the Johnson’s Point development. He was very pleasantly surprised. It is worth repeating that even though many in the community were upset that any development is taking place on the Point, me included, gains were made.
Hats off to the many who spent hours and their own money fighting for better environmental protections.
Councillor and Community Oversight
While the discussion last month was on ensuring that the Johnson’ Point development met its environmental obligations it was also broader.
Most the comments I received were primarily concerned that conditions of approval, bylaws and regulations, especially for larger developments, are followed. We on Council have known for a long time that non-compliance is an issue and hopefully we will be able to make further headway in solving it.
Some of the comments suggested that Council should proceed quickly because of agreements made by the developer and hardship to lot owners.
Many councilors and community members may be more familiar with the Committee of Adjustment than site plan approvals. Regularly, someone applying for a variance or a consent will demand quicker action became of their personal circumstances. Staff have made good headway in setting up timelines and streamlining the process for all developments, big and small, which have reduced delays for everyone.
Nonetheless, as much as some applicants, or developers, may have legitimate hardships, this is also, unfortunately, not a good reason to rush a decision.
The Committee of Adjustment decisions, as the Council decisions on sub-division and condominium site plans, affect these properties, the broader community and the environment for decades. Township Council, and the Committee of Adjustment, have the final legal say on these kinds of approvals, not because our staff are incompetent, they are not. South Frontenac has some of the best planning staff. But because these decisions are a mix of technical, legal and political considerations.
Site plans are, literally, the nuts and bolts of how development happens on the ground. It is what we see in our communities, and impacts our environment, on a daily basis for years. The more complex the development the longer it is going to take to review the plans, to diligently fulfill our legally independent role, and to not just rubber stamp what staff and developers, big and small, recommend. This is part of our democratic responsibility to represent the broader community interest.
Final say on developments is made in democratic public bodies, like Council, because it is a more accountable forum which gives the community some control over development. To rush these decisions would be to undercut that control.
Township Office Redevelopment
The Township offices are unable to provide a safe and efficient working space for current Township staff let alone the expected expansion to meet population growth and new needs.
Council has approved 2.5 million dollars to improve our administrative offices over the next two years. Consultants are being hired to present options which include expanding the current site, repurposing the library and building a new one, and adding a secondary site in Sydenham. The report can be found in the December 14 Committee of the Whole agenda item 7.c.