After a year of sometimes difficult debate we are close to a plan for development on Johnson Point and getting closer to a final Hartington subdivision agreement.
The subdivision at Johnson Point came back to Council on December 1 with a recommendation that had been negotiated between lawyers. The new proposal had modest gains for protection of the lake and the provincially significant wetland but increased the density of the development from 17 to 18 lots. By a vote of 5-4 Council supported 17 lots in total on Johnson Point. Then, after a surprising set of votes, defeated a motion to go forward with comprehensive development conditions. The old phrase, “close but still no cigar”, comes to mind.
Planning is a Community Process
As part of our strategic plan Council supported “responsible development.” This may be a different approach then some are used to, but an approach that is well within accepted planning principles and more representative of the wishes of residents.
In my 35 years of community development involvement, I have seen two broad approaches to planning:
- For some planning is a technical exercise between planners and developers, and
- For others planning and development are a more open and democratic process driven by the community that involves technical considerations, provincial limits, developers and wishes of residents.
If properly embraced, the wide community engagement approach can produce better development for a healthy, livable and sustainable community.
Some lessons learned
I think that both the Hartington and Johnson Point discussions have provided some useful lessons.
- An involved community, with time to consider a project, will raise concerns, that when dealt with create a better development. On Johnson Point we found out that the site is in a Candidate Area of Natural and Scientific Interest and home to at least two species at risk. The Ministry of Natural Resources has become involved, totally inappropriate waterfront lots have been identified and we have corrected water depth readings around the site.
- The definition of waterfront in our zoning bylaw is probably inadequate. It basically makes everything with moisture waterfront.
- There is value in Council having technical studies, like Environmental Impact Statements and hydrogeological studies, done independently of the developer. Council has now approved a plan to make this more likely in future development applications.
- Our Official Plan needs to be improved. I raised some of these concerns in my September blog, https://rosssutherlandloughborough.net/2015/09/12/opportunities-missed-and-technical-difficulties/, and it now seems likely that our Official Plan permits industrial and commercial development virtually anywhere in a hamlet. Most residents would probably find this unacceptable.
More public notice
Council is considering a proposal that will require 6 weeks notice for public meetings on major developments. A common complaint from lake associations and neighbours is that it is difficult on short notice to make arrangements to attend public meetings, especially if people are away from the Township in winter. Second, these developments have many large and highly technical studies. Allowing only two weeks for the community to respond creates a significant barrier to meaningful community engagement.
Council is also looking at ways to bring the community into the process earlier so that the developer and planning staff can take residents’ concerns into account while the technical studies are being done.
These two issues have not yet been passed and it would be helpful if you could send along your comments, either for or against.
Buck Lake Philanthropy Award
Congratulations to the residents of Buck Lake who won a national philanthropy award for their efforts to raise money for the Easter Seals Camp Merrywood.
Perth Road Fire Hall
A conditional offer has been accepted on a new fire hall location in Perth Road Village. Keep your fingers crossed that the conditions can be met and we can build a new station next year.
2% budget passed
We have passed a 28 million dollar Township budget that represents a 2% tax increase.
Canoe Lake beach
The road widening and an agreement with the landowner on the high water mark will guarantee clear and continued public access to the beach on the west end of the causeway between Canoe and Eel Lakes.
It has been a full year for the new Council but I think some solid progress has been made that will improve the Township. I appreciate all your input and welcome more on any of the issues raised here or anything else on your mind.
All the best of the season and I hope to see you over the holidays or in the New Year,