The Devil’s in the Details

“Ice storm Tuesdays” cancelled a couple of meetings contributing to January and February being relatively quiet months on Council.  Yet, working away in the background, a few changes have been made that could have a big effect on the way Council works and the Township develops.

County Takes Subdivision Approval Process

The County has formed a seven-member Planning Advisory Committee with two representatives from South Frontenac.  The County exercised its legal right and will now take over the official public engagement on subdivisions and condominiums in South Frontenac.  The Planning Advisory Committee will hear the public deputations and make the recommendation to approve or reject a subdivision.  South Frontenac Council will become a voluntary commenting agency.

The new planning process is described in the report,  “Future Policy Direction of Planning Matters.” It can be read at: https://frontenac.civicweb.net/filepro/documents/1189?preview=119505

While the County has had final approval of all subdivisions the Township has organized the public meetings, notified the community, prepared draft conditions for approval, debated the subdivision and made a recommendation to approval or deny. The Township’s recommendations were usually followed by County Council.

The County started to become more involved when South Frontenac delayed, questioned and initially rejected a subdivision proposed for the middle of a provincially significant wetland on Johnson’s Point.  The County, in a significant break with tradition, then approved the Hartington subdivision that South Frontenac Council had rejected.

The planning process changes mean that residents of South Frontenac, if they have concerns about a subdivision or condominium, will be making their case to a committee chaired by the Mayor of North Frontenac which has a large majority of members from outside the Township. It is not clear if the County will recognize the Township’s expanded pubic notice requirements.

Overall this process will reduce the level of public influence on major development decisions in South Frontenac.  It will be less democratic.

Last year, Council passed a motion that the Township take over the final approval for subdivisions and condominiums.  This objective was put on hold until we hired a new Planning /Development coordinator.  The hiring has taken longer than expected. It is time to start the process of taking local control of our subdivision approval regardless of the hiring.

The Township also needs to redo its official pan to reflect current community wishes on how the Township should develop.  This process has also been delayed by the hiring process and our committee structure.

Opening up Council Committees

Council has two small committees, a Public Services Committee and a Corporate Services Committee. There is discussion of establishing a third on Development and Planning.

These committees have been fairly low key affairs providing “political” advice on issues being considered by staff before reports come to Council.  In some instances, the Committees operate as a place to send issues that Council does not want to vote against, but does not want to proceed with: sort of a non-controversial kill zone.

While legally public, the times of the meetings and the agendas are often not even known to all Councilors, let alone the public.

The Corporate Services Committee is recommending that committee meeting times and agendas should be posted on the Township website.

Currently only Councilors on the committee are allowed to speak.  The next step may be to open up the Committee meetings further and have a process where other Councilors and the public can have input into committee discussions.

Questionable Road Contract Pricing

Two recent contracts awarded by tender are cause for concern. The contract for double surface treatment has increased 46% from 2011 to 2017 a yearly average 7.7%, The unit price for micro surfacing has increased 25% between 2015 and 2017, or 12.5% a year,

Oil, a key component of these costs, has dropped from $115 per barrel in 2011 to $52 in 2017; and, labour costs have increased on average 1.5% a year between 2011 and 2015.

Seven and twelve percent increases on a major budget expense, 1,009, 682 dollars in 2017, is not sustainable.

Council has asked Public Works to approach other eastern Ontario municipalities to explore the possibly of cooperating in the purchase of these services or in jointly providing them.

 

About Ross Sutherland

nurse, researcher, public health care activist, councillor South Frontenac Township
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