This is my 41th Councillor report. These reports have helped me think seriously about Township issues and sparked many interesting and productive conversations. Your comments on my comments were great. Thank you.
The OMB is No More
On April 1, no joke, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) was dissolved.
The OMB has been criticized for pro-any-development bias over community interests. It was an unelected board that could, based on a series of technocratic rules, regardless of the local situation and the democratic preference of local Councils, force development on communities.
Municipal Councils will now be more accountable for the local planning decisions. Council will have less ability to say ‘we had to make this pro-development decision because the OMB would have ruled that way and we would waste tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars’ on an appeal. Council’s will now be more accountable and make decisions based on what is best for the community: at least that is the hope.
The OMB will be replaced by new ground rules and the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). Unlike the OMB, the LPAT would not make ‘the best planning decision’, rather it would determine if the Township acted within its own rules (Official Plan, zoning bylaws, provincial policy statements). If an error was found the decision would be returned to the municipality for reconsideration. The Tribunal would not replace the original decision with its own, as the OMB did. More authority would rest with local Council.
A Local Planning Appeal Support Centre has also been established. With its budget of $1.5 million will offer legal and planning help to ordinary citizens who want to participate in matters before the Tribunal.
While it is early in the life of the new procedures, it is possible they will level the playing field a bit between communities and developers and that local Council’s will be more responsible and accountable for local planning decisions.
Main Street Revitalization
South Frontenac is eligible for a grant of $54,140 dollars to revitalize the Township’s main streets. Staff is trying to find a matching grant which will significantly increase this amount.
The money is part of an Ontario government program to help “rural communities attract investment and tourism, create jobs and enhance regional economic growth”.
Council is considering how to spend this money. At this point no decisions have been made. My inclination is to support sharing this money between the five main commercial hamlets, Sydenham, Inverary, Battersea, Verona and Harrowsmith.
The money can be spent on a wide variety of projects from improving store fronts to landscaping, banners, signs and broadband equipment. The projects can not be large, in terms of expense, but they could go a long way to improving a hamlet.
I have called a public meeting for input on what the community thinks would improve the main streets in Sydenham. The ideas from this meeting and from other comments received will be passed onto staff and Council and hopefully receive support within the budget available.
The meeting on Sydenham’s main streets is Saturday, April 7 at 10am in the Library’s community room.
If all the suggestions can not be supported this time the comments will provide a useful list for other grants and spending priorities.
Support for Local Food Production
The Frontenac Community Futures Development Corporation (CFDC) has produced a report on how to support local food producers. It was presented and discussed at the April 3 Council meeting.
The report identified a need for a poultry abattoir and suggested that a cooperative and/or a joint effort with the new prison farms might help. Producers also face problems with distributing and marketing their product.
The report identified problems with planning and permitting locally and provincially. Locally, the Township should be clear on what permits are required before work starts. There should be no surprises in the middle of an approved project. Reasonable time lines should be established and communicated prior to the beginning of a development and adhered to. These problems have been previously identified and Council has been trying to hire a permanent Manager of Development services to address them.