Community Controlled Development
January was focused on the 2022 budget. The final debate and vote on the budget will take place mid-February.
One issue has become contentious: the hiring of a planning policy and compliance officer.
For years there have been many complaints about subdivision agreements not being followed, and smaller developments ignoring their conditions of approval. Monumental amounts of staff time have been to fix problems from poor subdivision oversight, like on Morgan Drive. Going forward significant resources will be needed to oversee detailed site plans for developments on Johnson’s Point and in Hartington. To meet current demands the Township has had to hire short-term contract planning staff to meet resident’s exceptions.
The is also significant pressure for new bylaws on a variety of issues, including an update to our sign bylaws to clean up our roadsides, control of Short-Term Rentals (STRs), and protection of our shorelines from clear cutting. The list could go on. Each bylaw, if it is to work for the community, will require significant staff time for research and community engagement.
And it will likely only get worse. All projections, even if there is a downturn in the economy, are that South Frontenac will feel increased development pressure for many years. One of the strategic objectives Council adopted four years ago, and reaffirmed last spring, was greater enforcement and control on development so that the needs of the community and new residents are protected.
Staff’s response to this priority for Council and residents was to recommend a new position to work on planning policy development and compliance. Until the January all-day budget meeting it seemed like all of Council supported this proposal and it could be implemented within the 2% budget increase Council supported.
At the last minute, the Mayor and a few Councillor’s, expressed opposition to this position despite the fact that is affordable, addresses residents’ concerns, meets our strategic objectives and will help improve South Frontenac. Let’s see how the final vote goes.
Library and Fire Hall Safe
The Township needs more administrative office space. The initial proposal was for consultants to look at five different options, three of which involved moving the existing library.
I did not support moving the library as an option, even for study. It is a well-designed and well used library that is within walking distance for many people. There is no reason to pay money for comment on possibilities that shouldn’t happen. The community overwhelmingly agreed, thank you to all who spoke up, and Council limited the consultant’s report to two options, expanding the current building or buying/building a smaller space nearby in Sydenham.
The fire halls’ locations were evaluated in a facility location study. The study’s main finding was that South Frontenac’s fire hall’s locations are as good as they can be, often near perfect (Sydenham’s location).
There is some room for improvement on the exact location of the Latimer and the Hartington stations. There would be a small improvement of service if the Hartington Hall, when it is redeveloped, is rebuilt closer to Harrowsmith: a fact that will likely become increase in importance as more building takes place closer to Harrowsmith.
No Building Fee Increases
In the annual review of building fees, it was discovered that the building department has built up a large, close to a million dollars, reserve. This increase is due in large part to the shortage of staff over the past few years: it was money saved by not paying salaries, but also by providing poorer service to the community.
The cost of the building department is mandated to pay for itself through fees: there is no tax revenue supporting building services.
Council has placed a cap on the building department reserve, basically enough money to run its operation for a year. The result is that there should be no increase in building permit fees for a few years, until the reserve falls below the new cap.
Sub-Division Approval Coming Home
A long-standing goal of Council has been to bring final approval of sub-divisions back into South Frontenac. It is currently done by the County.
One of the steps needed to make this possible was improving our planning department, which has been very successfully done. During the budget discussion it was confirmed that Township staff have been talking with the County’s planning staff about this goal and that there is general support. The next necessary step is to finalize our new Official Plan, which should be done this year.
Bringing final approval of sub-divisions into South Frontenac Council will improve community control and accountability on development decisions.