Consultants grilled over draft Official Plan

MINDEMOYA—The province has requested that official housing targets and policies, as well as more restrictions, be included in the new draft Manitoulin Official Plan on development of private lands, roads or sensitive lakes.

“We have received preliminary comments from the province, specifically the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and the Ministry of Environment (MOE),” said Chris Tyrrell, planning and environmental design partner with the consulting firm MMM Group at a public meeting held in Mindemoya last week. He explained, “the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) is the final approval authority for the Official Plan, but prior to giving approval they will send the draft plan to other ministries for their input and comments. And that is why we are holding these public meetings, to get input and comment from everyone. We want as much input and comments as possible.”

Mr. Tyrrell explained, “the province has requested that there be official housing targets and policies set in the Official Plan, as well as more restrictions in place on private roads and development on sensitive lakes.” The request also includes more restrictions on wayside pits and quarries, he said.

“The ministries have also identified sensitive lakes and rivers that they would like restrictions placed on, with setbacks policies set on them,” said Mr. Tyrrell. “The MNR would like this included in our draft Official Plan, but we haven’t moved on this yet or named any sensitive lakes. There might be additional lakes that could be sensitive now or in the future. If we put this development policy in place, and in the future the lake is no longer at capacity for development, it would then require an amendment to the Official Plan. I expect this will be an issue with the planning board itself, but final authority on this and the Official Plan is made by the MMAH.”

“In essence, the province wants the plan to include limits in development on private roads,” said Mr. Tyrrell. “There would still be the opportunity for new lots, but the province would like this to be far more restrictive. In my view, a fair bit of development has taken place and to have a blanket position of restricting development: is this reasonable and fair? But this is for the MMAH to decide. In this case, we’ve alluded to other Official Plans that have been completed where there has been more development allowed on private roads.”

Mary Lochead of Sandfield questioned, “who designates lakes as being sensitive and no development would take place on them?”

Mr. Tyrrell explained, “the MNR and MOE have been studying lakes in the province for a long period of time. What the province would like is for a policy to be included in the plan that any new development would include a setback of 300 metres from the water. If the province deems a lake to be at development capacity, that policy would apply.”

“When they are talking about ‘at capacity-sensitive lakes’ is this being deemed by the MNR and MOE on their own or were the solicited?” asked Ted Legge of Lake Mindemoya.

“This is in the normal course of the ministry’s normal business, and this is not something that is new to just Manitoulin. It is looked at throughout the province—it falls within their mandate,” said Mr. Tyrrell.

“Is the purchase of lands on Manitoulin by the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy or the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) indentified in the plan?” asked Hazel Recollet, executive director of the United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnissing.

Ms. Carter pointed out the NCC and Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy have been buying property on Manitoulin Island, but this has not been identified in the draft Official Plan.

Mr. Tyrrell noted, “identifying lands purchased is not usually included in these type of plans.”

“So how can we identify the purchase of land by EBC or NCC?” persisted Ms. Recollet, to which Mr. Tyrrell responded, “this is not a planning matter, it is one of private record.” (Records of private land transfers are kept in the public records at the Registry Office in Gore Bay.)

Ms. Recollet also questioned when the NCC or EBC purchase lands, if the province provides some of the resources for these purchases.

Mr. Tyrrell said that although he is not an expert on the issue, these groups do receive public funding toward purchasing properties.

The Official Plan would encourage the replanting of areas where clear cutting has taken place, said Mr. Tyrrell. “And the draft Official Plan does encourage recycling and conservation,” said Mr. Tyrrell. However, “the planning board has no mandate over waste management.”

“The government wants us to recycle and mandates us to do this, it goes both ways,” said Mr. Brown.

Earlier in the meeting, Mr. Tyrrell had welcomed everyone to the public meeting open house in Mindemoya for the preparation of a new draft Official Plan for the District of Manitoulin. “The purpose of this public open house is to review the first working draft of the Official Plan, discuss any issues or concerns, and to provide input.” The draft plan had been tabled by the Manitoulin Planning Board at its meeting in April.

“The current Official Plan for Manitoulin District was approved by the province in 1979,” said Mr. Tyrrell. “The typical life span for these plans is 20 years, but the current plan remains insightful and helpful. It needs to be updated for growth and land use.”

The Planning Act has been updated over the last several years, the meeting was told, and the Manitoulin plan needs to be updated to reflect these changes. “It has to be consistent with provincial policy statements, and conform to recent amendments to the Planning Act,” said Mr. Tyrrell.

Upon completion and approval of the new Official Plan, local municipalities will initiate updates to their zoning bylaws to implement the plan’s policies. As well, the province put together a growth plan for Northern Ontario and the goals and objectives under it need to be part of the plan, said Mr. Tyrrell. “It is time for a new Official Plan for the Manitoulin District.”

“The issues, goals, and objectives considered in the new draft plan are generated around 10 topic areas: agriculture, tourism, culture and recreation, seasonal residential, natural and human-made hazards, natural heritage features and areas, housing, municipal services, renewable and non-renewable resources and transportation.

“The Official Plan doesn’t result in zoning,” he said, noting, “Municipalities prepare new zoning bylaws within three years to implement their plans and policies.”

Mr. Tyrrell explained that in the summer of 2012, open houses were held to garner feedback. As part of the open houses that were held in July 2012, some of the feedback that was provided included: ensure that food security and good agricultural lands are protected; work closely with First Nations to ensure that they are part of the process and that their input is considered; include policies that will make the district eligible for incentives to encourage micro-systems for waste management; water distribution and energy production; maintain tree cover and require the replacement of trees when they are taken down; and require adequate parking facilities for new developments since there are already constraints on parking in tourist areas.

Mr. Tyrrell told the over 20 people in attendance at the Mindemoya meeting (other meetings had been held earlier in the week in Little Current and Gore Bay), “you’ve been provided a comment work book. Some people have been have been commenting verbally, other through letters, but whatever means is the most suitable we encourage your input and comments.”

A final plan will be presented to the planning board in September, then a statutory public meeting will be held in October, which will be the last public meeting to be held. “We are asking for any comments on this first working draft Official Plan by August 21. We have to prepare and make any changes necessary for submission to the board at its September meeting. If you want your comments considered, and incorporated into the plan, please provide input by August 21.”

 Tom Sasvari