Manitoulin Planning Board Official Plan receives final approval

MANITOULIN—The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) has given its final approval of the Manitoulin Planning Board’s Official Plan.

“My first comment is thank goodness the Official Plan has finally been approved,” stated Richard Stephens, chair of the MPB. “It has taken five or six years of going back and forth between the board and the ministry with amendments, sub-amendments and revisions.”

“The last we had heard from the ministry was that they were requesting a meeting between a couple of us on the board and ministry officials. But when we discussed this as a board, we felt any meeting should not only include one or two board members but that it should be the whole board,” said Mr. Stephens. “We had approved and sent our Official Plan to the ministry at least a year ago and we have been waiting for them ministry to approve it.”

“Now the Official Plan has been approved,” said Mr. Stephens, noting that due to (recent) regulations put in place by the province the board cannot appeal any of the 40 modifications that have been made by the province and is included in the final OP. “We have no further say in it. I’m just glad to see that it is now finalized and we can proceed.”

“The fact is that the minister allowed the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands (NEMI) to become its own planning authority and passed this in about a year’s time yet our Official Plan has been going back and forth for six-seven years. Now the ministry has modded in 40 changes that are not in the NEMI planning authority. So basically the ministry has created two different planning authorities in the same district,” stated MPB member and former chair of the board, Ken Noland. “I find all of that totally unacceptable.”

“Plus, now the minister has, through regulations, taken away the right of the Planning Board to appeal this and they brought it in the first place,” continued Mr. Noland.

Theresa Carlisle, secretary-treasurer of the MPB said final approval notice from the MMAH had come October 31, with the decision having been made October 29, 2018. “Overall the plan was good. There isn’t much we can’t live with. They haven’t modified a lot that we hadn’t already agreed with.”

Ms. Carlisle noted that some of the main issues of the 40 modifications made in the MPB draft Official Plan included deer yard areas, right of ways and engaging Indigenous communities on planning applications.

On the issue of engaging Indigenous communities, the modifications made in the Official Plan are over and above what is in the Ontario Municipal Planning Act. “We definitely want to work with all our First Nations,” said Ms. Carlisle, “but further consultation might hold up an application for a month sometimes.”

One of the sticking points between the MPB and the ministry had to do with the applications on shoreline development. At one point it was recommended by the ministry that the MPB wait until First Nations had the opportunity to comment on this, however there were concerns on the length of time this may take.

In the approved Official Plan, the MPB must consult with First Nations interests, however the latter will have 30 days to respond or voice concerns. If no response is provided by First Nations to the MPB within 30 days the MPB can then put an application into circulation.

On the issue of deer yards, while the ministry at first had first required that there be no development or limited development in deer yards (as they didn’t want the lands holding deer yards fragmented), the MMAH has lessened the requirements on this to an extent, allowing development to occur in some circumstances. However, there is a set of criteria that needs to be followed.

On the issue of development on right-of-ways, while originally the ministry did not want any development on right-of-ways, they have lessened the requirements to a certain extent on this as well. In certain circumstances it will allow new development on existing right-of-ways.

“Overall, I’m confident we can work with this. It is a good document,” added Ms. Carlisle.

Ms. Carlisle pointed out that with the Official Plan having received final approval from the ministry, the next step for the board will be look at updating zoning bylaws for the eight municipalities and unincorporated areas.