Mindemoya to be designated urban area under Official Plan

[map z=”13″ w=”600″ h=”325″ maptype=”ROADMAP” address=”Mindemoya, Ontario” marker=”yes”]

GORDON—Along with concerns raised on issues such as development being restricted on agricultural lands, relinquishing the deer yard designations on Manitoulin, identification of hamlets and settlements as settlement cluster areas and the designation of an area parcel of land as parkland, there was the recommendation in the first working draft of the Manitoulin Official Plan (OP) to designate Mindemoya a rural area (under the urban policies of the OP), due to the growth the municipality has seen in the past few years.

“There has been a structural change in the way we do business with the OP,” said Chris Tyrrell, manager of the MMM Group Limited, who along with Gregory Bender, senior planner with the company, presented the first working draft of the Official Plan to the Manitoulin Planning Board last week. “The existing secondary plans are incorporated into the OP and include Little Current, Gore Bay and Manitowaning. The (OP) integrates all secondary plans for urban areas into the Official Plan.”

“The other thing we did under this is elevate Mindemoya to an urban area designation under land use polices much as Little Current, Gore Bay and Manitowaning are,” said Mr. Tyrrell. He told the board this is due to Mindemoya’s growth in the past few years, and as is the case with Gore Bay, Little Current and Manitowaning, it is designed to keep the core commercial area-group together.

“We are pleased to be here tonight to present the first working draft OP,” said Mr. Tyrrell. “We’d like to provide an overview of the work program, overall comments and have discussion on the next steps in this whole process.”

“This Official Plan is the primary land use planning tool used to manage growth and development within the district to the year 2036,” said Mr. Tyrrell. “It provides the overall policy framework to guide and manage the maintenance and rehabilitation, growth and development of the district; to ensure a sustainable living environment and quality of life that meets the needs of the communities, not only over a 20 year planning horizon, but over the very long-term to the extent that it is feasible.”

Mr. Tyrrell explained that the lands that have been identified as agricultural areas are significantly reduced to recognize the lands which have been identified as prime agriculture by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

Some of the board members felt that this could lead to a decrease in agricultural areas. “Our agriculture area in this plan is much smaller than what is in the existing plan,” said Tehkummah Reeve Gary Brown. “This becomes important. One of the changes that has occurred since the existing plan was finished in the 1970s is that provincial policies have gotten quite restrictive. If we extend this boundary potentially, we would be subject to very restrictive land use policies and this could severely restrict non-agricultural uses.”

Mr. Noland noted that certain lands are good that are not deemed prime agriculture because of current provincial policies.

“This is a question for the province,” said Mr. Tyrrell. “What I would like to do is pose this as a question and as issues of concern of the planning board how the rural-agriculture lands gets resolved (to the province).

“Once property is designated prime agriculture lands, there are restrictions put on it,” said Mr. Skippen.

Mr. Brown said that under the land use key map, hamlets and settlements will be designated settlement cluster areas. He and Mr. Hunt raised concerns that they could lose their identity as serviced communities.

“There are some things we have in a hamlet area we wouldn’t have in a settlement area, and we don’t want to lose them,” said Mr. Brown.

However, it was explained that while the draft OP has consolidated the hamlet and settlement sections of the current OP into one section identified as settlement cluster area, this does not prevent the zoning bylaws from identifying separate hamlet and settlement areas.

Mr. Tyrrell said this is a local municipal decision and as things evolve, “you would have the opportunity to review the OP if you see something unfold like another growth development similar to Mindemoya. You can review the policy around the OP to refit this. But if the board wants to change this designation now, it would be no problem.”

“I agree with Gary the word settlement is not appropriate,” said Mr. Hunt. “Basically we are concerned about community development.”

It was agreed the wording will be changed to have these referred to as hamlets.

There was additional discussion regarding recognizing historical sites and potential waste management sites. The board was advised that attempts were being made to identify historical sites. However, it was deemed not significant to recognize potential waste management sites as environmental procedures would be required to approve.

Deer wintering areas had been identified in the plan, and it was the opinion of the board members that these areas should be removed from the OP.

“The ministry (natural resources) needs to realize all of Manitoulin Island is a deer yard, they don’t yard up in one area, they are all over the Island. These areas should be removed from the plan,” said one board member.

“In the winter deer are in agriculture areas, as well as other areas, all over the Island,” said Mr. Noland.

“The whole area of Manitoulin Island is a deer area,” said Mr. Hunt.

Mr. Tyrrell said, “when we meet with the ministry, we will tell them the feeling of the planning board that these deer yard areas are no longer appropriate.”

“One of the big issues of the OP is being able to deal with the issue of natural park areas,” said Mr. Brown, and Mr. Tyrrell noted this was an issue that members have brought up previously and are adamant this issue needs to be looked at as far as the municipal role when parks are identified and the loss in terms of tax base.

It was pointed out in the planning area some lands have been identified as potential provincial parklands within the North Georgian Bay Recreation Reserve on the MNR land inventory maps. This includes the Benjamin and Darch Islands (the latter two are not in the Manitoulin planning area but Clapperton Island is and about three-quarters of its property is Crown-owned land).

“Someone walks in, buys thousands of acres of land and then turns this over to the government and the municipalities suffer. That’s what’s happening and is another fight we have with the province,” said Mr. Brown.

Mr. Tyrrell indicated one of the points made in the OP is in relation to this issue, and points out the financial burden this type of designation-purchase can have on municipalities.

“It is alright to grant lands as parks, but if it means these properties are taken off our tax rolls, and our taxpayers have to pay more in taxes because of this, it affects all of us negatively,” said Mr. Brown

Mr. Tyrrell told the board he and Mr. Bender will be meeting with the province to bring all these concerns forward.

The public meetings for members of the public to view the working draft of the OP will take place in July.

Tom Sasvari