Municipal Affairs and Housing to investigate Northeast Town’s tiff with Island planning board

LITTLE CURRENT—Northeast Town Mayor Al MacNevin and town CAO Dave Williamson met with a Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) representative last week to begin discussions on the municipality’s request to withdraw from the Manitoulin Planning Board (MPB) and become its own planning authority.

“Last Tuesday myself and Mr. Williamson met with MMAH Northeastern Area Director Lynn Buckham and two of her staff,” Mayor MacNevin told The Expositor. “We gave them a copy of the report (the Northeast Town) council directed staff to prepare on planning and the municipality’s ongoing problems with the MPB. We also discussed at length our issues and why our council would like to withdraw from the board and establish our own planning authority.”

“In the end, Ms. Buckham reiterated that MMAH Minister Linda Jeffrey makes the decision (of whether the Northeast Town can leave the planning board), but the MMAH will be discussing the issue with council and the planning board prior to making a recommendation to Minister Jeffrey,” added Mayor MacNevin. “We won’t know until this process is over, but we are hopeful.”

Mayor MacNevin said that they anticipate they will be hearing again from Ms. Buckham and her team shortly to schedule a meeting with council, but in the meantime will continue to try and speak directly with the minister.

“The OGRA/ROMA (Ontario Good Roads Association/Rural Ontario Municipal Association) joint conference is in February, so that may end up being when we get to speak with the minister, but we will keep trying,” continued Mayor MacNevin. “We (council) are so tired of the door being slammed in our face by the planning board—it is not something we want to be a part of anymore. The fact that they wouldn’t even recognize our municipal representative is just the most recent incident.”

Last month, the MPB failed to recognize the Northeast Town mayor’s new appointment of council’s representation on the board, Councillor Bruce Wood, after the resignation of Councillor and MPB Chair Paul Skippen, claiming that the designation needed to be approved by council.

The Northeast Town stated that Councillor Wood’s appointment was valid as the Municipal Act, through its procedural bylaw, allows council to designate the authority to appoint councillors to committees to the mayor. However, the MPB explained in its October 28 minutes, “The board was advised that Mr. Wood has been appointed by the mayor for NEMI (Northeast Town) and it is understood that the council has not had an opportunity to confirm this appointment. It is the opinion of the secretary-treasurer (Elva Carter) that in accordance with the Planning Act, appointments to the planning board must be made by council.”

The MPB decision led council to carry a motion at its last meeting, appointing Councillor Wood as the Northeast Town council representative on the planning board.

“Whereas Councillor Skippen has resigned from the Manitoulin Planning Board Committee, and whereas the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands bylaw # 99-36, being a bylaw to govern the proceedings of council states under duties of the mayor sec (j) to select the members of council who are to serve on committees, and whereas the Manitoulin Planning Board refuses to allow Councilor Wood to be a voting member on all aspects of decision making until appointed by council; Therefore now be it resolved that the Council of the Corporation of the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands supports the mayor’s decision to appoint Councillor Wood to the Manitoulin Planning Board Committee,” the minutes from the November 5 Northeast Town council minutes read.

Ms. Carter was previously unavailable for comment as she was away from the office, but The Expositor was able to reach her Monday to comment on the situation.

“The planning board has now received (the Northeast Town) council’s appointment and Councillor Wood will be recognized as a full board member,” said Ms. Carter. “The Planning Act states that council must designate its appointment to the board. When the MMAH was contacted for clarification, it was suggested that a legal opinion be obtained, but we did not receive one from the Northeast Town.”

As for the Northeast Town’s request to the MMAH to withdraw from the MPB, Ms. Carter did not comment, but she did state she had not yet heard from the MMAH regarding the request.

Robin Burridge