Northeast Town continues fight to leave Manitoulin Planning Board

Planning board crunches numbers for costs without the Northeast Town

MANITOULIN—The Northeast Town is continuing its quest to leave the Manitoulin Planning Board (MPB) and become its own planning authority, despite receiving a less than favourable response from the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) Linda Jeffrey. Meanwhile in the wake of this discussion, the MPB has begun to look at what the financial effects will be if the Northeast Town is permitted to leave. (The Northeast Town requires the permission of the MMAH minister to leave the MPB.)

Last week, Northeast Town council received a letter from Minister Jeffrey in response to an October letter sent from council requesting permission to leave the MPB.

“Planning boards play an important role in Ontario’s land-use planning system by providing cost and service sharing opportunities, seamless policy protection and over-all coordination of future growth in the development across planning areas,” wrote Ms. Jeffrey. “I believe that every effort should be made to ensure the success of their operation.”

“Based on this, I am encouraging the town to work with the MPB to arrive at a fair and effective resolution to the concern that you have raised in your letter,” added Ms. Jeffrey.

Despite the tone of the letter, the Northeast Town council said that they will continue with its efforts to remove themselves from the MPB and assume its own planning authority.

Representatives from both the Northeast Town and the MPB have met with MMAH staff and started preliminary discussions.

Northeast Town Mayor Al MacNevin and town CAO Dave Williamson met with MMAH representative Northeastern Area Director Lynn Buckham in November and discussed the municipality’s request to withdraw from the MPB. At the meeting Mayor MacNevin also presented Ms. Buckham with a report, prepared by town staff and approved by council, detailing the municipality’s history and problems with the MPB.

Last week, the Northeast Town council carried a motion to be forwarded to the MMAH requesting a meeting between council and representatives from the MMAH.

“We need to meet further with MMAH staff and explain why we want to leave the MPB,” Mayor MacNevin told The Expositor. “We aren’t getting anywhere with the MPB, so we definitely need the MMAH to mediate discussions. We feel it would be beneficial for the MMAH to meet with council and to hear their thoughts. We are not happy and something needs to change.”

“We want to become our own planning authority or at the very least want the board (MPB) to be restructured,” added Mayor MacNevin. “Right now the board is made up of 11 equal votes representing each of the municipalities, regardless of size. It just doesn’t make sense.”

On Wednesday, December 11, the MPB held an executive board meeting, consisting of past MPB chair Ken Noland and vice chair Austin Hunt (a new board chair has not been elected since the resignation of 2013 board chair Northeast Town Councillor Paul Skippen in October) with Charlsey White, a representative from the MMAH.

“The ministry gave us background on the ramifications of a municipality leaving a planning board,” Mr. Hunt explained to The Expositor following the meeting. “She explained what would happen, but it was more of an information/briefing meeting. We were assured that there would be more meetings in the future to further discuss the issue (of the Northeast Town’s desire to leave the planning board).”

In response to the Northeast Town’s request to leave the planning board, secretary/treasurer Elva Carter also determined the financial ramifications for the other Island municipalities should the Northeast Town be granted permission from the MMAH minister to leave the MPB.

According to the report, the Northeast Town presently pays the largest municipal share of the MPB operating costs at 32.74 percent, meaning that if the municipality was to leave it would create large increases across the board for all the other Island municipalities. The Township of Assiginack’s share for 2013 was 11.05 percent, but without the Northeast Town their contribution would increase to 16.43 percent, while Gore Bay’s would increase from 4.86 percent to 7.22 percent. Meanwhile, Billing Township and Allan East would jump from 10.54 percent to 15.68 percent, Burpee and Mills from 4.33 percent to 6.44 percent, Central Manitoulin from 22.94 percent to 34.10 percent, Cockburn Island from .92 percent to 1.37 percent, Gordon/Barrie Island from 7.96 percent to 11.83 percent and Tehkummah Township from 4.66 percent to 6.93 percent.

Only time will tell what will become of the Northeast Town’s request, but one thing is certain; whether the disgruntled municipality is allowed to leave or a compromise is reached and the structure of the board is altered, it will mean big changes for the Manitoulin Planning Board.

Robin Burridge