Northeast Town gets cold shoulder from Planning Board

MANITOULIN—The Northeast Town stood alone last week, unsupported by other Island municipalities in its request to have the Manitoulin Planning Board (MPB) withdraw its appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) regarding a zoning bylaw amendment by the Northeast Town.

Northeast Town Mayor Al MacNevin made a presentation to the MPB last Tuesday, asking that the planning board rescind its appeal to the OMB. The following night, he also made a presentation to the Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) regarding the planning board’s action, and put forward a motion asking for the MMA to request that the MPB withdraw its appeal. Neither the MPB nor the MMA supported the Northeast Town’s request.

“Thank you for allowing me to voice the concerns of the Northeast Town council,” began Mayor MacNevin to the MPB. “The issue is before a (OMB) tribunal right now, so I can’t discuss the particulars of the zoning amendment, but I would like to discuss the process of the appeal taking place. We feel that it is unprecedented for the planning board to file an appeal. Our council is quite concerned because the issue is with respect to a municipal zoning matter and municipal zoning amendments are a municipal matter. Historically, the planning board is to provide administration, not enforcement on zoning matters passed by municipal councils.”

Mayor MacNevin further explained that he had spoken with a number of Island mayors and reeves regarding the issue, stressing the ramifications of the planning board going ahead with its appeal to the OMB.

“It is also uncomfortable that we are funding one third of the planning board costs and now the board is taking us to an OMB hearing where we will be paying one third of the costs of your lawyer as well as ours,” continued Mayor MacNevin, adding that the municipality had already begun incurring costs due to the appeal.

“When I spoke with the other mayors and reeves many thought that the MPB had to file the appeal, but according to our lawyer this is not the case,” added Mayor MacNevin, noting that the MPB does have the right to file an appeal with the OMB, as does any individual or group concerning a bylaw.

The Expositor followed up this point with the Ministry of Affairs and Housing (MAH) on Monday which confirmed, “While there is no legal obligation for a planning board to appeal a planning decision made by a member municipality, the Planning Act does enable persons and public bodies (which would include a planning board) to appeal such a decision,” stated MAH media relations coordinator May Nazar.

When asked about the planning board’s obligation in filing an appeal regarding a bylaw that goes against the Official Plan, MPB secretary-treasurer Elva Carter explained to The Expositor that the planning board has a mandate to “ensure all planning applications conform to the Official Plan, Provincial Policy Statement and Planning Act.”

“I would like the board to reconsider its decision and the impact this has on relationships with municipalities and working together,” said Mayor MacNevin. “Our council has passed a motion to explore options, one being withdrawing from the planning board, although no final decisions have been made as of yet.”

“I’m going to be going before the Manitoulin Municipal Association tomorrow (Wednesday),” he continued. “I’m just asking the board to consider the impacts and future impacts on municipal relationships with this appeal.”

Following Mayor MacNevin’s presentation, the planning board went in camera, with the following motion to not withdraw the appeal being carried unanimously by the seven of the 11 board members present at last Tuesday’s meeting.

“That there will be no change to the decision to appeal bylaw 2013-27, as approved by the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands, and to inform the municipality that, in the opinion of the board, this is the first time that a municipality within this planning area has passed a bylaw that does not conform to the secondary/Official Plan, the Provincial Policy Statement or the Planning Act.”

Mayor MacNevin’s presentation to the MMA had similar results the following night, with the motion put forward by the Northeast Town for the MMA to request that the MPB withdraw its appeal defeated.

“I am here to speak to MMA representatives on issues we are having with the planning board,” said Mayor MacNevin, addressing the MMA meeting. “As a council we want municipalities to see the importance that this precedence setting appeal (to the OMB) is having on zoning amendments for the Town of NEMI. The planning board has filed an appeal to the OMB to fight the decision of council.”

A few of the municipal representatives asked Mayor MacNevin questions, explaining that they were unfamiliar with the case, but the mayor explained he could not discuss the details, saying he was concerned with the process and the precedent this case could set.

“Both meetings were similar,” Mayor MacNevin told The Expositor on Monday. “There was no support for us, however the Island municipalities were not fully represented at either meeting.”

The Northeast Town mayor explained that moving forward the appeal will “run its course through the OMB. It is now between the planning board, town lawyers and the OMB.”

The Expositor previously reported that the Northeast Town council carried a motion on August 6, approving a zoning bylaw amendment to allow for four residential units on the second floor of the building that houses the Turner’s Home Store located on Vankoughnet Street East, in an industrial zone.

An industrial building is permitted one apartment for a caretaker or owner per business. Since the building houses three businesses, there were three apartments, however Kilganan Group owner Jib Turner wanted to add an additional apartment and allow the apartments to be available for rent to the community.

Mr. Turner told council that due to the housing shortage in Little Current he wanted to assist the community.

Council carried the motion, despite the mixing of residential in an industrial zone because of the need for housing in Little Current.

The Manitoulin Planning Board sent a letter to the Northeast Town on Wednesday, August 28 informing the town that the board would be appealing council’s decision to the OMB.

“The Manitoulin Planning Board states that with the approval of this bylaw it is considered there will be major noise and safety issues due to the heavy truck traffic at all hours and no sidewalks for pedestrians and the close proximity to extensive fuel storage in this area that are not compatible with residential uses that would be permitted by this bylaw,” states the motion from the planning board, contained in its letter to the town.

“We (council) requested town staff to explore options of leaving the Manitoulin Planning Board,” said Mayor MacNevin, referring to a motion passed by the Northeast Town council in September. “It’s not just this appeal, we have other issues with the (planning) board too, such as the make up of the board and the per capita vote. We are waiting for the report and recommendations from staff and at that point council will decided where we want to go.”

Mayor MacNevin also said that Northeast Town staff are looking into other site-specific amendments that violate the Official Plan.

“There have been other cases of site specific amendments in our municipality and others on the Island that have violated the Official Plan, but the planning board has not appealed them to the OMB,” continued the mayor. “We have asked staff to bring other examples back to council.”

“If the report comes back from staff that it is viable financially and politically to leave the planning board, then council will discuss it,” concluded Mayor MacNevin.

Robin Burridge with files from Tom Sasvari