NORTHEAST TOWN – The Northeast Town has joined a Georgian Bay Association (GBA)-led committee comprised of the five municipalities that make up the Georgian Bay coastline that will study their strategic plans, Official Plans and comprehensive zoning bylaws.
In a report to the Northeast Town council, the GBA stated that the idea for such a committee came from discussions in 2019 on how Georgian Bay municipalities could address their shared objective of protecting the natural landscape and environment along the coast and how it could be beneficial for those municipalities to compare strategic plans, Official Plans and comprehensive zoning bylaws. The five coastal municipalities that comprise the GBA are: Northeast Town, Municipality of Killarney, Township of the Archipelago, Township of Carling and Township of Georgian Bay.
“We expect that this exercise will highlight both commonalities and key differences in the planning policies and regulations, which can be analyzed to identify core principles and how the policies and regulations might be made more consistent, if appropriate for various municipalities,” a proposal to council states. “After the findings are shared, the partners could discuss potential sound or best practice approaches.”
“The goal will be to focus on the more significant planning issues rather than drilling down into the fine details, in particular developing data on planning and land use policies and regulations to improve presentation and protection of the east and north coasts of Georgian Bay,” the proposal continued. An intern will be employed the GBA to carry out the work.
The GBA hopes the committee will also have the outcome of creating more conversation between the municipalities.
Councillor Barb Baker asked John Woodroofe, GBA member representing the Manitoulin area, who had attended an earlier meeting on the subject, if all municipal members had to agree and if there are conflict of interest issues.
Mr. Woodroofe responded that it was strictly an advisory committee with no decision-making powers. He noted that the Township of the Archipelago and Township of Georgian Bay also raised concerns with conflict of interest and had their staff look into this. They learned that conflict of interest was not an issue with the GBA committee.
“The intention of the committee is not to get involved with individual planning matters,” he added.
“It’s a really good way to share and find out what’s going on around the bay,” the mayor said.
Councillor Jim Ferguson asked if GBA had made contact with any of the Georgian Bay First Nations, asking them to take part.
Mr. Woodroofe acknowledged that GBA has a First Nations liaison committee and other means of engagement but said he was doubtful the First Nations would be interested in this particular committee.
The committee was again discussed at the March 16 meeting of council.
Councillor Baker said she found it disappointing to hear that First Nations had not been included in the committee.
Councillor Ferguson said he has since had discussions with Mr. Woodroofe who has said he is “all in for First Nation inclusion” and promised to press the GBA on the subject.
Councillor Bill Koehler said he believed council should do everything they can to include the First Nations too.
Mayor MacNevin reminded everyone that GBA is not a decision-making body so First Nations are not losing any opportunity to raise issues or take part in discussions.
Councillor Dawn Orr said while the mayor’s points may be true, she thought the First Nation communities of Georgian Bay should still be asked and that the Northeast Town should push the GBA for it.
“Send them an invite,” Councillor Ferguson added. “If they decline, at least they were asked.”
Council passed a motion to join the GBA committee. Mayor Al MacNevin will be the Northeast Town representative on the committee.