Northeast Town looks at viability of quitting Planning Board ranks

LITTLE CURRENT—The Northeast Town council is continuing to discuss negative issues between it and the Manitoulin Planning Board, hoping that a report from staff will reflect leaving the planning board as a viable option.

“Each day it feels like we have to go through another hurdle with the planning board,” Northeast Town Mayor Al MacNevin said at a recent council meeting to discuss changes to the draft Official Plan (OP). “We are getting stonewalled in all our attempts to communicate our concerns with the draft to the board. The OP is supposed to take in the accounts of the municipalities, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. It’s not just this issue we are getting stonewalled on.”

Mayor MacNevin reminded council that it wasn’t just issues with the OP that council was having difficulties communicating with the planning board about, but also the recent planning board decision to appeal a zoning amendment made by the Northeast Town council to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), the discovery that the planning board was making decisions without a quorum and a recent property consent from the board which violated the OP.

“From my perspective, the planning board is not listening to what we have to say about anything,” continued Mayor MacNevin.

“When I go to a meeting and no one even asks a question, it shows they don’t want to even listen,” added the mayor, referencing a recent Manitoulin Planning Board meeting where he requested that the board rescind its appeal to the OMB.

Regarding the planning board’s decisions without a quorum, council was also informed earlier this month that the situation regarding the board’s committees making consent decisions without applications being voted on by a full quorum of the board had been corrected.

Town CAO Dave Williamson explained the situation to council, noting that staff had forwarded a motion from council regarding the problem and that the planning board had forwarded a motion back to the Northeast Town, indicating that the consent committees would no longer be making decisions.

“Elva went to the Planning Act, and yes, the committees do not have the right to make decisions and it won’t be happing again in the future,” Mr. Williamson assured council.

“The reason for the committees was to relieve the board, as a whole, of needing to meet more than once a month, thereby resulting in considerable cost savings and to provide more expeditious service to the taxpayers/applicants,” the planning board minutes state. “The secretary-treasurer consulted with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing on whether other planning boards were using consent granting committees. The result of this consultation was that the provision in the Planning Act that allowed the planning board to have these committees no longer exists and we were unable to determine when this section of the Planning Act had been amended. Therefore, the secretary-treasurer advised that the board should only be making decisions when a quorum of the full board was in attendance.”

A motion was made reflecting the change.

The Northeast Town council also passed a recent motion to be forwarded to the planning board regarding an application for property consent that council was to comment on.

Through discussing the application, council learned that the property already had over three consents, violating the OP.

“It’s clear, the OP states that there is a limit of three consents,” said Mayor MacNevin. “How fair is it that they filed an appeal with the OMB when they said we violated the OP and now they see fit to do it (violate the OP) themselves?”

Council carried a motion that “the Council for the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands would like to note a concern with the application for consent made by Roy and Cathy Jeffery, File No. B23-13, being that this application appears to conflict with section F15(5) of the Official Plan re: the number of consents permitted and council feels this application would be better dealt with as a lot addition without additional charges to the applicants.”

During the general discussion of council’s issues with the planning board, Councillor Michael Erskine suggested that the Northeast Town council make the local MPP, Mike Mantha, aware of the town’s problems with the board.

“Perhaps we should engage our MPP with our concern?” Councillor Erskine said. “Maybe we should start moving in that area if we are not getting anywhere with the board.”

Council agreed that this was a good suggestion, with Councillor Erskine adding, “We (the municipality and the planning board) should be working together for the best future for our community and I don’t feel that is happening and I find that frightening.”

“Mike is right, we need to get anyone we can to help us out,” said Mayor MacNevin, explaining that if the town staff’s report came back indicating that leaving the planning board was viable, council would need the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s consent to leave the board.

“For now we need to keep going through this process (the planning board), but there just seems to be more and more evidence that our concerns are not be addressed and our best interests are not being represented,” concluded Mayor MacNevin. “There are many towns that run their own planning board, and perhaps that will be the best option for us.”

The Northeast Town will be receiving a report from staff, as directed at a September council meeting, later this month, exploring options of leaving the planning board.

Robin Burridge