OMB rules in favour of Northeast Town, tells Manitoulin Planning Board it cannot ‘second guess’ council decision

HONORA BAY—The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) has ruled in favour of the Northeast Town following an application for a ‘consent to sever’ in Honora Bay that was “second guessed” by the Manitoulin Planning Board.

In May of last year the Honora Bay applicants (who have asked to go unnamed) applied for a consent to sever and convey a landlocked parcel of land from the rear of their property. This property was to be transferred to the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy for the creation of hiking trails, which would also connect to other conservancy hiking trails in the area. The Manitoulin Planning Board (MPB) approved the consent, subject to five conditions, including proof (satisfactory to the Northeast Town) that the proposed severed land to the maintained municipal road (Green Bush Road) “has been constructed to a standard for travel by emergency vehicles satisfactory to the municipality.”

When the application came back to the Northeast Town, council discussed the matter and said that the municipality could not guarantee that a full-size emergency vehicle could make it to the lands in question, especially on an unopened road allowance, Northeast Town CAO Dave Williamson explained.

“We have had any number of consents where there are no roads,” the CAO added.

While council said they could not guarantee an emergency vehicle such as an ambulance or a fire truck could access the hiking trails, they could guarantee that an ATV could make the trip and so informed the MPB that it was ‘satisfied’ that this condition was met.

The MPB asserted that the condition was for full-size emergency vehicles, and not for ATVs.

“This (full-sized emergency vehicle access) was a condition put in by the MPB themselves,” Mr. Williamson said, “but it’s not a policy by the province or the Official Plan.”

With this specific condition in mind, the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy executive director Bob Barnett appealed to the OMB on behalf of the applicants and on February 4 the OMB ruled in favour of the applicants and the Northeast Town, stating: “The board finds the conditions of consent have been satisfied because the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands has passed a resolution that says it is satisfied and the condition of the consent does not give the MPB the jurisdiction to second guess the council of the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands.”

“Similarly,” the OMB continues, “if the town had refused to rezone the property, the OMB could not approve the consent because it transferred its power to effectively approve the consent to the town by setting the conditions that the town must approve. The MPB is functus (of no further official authority) with respect to the consent decision and cannot get another kick at the can.”

Council reviewed the OMB decision at its community services/public works committee meeting on February 20.

“I think that says it all,” Councillor Marcel Gauthier stated. “That (second guess) is what they do there.”

Council took the MPB’s decision against the Northeast Town as yet another attack on the municipality, they said.

When contacted by The Expositor, Mr. Barnett would not comment on the decision, but said that while the New Democratic Party has voiced its opinion on the OMB and its role in the province, “the OMB has an important second look at important municipal decisions.’

‘It’s an important addition to our hiking network,” Mr. Barnett said of the Honora Bay property.

Alicia McCutcheon