Planning Board appeals Northeast Town’s zoning decision to OMB

LITTLE CURRENT—The Manitoulin Planning Board has made a formal request for an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) regarding a bylaw amendment the Northeast Town council made permitting residential units above a building in an industrial area of Little Current.

On August 6, council carried a motion passing bylaw 2013-27, “being a bylaw to amend zoning bylaw 2002-31, Kilganan Group Ltd., to allow four (4) dwelling units on the second floor not associated with the uses which would be permitted on the main floor of a structure located in a general industrial zone.”

The building which houses the dwellings also houses Turner’s Home Store located on Vankoughnet Street East, an industrial zone. Prior to council’s decision, town CAO Dave Williamson explained to council that 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.

Councillors, such as Councillor Michael Erskine, voiced their support for the bylaw amendment, despite the mixing of residential in an industrial zone because of the need for housing in the community.

In a letter sent to the Northeast Town dated Wednesday, August 28, the planning board informed the town that they would be appealing council’s decision to the OMB of bylaw 2013-27, attaching the following motion moved by the planning board: “The Manitoulin Planning Board supports the secretary-treasurer in filing an appeal on behalf of the Manitoulin Planning Board of bylaw 2013-27, approved by the Northeast Town on August 6, 2013 to the OMB for the reasons of non-conformity to the secondary plan/Official Plan for the Manitoulin planning area, the Provincial Policy Statement 2005 and the Planning Act. Furthermore, the Manitoulin Planning Board state 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.”

The letter goes on to state that the planning board “does not take their position in this matter lightly and this appeal is being filed in the interest of good planning having regard for the stated planning.”

The Expositor contacted the Northeast Town regarding the planning board’s appeal and inquiring as to the planning board’s role in terms of zoning.

“Normally the planning board’s role is consent and a vehicle for processing zoning applications, while zoning decisions are that of municipal councils,” Mr. Williamson responded to The Expositor’s question. “Any body or individual can file an appeal up to 21 days after a bylaw is passed at council. Normally a planning board won’t file an appeal—this is very unusual.”

Mr. Williamson explained that the next step is for the appeal and documentation to be forwarded to council for discussion, with council making the decision to either mediate with the planning board or to proceed, fighting for their position.

The Expositor also spoke with Northeast Town Mayor Al MacNevin who was surprised by the planning board’s appeal.

“The planning board’s role in zoning is to process applications, not decision making,” said Mayor MacNevin. “I’m not impressed with their appeal to say the least. I will be discussing what is behind it with our municipal representative on the board, Paul Skippen, followed by council to decide how we will proceed.”

Mr. Turner was not pleased with the appeal either, commenting, “Apartments have always been permitted at my building. Council permitted me to provide access to those apartments to a wider group with their decision (bylaw amendment).”

“The planning board has no authority over zoning, so the question needs to be why they are appealing a zoning decision made in the best interests of this community by its council,” continued Mr. Turner. “This opens the door to every zoning decision on the Island now being overridden by the planning board. I trust the members of the board recognized how dangerous and expensive ceding this type of power to the planning board is. Remember, the taxpayers will be paying for the lawyers for both the planning board to appeal this decision and for the council of the Northeast Town to defend their decision. This community needs more housing. The planning board is challenging the council of Northeast Town and that is resulting in lost housing, lost revenue and lost credibility to the Island as a place to develop new businesses and future housing developments. At the end of the day we will all be paying for this.”

Robin Burridge