Public meetings to be held next month for Official Plan input

Tom Sasvari

The Recorder

GORE BAY—While some questions were posed by members of the Manitoulin Planning Board to the consultants putting together the new Official Plan (OP) for Manitoulin and Cockburn islands, members of the public will have opportunity to provide input at public meetings being held July 11-12.

Representatives of the MMM Group met with members of the planning board at a meeting last week to outline the work that has been completed so far, and what the next steps in the process will be.

Planning Board member Doug Head raised a concern as to whether the plan is going to make it easier in the area of agriculture to set standards that will make it uncomplicated for farmers, and in economic development, for businesses to make necessary improvements which will provide for further employment and improvements in these separate areas.

Chris Tyrrell of MMM Group said, “one of the goals of the OP is to have proper designations in place to enhance economic development, without having to go through the OP, which is currently the case now. “What the land use policy is going to advance is going to be flexible enough to promote, enhance, and allow for improvements.”

John Kennedy of MMM said, “We are building more flexibility into the plan and creating, hopefully, more opportunities.”

“We need something to work with and add to (in the OP plan) and the committee and members of the public will have input into this,” said Paul Skippen, chair of the planning board.

“The message you have delivered is the same as we heard at our meeting with the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) earlier today, and how we need input from members of the board and the community, putting forward ideas for the official plan that make sense for the District of Manitoulin” said Mr. Tyrrell. “We are pleased to be here tonight to discuss the work that that has been done to the Official Plan, present and outline the project purpose, project work program and highlights, and incorporating input we receive through discussions and meetings.”

“The current Official Plan was approved in 1979,” said Mr. Tyrrell, noting that OPs generally have a horizon of 20 years. “The District of Manitoulin Island’s Official Plan has been in existence for over 30 years.”

A new OP is needed to update the strategy for managing change in the District of Manitoulin to incorporate the necessary amendments/changes (to the recently passed Planning Act (i.e Bill 51)) and the provincial policy statements in place since 2005. As well, the plan is being carried out to implement the goals and objectives of the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario, the meeting was told.

In relationship to zoning, the OP regulates what can be built on a property, its character, and how it will be configured.

“Once the OP is complete and has been approved by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the municipalities will have three years to implement the plan’s policies,” said Mr. Tyrrell.

There are three phases to the project work program, the meeting was told. “We have completed phase one, being the project initiation and background review,” said Mr. Tyrrell. He explained this includes project initiation and consultation and engagement strategy; initiating correspondence with First Nations, and providing a background report (initial chapters).

In understanding the second phase, issues and options, “this morning we met with the members of the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC). We talked about the issues, goals, and objectives, and they will be providing comments, issues, concerns and questions on the document by June 12,” said Mr. Tyrrell.

Phase two includes receiving input on the background report chapters and finalizing the draft report, holding public open houses, and finalizing the background report. Mr. Tyrrell noted that the public meetings will take place on July 11-12 on Manitoulin, and then the MMM group will go onto the third phase.

The third phase includes preparing a draft of the OP, meetings with the committee and reconsulting with the MMAH, holding open houses, finalizing the OP, holding statutory public meetings and adopting and expediting approval of the plan.

Mr. Tyrrell explained, “By the fall we should have the first working draft of the OP completed. Then we will meet with the CAC and the provincial ministry. Then in the summer of 2013 we will hold a series of open houses again. Based on the input receive from the CAC and the broader community, the plan will be revised and finalized and then will go back to the board in the fall of 2013, for a recommendation to your board for adoption of the Official Plan.”

The work program highlights include incorporating policies for the present and future development of rural, residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural and recreational land uses. Identifying opportunities to encourage growth within the area through intensification, redevelopment and designated growth areas, as well as updating policies to ensure the protection of the environment for the long term and natural quality of the shorelines and bed of rivers and lakes are sustained.

As well it will include, “updated policies to ensure the natural resources and hazardous areas are protected from unplanned growth and development,” said Mr. Tyrrell. “Reviewing and updating policies and associated mapping, related to other provincial legislation like the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario (GPNO), coordinate transportation and land use planning efforts; reduce energy and water use, increase efficiencies, and promote intensification and brownfield site redevelopment and provide the basis for the development of regional economic plans.”

“We want to ensure compatibility between the economic development and land use policies,” pointed out Mr. Tyrrell. As for the work having been completed so far, he explained, “we prepared an inventory of existing issues, goals, and objectives. Based on our review of the background materials and provincial policy and discussions with staff, we have updated the issues and prepared new goals and objectives around 10 topic areas. They include agriculture, tourism, culture and recreation, seasonal residential, natural and human-made hazards, natural heritage features and areas, housing, employment, municipal services, renewable and non-renewable resources and transportation.”

“As mentioned we held our first meting with the CAC this morning as a consultant team, and there has been correspondence back and forth with First Nations and the province,” said Mr. Tyrrell. “We now require input from the planning board to assist in finalizing the issues, goals and objectives.”

“The next steps in the plan are to obtain additional input from the planning board, CAC, and First Nations, then further work on the background report will be done, developing the preliminary policy and growth options for the OP. Public open houses will be held July 11-12, and we will obtain public input,” said Mr. Tyrrell.

“Will the public meetings be held across the Island?” asked Keith Legge.

Planning Board secretary Elva Carter said, “one meeting will be held in Gordon, while a second meeting will be held at the Mindemoya Hall and the third at the recreation centre in Little Current.”

“Where does Cockburn Island fit in on all of this? When the Official Plan was done the last time, there was a public meeting held in Thessalon to accommodate residents of Cockburn,” asked Jack McQuarrie.

Ken Noland noted, “The reason three locations were chosen is a cost saving measure. We discussed having more public meetings, but each one we hold means more expense.”

The last time an OP was done for the Island, “we had a bunch of small meetings,” said Austin Hunt.

“But the board also had a bunch of provincial funding in place for the original plan,” stated Mr. Kennedy.

Mr. McQuarrie said perhaps council would approve having a group of representatives of council at one of the public open houses.

“If someone has a real interest in the OP they will attend one of the meetings,” said Mr. Legge.

“You mentioned consultation has been done with First Nations. What input has been provided?” asked Mr. Noland.

Mr. Tyrrell said the consultants are obligated to consult with First Nations, and the public, and correspondence with local First Nations has gone through the Planning Board office. “The local First Nations were were invited to our meeting earlier today, but declined to be present for it. But correspondence has gone back and forth, and will continue as we continue to invite and encourage participation in the process.”

Mr. Hunt said he was glad the consultants used the word flexibility in detailing the OP. “You also mentioned taking notice of the Northern Growth Plan, but (the latter) says very little about Manitoulin.”

With the OP it is hoped, “it will provide the encouragement of regional economic strategies, and other issues relevant to Manitoulin Island,” continued Mr. Tyrrell.

“The ministries, particularly the MMAH, acknowledge the uniqueness of Manitoulin Island,” said Mr. Kennedy. “Particularly in Northern rural municipalities, it seems (with these plans) more flexibility will be available to allow municipalities to tailor things a little bit to what would benefit their communities.”