Grey Highlands council has agreed to send a letter that asks the province to make changes to controversial planning policies being proposed.
At its meeting on May 17, council voted unanimously in favour of a draft letter prepared by municipal staff to be sent to the province as the municipality’s comments on changes the Ford government is proposing to provincial planning policies.
The proposed changes would loosen planning restrictions on the creation of new lots in rural and agricultural areas and many small rural municipalities fear a rush of new severance applications that could strain staff resources.
In the letter approved by council, Grey Highlands requests that the province extend the commenting period for the proposed changes by 90 days to allow more time for municipalities to react to the new policies. In addition, Grey Highlands asked that the section (126.96.36.199) that limits the ability of local municipalities to choose to have more restrictive policies in place be removed from the proposal altogether.
“This policy removes the ability for municipalities to debate the merits of residential lot creation in agricultural areas. As is the case with most other policies within the provincial policy statement, Grey Highlands council believes it is the province’s role to set the general policy direction while allowing municipalities to choose whether or not they want to be more restrictive,” the letter states.
At its previous meeting, council had a lengthy discussion on the proposed provincial changes. At the time, there was some disagreement amongst councillors about the proposed new provincial policies. However, upon receiving the draft letter, members of council were pleased with staff’s efforts to capture council’s general concerns.
“There are a lot of different angles and conversations around this,” said Deputy Mayor Dane Nielsen, who praised staff for capturing the two main sticking points for council: the limited time frame to comment and the one-size fits all approach by the province. “The concept of having that one planning concept for all of Ontario just really isn’t realistic or a good idea.”
Coun. Nadia Dubyk thanked staff for the quick turnaround on council’s comments and was pleased with the final result.
“We don’t have a lot of time on this,” said Dubyk. “I do believe the more voices, the more letters and the more comments that the province receives is always beneficial.”
Mayor Paul McQueen said he had spent some time reflecting on the changes being proposed by the provincial government. McQueen noted that many years ago a previous provincial government stepped in and ordered Grey County to put planning policies in place to strictly control the number of severances in rural and agricultural areas. McQueen noted that there was quite an “uproar” in Grey County at the time.
“It was: 'how dare the province come and tell us we can’t do this?' There was a lot of opposition,” he said.
The mayor noted that now the issue has come full circle with the current government encouraging lot creation in those areas.
“It is interesting how the government can change things pretty quick,” he said.