Bruce County continues to require public meetings for plans of subdivision

BRUCE COUNTY – Bruce County’s planning and development committee has decided it will continue to require public meetings to be held for plan of subdivision applications.

As stated in the staff report presented at the Feb. 16 committee meeting, one of the changes arising from Bill 23 – the More Houses Built Faster Act – is removal of requirements for public meetings for proposed plans of subdivisions.

The county’s process has been for public meetings to be held by the local municipality, with minutes from the meeting and a resolution forwarded to the county for a decision. That decision is provided by staff for uncontested applications, and the committee for contested applications.

Claire Dodds, director of planning and development, said in her report to the committee that while Bill 23 removes the requirement for a public meeting, the committee can “set standards above the requirements of the Planning Act where it feels it is advisable.”

She explained in her report, “Most plans of subdivision have a related planning application, such as a zoning bylaw amendment or Official Plan amendment, which would require a public meeting; however, it is somewhat challenging for members of the public, in reviewing a proposal, to focus or narrow comments on zoning aspects, to the exclusion of subdivision matters such as park locations, road layouts and lot patterns.”

The report stated that “staff recommends… public meetings provide a better opportunity for a council to receive and discuss concerns with the public than a process where only written submissions are considered.”

The committee passed a motion to continue holding public meetings for plans of subdivision applications. The county’s new Official Plan will incorporate public meetings “as an alternative means of engaging and obtaining the views of the public on plans of subdivisions and condominiums.”

Changes presented to delegation bylaw

Another change to the Planning Act through Bill 23 involves removal of third-party appeal rights for applications heard by local committees of adjustment – minor variances, and changes to legal non-conforming uses, as well as consent applications for which the county is the approval authority.

Appeal rights are now limited to the applicant, minister of municipal affairs, the municipality, and various energy, utility, boards, commissions and provincial or federal bodies.

The county has delegated authority for approving uncontested consents to the director or manager of planning, with contested consents brought to the committee.

Jack Van Dorp, manager of land use planning, told the committee that since “neighbour objections” are no longer criteria for appeal, there is no reason to bring most of these applications before the committee. Applications that would continue to be referred to the committee include those where staff cannot recommend approval, or there are matters deemed to be of sufficient concern that the matter should go before the committee.

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times