Changes made to Official Plan

·5 min read

Pembroke -- As quickly as they appeared, the deer yards have vanished in Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards Township, as well as other parts of the draft County of Renfrew Official Plan Amendment and Mayor Janice Tiedje could not be more pleased.

“I’m really happy,” she told the Leader following the meeting of Renfrew County council last Wednesday. “I truly believe it was the wrong thing to have the deer yards there. Eighty per cent of my township would be under that designation.”

The mayor had essentially drawn a line in the sand about the deer yards as well as a one-kilometre designation restricting development outside any urban community in the county and she said she was very pleased to see both changes. The deer yard designation would have made anyone seeking a fourth severance on their property in the affected areas having extreme difficulties and the one-kilometre designation would have stiffed growth just outside Killaloe and any urban centre in the county, she said.

“I was adamant about needing those changed,” she said. “So that is why I had asked for a recorded vote. I wanted people to see how their representatives voted on that Official Plan.”

The changes made last week included changing the word “will” with “may” in the phrase “Significant Wildlife Habitat ‘may’ be identified” and the removal of the deer winter area map. As well, the agricultural map reverted to the previous agricultural map of 2018. The sand and gravel constraint layer was also removed as had been reported previously at county council.

There are still some issues with this Official Plan amendment, she admitted.

“I went through the document page by page,” she said. “There are some things that are touchy. We do have an obligation to protect the environment and we are doing that.”

The next step will be sending this amendment to municipalities for review and it will also go to public meetings.

“This is our document,” Mayor Tiedje said. “We can’t blame the province. County council votes. Each of us vote. The public sees how we vote.”

Having the back and forth with the amendment so far has caused some delay but Mayor Tiedje said while it is important to get the amendment done, it is also important to have it done right.

“I don’t feel that pressure if I am not satisfied,” she said. “These are people who live in Renfrew County and we need to protect the rights of our taxpayers.”

Mayor Tiedje has been one of the most vocal critics of the Official Plan amendment but by no means the only one. Other mayors have spoken out about other designations which would harm their communities. The changes announced last Wednesday were equally welcome for mayors upset about increased agricultural designation in their communities, most especially Horton Mayor David Bennett and North Algona Wilberforce Mayor James Brose, both of whom had decried the designation on lands they said were marginal at best.

“Horton wants to say a huge thank you to staff and the Development and Property Committee,” Mayor Bennett said. “We are very pleased to have been heard.”

The township had been objecting to the designation of new areas as agricultural lands prior to his election as mayor and in the last few months grew so concerned they hired a consultant to evaluate the lands in question and bring in recommendations. The mayor said the consultant should have the work finalized in the next month and he would be passing on the information to county council.

Mayor Brose said he was especially pleased to see the maps going back to the previous maps of the Official Plan 25 which had not designated the land as agricultural.

“That was the goal for our municipality,” he said.

Mayor Jennifer Murphy of Bonnechere Valley also voiced her pleasure at the changes brought in by this newest recommendation from the committee to the Official Plan amendment. She pointed out one area of real concern was the designation of a one-kilometer buffer outside urban centers which would impact development.

“That one kilometre, I don’t know what Bonnechere Valley would have done,” she said.

There has been a lot of need for further development in the area and this needs to happen, she said.

“If there was ever a time for development in the County of Renfrew, the time is now,” she said. “Thank you for taking away those barriers.”

Admaston/Bromley Mayor Michael Donohue said it was important to realize some of the most “odious restrictions came out of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry” which have impacted Renfrew County, including the Species at Risk and other designations.

“Deer are not at risk,” he said. “We are overrun with them.”

He thanked both Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP and Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry John Yakabuski, as well as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark for giving the County of Renfrew the right to make amendments to the official plan.

“It is incumbent on us to take full advantage of that authority that has been delegated to us by Ministers Yakabuski and Clark,” he said.

In a recorded vote, all members of council who were present (only Madawaska Valley Mayor Kim Love and Laurentian Hills Mayor Jed Reinwald were absent) voted in favour of moving the Official Plan amendment to the next step. It was a recorded vote requested by Mayor Tiedje who had promised she was going to do this in the earlier discussions on the plan.

The plan will now go to municipalities and prescribed agencies including the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing for comment. After this there will be further review by the Development and Property Committee of county council as well as county councillors and then a public meeting on the plan amendment

Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader