County council split on West Grey/Hanover border changes

·3 min read

Grey County council has voted in favour of an Official Plan amendment that recognizes that the Town of Hanover will one day in the future have to grow into the Township of West Grey.

County council was fractured on the issue and narrowly approved including the controversial section about the Hanover/West Grey border in Official Plan Amendment (OPA) 11, which was largely a housekeeping matter to update the county’s plan.

In addition to a number of minor changes to the plan, county staff recommended two special policy areas be created in West Grey on the Hanover border. The special policy areas would recognize that, eventually, Hanover will have to grow into those lands.

In a razor-thin 43-42 recorded vote, council voted against an amendment to OPA 11 from West Grey Mayor Christine Robinson that would have deleted the special policy areas from the staff recommendation.

The proposed amendment spurred a tense debate around the council table, with West Grey and Hanover representatives exchanging points back and forth at times.

“Its inclusion is inappropriate. It must be dealt with as a separate matter,” said Robinson. “Quite clearly, this addition is not a housekeeping matter. It undermines the very goals of collaboration.”

County staff clarified that adding the special policy areas to the official plan was a simple recognition that Hanover does not have room for growth and further studies and discussion will have to happen.

“This would not change any municipal boundaries. It would not bring these lands into town. It just suggests those areas may be required for growth,” said county planning director Scott Taylor.

Hanover Mayor Sue Paterson echoed staff’s comments.

“This is only the first step and there is still work to be done. It recognizes Hanover does not have enough land.”

Throughout the debate, county staff emphasized that the inclusion of the special policy areas was simply a first step and that there were many steps down the road that would be required before anything would happen.

“This is simply good planning,” said CAO Kim Wingrove.

Robinson said the two municipalities have been discussing the growth issue with the goal of coming to a resolution.

“West Grey has been in discussions with Hanover to find mutually agreeable solutions,” she said.

Paterson countered there have been just three meetings between the two on the topic and her last letter to West Grey about the issue had not been answered.

“We’re into the weeds. This does not belong at county council,” said Paterson.

The proposed change generated support and concern around the council table.

The Blue Mountains Mayor Alar Soever said designating those areas of West Grey as special policy areas starts a process that will require plenty of back and forth between the two communities.

“It would have been preferable that the whole string of events get worked out before this is assigned as a secondary plan area,” said Soever. “There are consequences.”

Owen Sound Mayor Ian Boddy said the designation was critical for the future.

“Recognizing where growth should be is so important. Let’s start thinking ahead,” he said.

Robinson’s amendment to remove the secondary plan language from OPA 11 was defeated in a 9-8 vote with councillors Scott MacKey, Dwight Burley, Paterson, Warden Selwyn Hicks, Barb Clumpus, Boddy, Brian O’Leary, John Woodbury and Brian Milne opposed. Grey Highlands Deputy Mayor Aakash Desai was absent.

Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca