In anticipation of future growth, Magnetawan has started the lengthy process of updating its official plan and also reviewing its zoning bylaw.
Deputy clerk of planning and development Nicole Gourlay, says the goal is to have the updated official plan and zoning bylaw review done before the Oct. 24 municipal election. The last major overhaul was in 2012. Gourlay says a major change is to bring the document into line with the Ontario Government's Provincial Policy Statement, which has seen significant changes in the last four years. Gourlay says the official plan has to conform to the provincial policy statement. It means council and local residents don't have any input in this area. However, council and the residents control other aspects of the plan and residents can provide input by visiting the municipal website and commenting on several areas. The big change where residents can offer input covers dwellings. This includes whether tiny homes should be allowed in the municipality in addition to should second dwellings be allowed on single properties. Gourlay says Magnetawan has been experiencing growth since before COVID-19 and that growth continues to this day which has created a housing issue. “We're seeing the impact of the housing crisis,” she said. “People in Magnetawan and the surrounding communities in Almaguin are struggling to find workers. If people can't find somewhere to live, they can't come here to work.” Gourlay says the municipality wants to address this by creating more affordable housing. In the area of second dwellings on a single property, Gourlay says it could include allowing an entire separate home on a single property, or creating a basement apartment or even creating an apartment above a boathouse. She says tiny homes also fall in the dwelling category. The updated plan would include language on where in the municipality something like tiny homes could be built. Another area is short term accommodations like AirB&Bs. Gourlay has worked for the municipality for four years and during that time she's noticed an increase taking place involving short-term accommodations with “people asking can they have them. “But with that interest have also come complaints,” Gourlay said. “So the village is trying to understand what residents want to see. Should (short-term accommodations) be licensed and how or should they even be allowed.” Gourlay says most residents responding to several online surveys the municipality has on its website “are in favour of short-term accommodations provided there is a licensing program.” However, Gourlay also points out some people are concerned about what short-term accommodations mean for increased traffic on certain roads in the municipality. Gourlay says an open house is scheduled for Thursday at the local community centre and residents of Magentawan, Chapman, Croft and Spence can all offer general input on what changes they would like to see. “A lot of people think (the official plan) has nothing to do with them because they have no plans to develop their properties,” she said. “But I want people to understand this is an opportunity for them to tell us things like do you want people to live above the commercial units in the downtown core, or if you want a soccer field where in the municipality should it be. I want people to get involved because this is the road map (for development) for the next 20 years.” Gourlay adds the plan helps ensure development does not occur in a haphazard manner but is carried out in a planned and orderly way with the correct infrastructure going up. Two sessions for the open house Thursday are planned. The first takes place from 2 to 4 p.m. and the second runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The comments the municipality receives from the open house, combined with input from the online surveys, will give it the information it needs to start putting together a draft official plan. The draft is subject to change and residents can continue filling out the online surveys until February. The surveys are available at https://magnetawan.com/residents/planning-zoning/official-plan-and-zoning-by-law-review on the municipal website. Gourlay is also available to answer questions about the Official Plan either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 705-387-3947 extension 1011.
Residents can also send her a letter. Seasonal residents can also offer input and comment. A second open house will be held in the spring, with staff expected to have a full draft ready for public review and input sometime next summer. Subject to further changes, this is the document town council will vote on in September or October. The document also must be approved by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Although much of the work ahead involves the official plan, the zoning bylaw is also undergoing a major review. Gourlay says the bylaw contains a lot of planning lingo, which can be confusing. The goal here is to change some of the language into layman’s terms so the sections are more clear. “We want to make it an easy to read document and make it easier to find what you're looking for,” she said.
Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Bay Nugget