North Huron council expresses opposition of provincial housing bills

NORTH HURON – Coun. Anita Van Hittersum pulled three items from the consent agenda at the Nov. 7 regular council meeting, both regarding recent bills set out by the provincial government.

The bills are regarding the “More Homes Built Faster” and “More Homes for Everyone Act.”

“On Mar. 30 Bill 109 was introduced,” Van Hittersum said, “and it was passed and had Royal Assent on Apr. 14.” She commented how that was only two weeks for the municipal level government to provide input on the matter.

“I think the acts are not clear enough, there is a lot of information in there that needs more explanation,” Van Hittersum said. She feels it is taking away funds from smaller municipalities like North Huron and sought clarification from staff on that.

“It’s decided by people in the major cities and they don’t have any idea what the consequences will be in smaller municipalities.”

She hoped there might be something they could do before the time runs out because of the very short amount of time allowed for comments.

“It is an Act that is forced on us. We do things with our official plans and our planning with everything to work with contractors and work towards the housing shortage and the labour shortage, and the provincial government just steps up and introduces a new act that comes into force in a month or something.

“I’m really concerned about that and I don’t know if there’s anything we can do, but I think it’s just the provincial government overriding all local decisions and planning. “

Reeve Bernie Bailey weighed in on the subject, telling councillors what he had learned through county council meetings.

“My understanding is they’re going to put in place a system where we literally have to give back the building development fees, which we need to put the water and the sewer in the ground to make everything work. This is where we get our money to make it work. So, I totally agree with Anita; we should be sending a letter to the County, the Province, and whoever else we can, saying that we’re just not too happy about the provincial government cutting our funding at a local level.

“If they want to cut funding, they’ve got billions of dollars of their own to play with,” said Bailey. “I see this as a disgrace.”

A report from Hanna Holman, Huron County planner, and Denise Van Amersfoort, North Huron manager of planning, said, “Starting Jan. 1, 2023, municipalities must refund application fees where timelines are not met for planning applications as follows:

Zoning Bylaw Amendment

Days following application of no decision and Amount of Refund

90 days (3 months) 50 per cent

150 days (5 months) 75 per cent

210 days (7 months) 100 per cent

Zoning Bylaw Amendment with Official Plan Amendment

Days following application of no decision and Amount of Refund

120 days (4 months) 50 per cent

180 days (6 months) 75 per cent

240 days (8 months) 100 per cent

Site Plan Control

Days following application of no decision and Amount of Refund

60 days (2 months) 50 per cent

90 days (3 months) 75 per cent

120 days (4 months) 100 per cent

The report said, “The new process does create pressure on local municipalities to make decisions quickly while at the same time, potentially reducing resources if application fee refunds occur.”

Township Clerk Carson Lamb advised council to pull those items from the consent agenda and present a motion to address the provincial government, speaking to the lack of consideration for small, rural municipalities and the legislation’s impact.

Council decided that this must be done as one of their last acts as a sitting council due to the short time frame allowed for comments, which would be past due when the new council began their tenure.

Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times