BROCKTON – Mayor Chris Peabody said, prior to Tuesday night’s council meeting, that he was very interested in hearing what Bruce County had to say about housing – primarily the response to homelessness.
Bruce County representatives were Tania Dickson – Bruce County Housing Services manager, Matt Shute – YMCA, and Caitlin Currie – Grey County Homelessness Response co-ordinator.
Homelessness was described in their presentation as due to “poor service co-ordination and inequity of access or unavoidable crisis and previous trauma.” The report stated: “The reasons for and solutions to individual homelessness are not understood until connection, engagement and rapport is developed.”
The area has seen a recent increase in issues involving people who are experiencing homelessness.
Another, related topic on Tuesday evening’s council agenda was a staff report on growth, in relation to the county’s draft Official Plan amendment.
“It looks as if the county is not addressing Brockton’s needs,” said Peabody.
He identified three areas where the municipality’s needs are not addressed – retail land (Brockton has none); industrial land, some of which Brockton wants to rezone for residential development; and expansion of urban boundaries.
The mayor explained that a developer has purchased a parcel of land, a substantial portion of which is outside the urban boundary of Walkerton. That land cannot be developed under the present Official Plan.
“We have a private planner working for us,” said Peabody, a situation he described as unfair. “We shouldn’t have to spend ratepayers’ dollars to deal with the county.”
Peabody referred to the “explosive growth of Saugeen Shores,” and said he’s prepared to take the matter of growth for Brockton to the tribunal.
“I will not back down,” he said. “What happens 10 years from now, when a grocery store, for example, wants to expand, and there’s no land.”
This isn’t the first conflict between the municipality and county over the new Official Plan. Peabody described it as “round six of this fight.”
The issue has been discussed in delegations to the Minister of Housing. Unfortunately, said Peabody, it seems as if the minister “only meets with the big fish” while representatives of small municipalities get to speak with a parliamentary assistant. This was the case with Brockton.
“We really didn’t get anywhere,” the mayor said.
Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times