Perth County to hire planner to help complete long-awaited Official Plan

·6 min read

PERTH COUNTY – Council narrowly passed a motion on Nov. 4 directing staff to hire a planner to help get the new Official Plan completed.

Sally McMullen, manager of planning services, presented a report that included a recommendation that the planning department hire an additional planner to complete the project. The work plan presented outlines that with a new hire the vast majority of remaining work could be completed by September 2022, allowing adoption by the current council and submission to the province before the new council takes over in November 2022.

The report noted that there is money available in the Levy Stabilization Reserve Fund to pay for the contract position.

Warden Jim Aitcheson said he and Deputy Warden Rhonda Ehgoetz already had a meeting with McMullen to discuss the Natural Heritage Plan, which is one of the aspects of the new Official Plan which has many residents concerned.

“We did talk about the concerns that are going to come up of the ratepayers and the landowners,” he said. “I think Sally thought I was trying to shoot the messenger but I was preparing her for what was going to be the concerns and questions raised by all the ratepayers, so I think we have a reasonably good plan to deal with this.”

Coun. Daryl Herlick said that council is trying to be frugal and respectful.

“That being said I did see the number of properties that are affected and this is very real,” he said. “At least once a week… I get drilled on natural heritage still. Yes, it’s something we have to keep moving but I do like that we are taking proactive steps here.”

Coun. Robert Wilhelm said he does feel it is necessary to hire the contract position to get the Official Plan finished.

“It’s been dragging on and it’s time to really dedicate some resources and get it done,” he said. “I’ve said it all along we need to have it done this term of council and if that’s what it takes then so be it. We do have the funds to fund the extra employee. My only comment… I see this extends out to October next year to be submitted and approved by council and lame-duck council could play a role.”

He asked if the council at that time will have the authority to submit it to the province.

Clerk Tyler Sager said the lame-duck calculation is from Aug. 19 at 2 p.m. until Nov. 14 at 12 a.m., but he said there are exceptions to allow council to decide on the Official Plan.

Coun. Doug Eidt raised concerns about planning staff being up to date on the details of the Official Plan.

“What I was envisioning was we would hire a planner who has experience with rolling out a new official plan,” said McMullen. “When we did the last round of hiring there were a couple of candidates who had that experience so if someone with that kind of experience was interested in this position then it would really help.”

She said it’s important they keep the development program going and she would hesitate to take one of the four planners from there to work on the Official Plan.

“They are the most intimately familiar with Perth at the moment,” said McMullen. “So it depends on who we can find to do this project but… I’m still quite involved in the Official Plan on a day-to-day basis. I just simply can’t keep the service we are providing to the lower tiers, the reviews on subdivisions and some consents which this position is the approval authority for.”

She said the county needs to continue operations and senior management commitments.

“It’s just such a drain on the Official Plan project of me being the only one working on it,” said McMullen. “At the same time, I will be heavily involved every week. I just need someone else in here who can do some of the leg work and who can help me to manage the consultations with landowners in particular in respect to the natural environment piece.”

Before he read the motion Warden James Aitcheson asked council whether there should be mention of a contract or time limit added to it.

Ehgoetz asked for both the mention of a contract and a time period.

“I could agree with the contract,” said Coun. Walter McKenzie. “I guess I would be a little hesitant to restrict the time period or at least to have it that if we get to the end of the time period and we need a bit more time, that could be negotiated.”

“I think we need a time limit because as we know things can go over,” said Ehgoetz. “When it does go over that year then we decide in a year what’s left and… we’ve been at this for years and I don’t want this going on for years any longer. So I think we put a time limit on it and at that time we can address it again.”

Aitcheson re-worded the motion to mention a contract and that the position will end when the Official Plan is completed.

Ehgoetz said that was too open-ended and she did not want to see work on the Official Plan continue for another three years.

“I’m pretty sure it shouldn’t go on three years,” said Aitcheson.

He asked for a mover and a seconder on the motion as he read it. Coun. Hugh McDermid moved it and Coun. Matt Duncan seconded it.

“It also states in this that we have to be done by the end of next year so that puts an end date on it… there is an end date on it of November. Correct me if I’m wrong,” said Eidt.

“That is what time it would take us to complete this with no deviations and no interruptions,” said McMullen. “I can promise you that.”

“That may be true in the report but that’s not what the final motion is saying,” said Ehgoetz. “It’s what the motion says is what council goes by so if it’s not there in the motion that means it’s not part of it.”

“My motion said until the completion of the Official Plan,” said Aitcheson.

“I still go back – it has to be in the wording of the motion,” said Ehgoetz. “We’ve got caught that way before that we make a motion and it’s not in there what was really defined. Just because it’s in the report that doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen.”

“So I do have a motion, it’s been moved and seconded,” said Aitcheson. “We’re going to put it to a vote and we’re going to see where it goes. Those in favour of that motion?”

Councillors Todd Kasenberg, Matt Duncan, Doug Kellum, McKenzie, Wilhelm and Aitcheson voted in favour of the motion. Eidt, Ehgoetz, Herlick and McDermid voted against it so the weighted vote was 10 to 8. The motion was passed.

Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner

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