Public must be heard on Official Plan review, say TBM councillors

Two members of The Blue Mountains council say they expect to see public input better reflected in the town’s ongoing update to its Official Plan.

At council’s committee of the whole meeting on Oct. 17, councillors June Porter and Paula Hope told town planning staff they want to see public opinion and concerns included in proposed updates to the official plan.

The Blue Mountains is in the middle of a lengthy process to update planning policies and directions in its official plan. The first phase of the process was completed last year and the town has now embarked on the second phase of the process, which will involve a number of public consultations in the coming weeks.

The town recently completed a survey about official plan policies that generated 600 responses from the community. Official plan background papers have been published on the project’s webpage and the town will soon be hosting six public engagement sessions. Full details can be found here.

Hope and Porter said public consultations during phase one resulted in what they believe were clear communications from local residents that community character and the environment were significant concerns. They noted that similar concerns were expressed during the recent survey.

Porter said that despite receiving “clear and repetitive messages” from local citizens on community character and the environment, the initial draft update of the official plan included the possibility of six-storey buildings.

“It would be nice if (the public) were actually heard this time,” said Porter.

Hope agreed.

“I underline the importance of full connection between survey results and the voice of the community and what comes out in the official plan,” she said, questioning how the six-storey policy originated in the first phase.

“I’m not really sure how it happened and I was chair of the committee,” said Jp[e

Sean Postma, the town’s manager of community planning, said all comments from the survey have been “duly noted” and included in the report. Posta said the comments are “not being dismissed” and said town planning staff are working to balance concerns about character and the environment with other community needs.

Other members of council cautioned that it was important to remain balanced on the official plan update.

“The surveys are not referendums,” said Mayor Andrea Matrosovs. “It is only one component. We just need to keep that in balance.”

Coun. Gail Ardiel said the survey results were not a broad community consultation.

“The survey doesn’t speak for the rest of the community. A lot of people are surveyed out. It’s not the whole of the community,” she said.

Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,