Renfrew -- The County of Renfrew may have been expecting a different response from Renfrew council regarding the official plan review, but that didn’t happen.
Renfrew council did not agree with the recommendation of its own planner, Eric Withers, to support the amendments to the official plan, fearing it may stifle growth in neighbouring municipalities, as well as its own.
Councillor Sandi Heins also felt there was not enough time to review the document.
To open discussion at the February 23 ZOOMmeeting, Mr. Withers said this was the latest in the saga of the County of Renfrew Official Plan Review.
It was approved last March by the province, but with changes that were different than what the county adopted, he said.
However, the province did give the county approving authority, which means amendments can be made without sending them to the province, he said. And, even though this provides the county with “flexibility and freedom,” it does not give carte blanche as the provincial policy which the county must follow still exists, Mr. Withers stressed.
Following a quick review, Mr. Withers noted while there are elements that don’t affect the town of Renfrew, the one that does affect it relates to development within serviced, settlement areas.
While this is not new for Renfrew, it is for surrounding municipalities that will be affected, including Admaston/Bromley Township and Horton Township, he said.
This means municipalities cannot allow builds within a one-kilometre boundary of any settled serviced area, water and/or sewer, and this does not necessarily mean the boundary of adjoining municipalities, he said.
The idea is to provide guidance to what appropriate urban development is, he said, explaining that instead of building in an area that does not have services, but wants to provide it by going over vacant land, that won’t be allowed.
“It allows for long-range planning,” Mr. Withers said. “As things develop, it happens near existing development, not jumping all over the place. It’s hard to design services.”
This does cause concern for property owners who want to develop their property but can’t in the way they want, he noted.
“You want to be continuous, orderly and as you develop or extend services, make it as efficient as possible,” he said.
Reeve Peter Emon said this issue was raised six months ago and caught the attention of rural municipalities near settled areas. He did not approve accepting the recommendation, noting if council approves the recommendation, and doesn’t agree with the one kilometre boundary around settled serviced areas, it could mean it won’t have the services of its own staff and a consultant would have to be hired.
Mayor Don Eady agreed, saying he would not support the recommendation of Mr. Withers. Council should have first discussed the issue with Admaston/Bromley and Horton councils, because services could be provided by the town if that is what they wanted. However, by approving the amendments, this does not provide that opportunity. If the opportunity to negotiate with neighbouring municipalities is included, then that would be fine, he continued.
“This is like shoving something down our neighbours’ throat, which I feel is very, very unfair.”
Coun. Heins agreed.
“It’s very disturbing that we would shut our neighbours out like that,” she said., adding council wants to work with its neighbours and selling services to other municipalities is what the province wants to see happen.
“That’s what the provincial government wanted us to do, share services and do what we can to enhance different opportunities to working together,” she said. “I’m not happy with it. I think it’s very important we provide comments to the county.”
The concern of building a circle around the town and not letting anyone in is just not right, Coun. Heins added.
Council agreed to receive the report for information but did not pass a motion accepting the recommendation to support it.
Coun. Heins pointed out there are 32 items in the official plan and all council members should have an opportunity to say what they are happy and not happy with.
Mayor Eady agreed.
“I don’t understand the whole thing,” he said. “We need to know how others (recommendations) affect us. There’s probably really good stuff in there.”
Mr. Withers said he could draft a letter to the county that reflects council’s discussion at this meeting and bring it to the next meeting, which council agreed to.
Following that meeting, county council met and the one kilometre buffer was removed. However, the draft plan then went back to county committee level for further evaluation
Connie Tabbert, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader