TBM puts doctors, parks, housing, and farmland on wishlist to province

·2 min read

Staff and politicians from Town of The Blue Mountains are aiming to have some tough conversations with provincial representatives, including the issue of old, unused farmland being re-designated, which has proved controversial in the past.

The conversations will be taking place at the Associations of Municipalities of Ontario conference in August.

At its committee of the whole meeting on April 24, The Blue Mountains council approved a plan to request delegations with four provincial ministries at the association’s conference in London, Ontario.

Delegation requests will include:

Delegations with ministers and their staff at the conference typically last seven to 10 minutes.

The request for a delegation to discuss the special agriculture issue raised eyebrows at the council table. Special agriculture lands are considered provincially significant and provincial planning policies protect these lands and place strict planning restrictions on them. Locally, lands used to grow apples and other fruit are lands designated special agriculture.

CAO Shawn Everitt explained to council that the town is aware of a couple of situations in which special agriculture lands are no longer in production, or perhaps shouldn’t have that designation and there could be benefits to the town if that designation changed.

“One is a mapping error,” the CAO said, who said the town is not looking for loosening of overall special agriculture planning policies, but feels it would be worthwhile to have a conversation with Lisa Thompson, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs about these specific cases. “Special agricultural land is absolutely critical to protect.”

Coun. Paula Hope said she is concerned about the town “opening a can of worms” on the special agriculture issue. In response, Everitt said the town could only take the conversation directly to the province and he conceded past attempts to raise the topic had not worked out.

“Previously, this did not go over well. It was not well-received,” said Everitt, who noted that only the province could take action. “The province needs to make the changes. Normally we’d be very reluctant to bring this forward. This really is a mapping error.”

Council ultimately supported making the delegation request. There is no guarantee the town’s requests will be approved by the ministry.

Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca