What is the problem for which this is the solution? That was the question in my notebook before the Council meeting started back in March.
I wanted to understand the motivation for attacking the Community Official Plan (COP). An agenda was being pursued to introduce estate lot subdivisions and allow a significant increase in rural severances. From conversations before the meeting, it was obvious that many who packed the public gallery that night were also expecting evidence to support the need for such a zealous challenge to the COP.
During the divisive and acrimonious discussions that resulted around the Council table, I jotted down a second question. How had this been allowed to deteriorate to such a low level of discourse? It didn’t get any better. Two other things came to light that were just as disturbing.
Firstly, the month before, Council had voted to suspend its own rules of operation. Yikes! Since motions on the COP had been twice defeated, the issue could not be reintroduced under procedural rules. This obstacle, it turned out, could easily be overcome by just suspending the rules. Yes, it actually happened. In a recorded vote, the majority of our elected representatives thought it was fine to demonstrate good governance in this way. Alas, it’s legal under Ontario’s Municipal Act and the town’s procedural By-law 12-74. I checked with both the Minister of Municipal Affairs and our Chief Administrative Officer.
The second revelation was the complete lack of public consultation to date. How could that possibly be? Our COP, it’s known far and wide, was the first example in Ontario where the people of a community prepared the official plan and presented it to Council. This bottom up planning was driven by years of active public participation. The resulting COP, it’s been pointed out, was a plan of and from the people of the community. Attempts in the Council Chamber to move on significant changes, from November 2013 to February 2014, had proceeded without any public consultation. What conclusions can be drawn from that kind of civic performance?
The municipal drama that night was intense and complicated. Although not all lines may have been well scripted, the soliloquies were certainly delivered with passion. The need for expanded rural development (severances and estate lot subdivisions) was the rallying call, but there was no evidence. None at all. In fact, the report of the Planner clearly indicated there was a supply of buildable lots for many years. The term inconvenient truth comes to mind in light of attempts around the Council table to discount his professional findings – wrong place, etc. Repeating the mantra of ‘more lots’ seemed to be the fallback position of the development lobby in the absence of any evidence.
During the attacks, ripostes, and parries, the winning strategy of the evening’s match focused on the need for public consultation before any further proposals were made. When the motion was approved to hear from the people of Mississippi Mills, the reaction from the public gallery was enthusiastic.
At the public meeting on June 10, held in the Amonte Old Town Hall, a survey form was supplied to provide feedback on the review of rural lot creation. Some were completed that evening. Although many of us weren’t able to attend the session, we have until 4:00 p.m. today to make our views known on severances, cluster lots, estate lot subdivisions. More than one occupant can vote on this. In addition to selecting options, your comments are being solicited on these topics too.
Is there any evidence to refute the report of the Planner? Here’s the link to his presentation.
There are two options for contributing your views by 4:00 p.m. today. You can print and complete the form, then drop it off at the municipal offices. Here’s the link for the survey form.
You can also email your selections and comments directly to our municipal planner, Stephen Stirling, at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Your voice counts.