The County of Renfrew held Open Houses followed by Special County Council Meetings regarding the status of the Five Year Review of the County of Renfrew Official Plan (OP) in Eganville on March 22 and in Pembroke on April 4.

Charles Cheesman, Manager of Planning Services for Renfrew County, presented the Revised Draft OP. Cheesman stated that his presentation had three themes, the first being education of the general public. Discussions with two members from the North Renfrew United Landowners (NRUL) resulted in the next two themes: “finding a balance for planning on private property vs. public good”, and “what problem are you trying to solve?”.

Cheesman defined land use planning as the orderly allocation of land uses, resources, facilities and services to secure the physical, economic and social well-being of communities.

An official plan deals with issues such as:

Where new housing, industry, offices, and shops will be located

What services like roads, watermains, sewers, parks and schools will be needed

When, and in what order, parts of your community will grow

Ontario’s Planning Act requires OPs to be reviewed and updated at five-year intervals. This is to ensure that the OP is meeting the needs of the community, has regard to provincial interests (for example, conserving minerals aggregate resources, and planning for appropriate locations of growth and development), and is consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS). The PPS recognizes that local context is important.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs (MMA) must approve a County’s draft OP. Many of the requirements are written for large cities, like Toronto, with high population densities. Renfrew County has a large land base, is mainly rural, with low population density, and an abundance of natural resources.

Some of the issues with the April 2016 Draft OP raised by the MMA include:

  1.  “Delete additional consent policies (maximum of three lots)”.

Renfrew County allows for 3 severances of properties with an additional 2 normally granted, and the possibility of additional severances if certain criteria are met. In Renfrew County growth is achieved by severing properties in settled areas.

  1. “There are additional candidate areas for prime agricultural designation”

County planners added some agricultural land but not as much as the  Province wanted.

  1. “More detail on growth allocations is required”

The Province wanted each of the 17 Municipalities to have a growth plan.

Renfrew County planners allocated growth as 60% in urban  areas and 40% in rural areas.

 

Highlights of March 2018 Draft Official Plan

  1. A new addition, “To seek an appropriate balance between the interests of private property owners and the overall public good.” has been made to the Introduction of the draft OP.
  2. Secondary dwellings are now permitted as separate, detached dwellings. These units, serviced by private septic systems and wells, will be permitted on lots greater than 2 acres.
  3. Due to the imminent legalization of marijuana, the draft OP contains enabling legislation so that communities will have guidelines.
  4. Short Term Rental Accommodation (any lodging available for rent in a private residence for less than 28 days) will be licensed to mitigate potential conflicts.
  5. When development is proposed adjacent to a Natural Heritage feature, such as a Wetlands designation,the policy has been changed regarding when an Environmental Impact Study is required. Renfrew County has set a trigger for the study of 5 or more lots.
  6. Development may be permitted in lands with hazardous forest types for wildland fires where the risk is mitigated in accordance with wildland fire assessment and mitigation.
  7. The section on Water Setback and Protection of Shoreline Integrity was revised to allow 25% of vegetation along waterfront property to be disturbed and more structures, such as decks and stairways, will be allowed within a 30 metre water setback.
  8. Municipalities are encouraged to develop standards for private road construction to ensure appropriate access for emergency vehicles.
  9. County trails, including the former CN and CP rail beds, are to be operated as multi-use corridors in accordance with a trail management plan that will identify permitted users (hikers, cyclists, ATVs and snowmobiles).
  10. County maps were updated with new property boundaries and roads. Planners made site specific changes requested by the public if possible.
  11. Bill 139 Building Communities and Conserving Watersheds makes changes to the Planning Act. Renfrew County planners are not in favour of Conservation Authorities regulating water sheds. Bill 139 replaces the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). This will mean that there will be no appeal of Provincial decisions on Official Plans.

The next steps in the process to a new Official Plan include: final revisions to the OP document, presentation to County Development and Property Committee, adoption of the draft OP by County Council, and submission of the adopted OP to MMA for approval.

 

After Cheesman’s presentation, members of the public were given the opportunity to address Renfrew County Council. Some people spoke about individual planning issues they had encountered and were advised to call the Planning Office for further discussion.

Other people spoke about their passion for the stewardship of their land and the intrusion of government bureaucracy dictating what they can and can’t do on their property.

Members of Renfrew County Council then spoke of continually pushing back against Toronto-centric policies, which do not always suit rural areas. The Warden, County Councillors and Staff continually lobby at Queen’s Park on behalf of the residents of Renfrew County.

Mark Breckon