Thou shalt form a committee
Council must set up another advisory committee now that the province has ordered town halls to show they have taken public opinion to heart when making planning decisions.
The new committee must be made up of at least one councillor and two members of the public plus staff, and it will make recommendations to elected officials.
Those suggestions won't be binding; council will still have the final say.
The thought of having another hoop for developers and members of the public to jump through rankled elected officials on Tuesday night.
Courtland Coun. Roger Geysens said the directive will result in “another bureaucracy that will hold things further back.
“What people are looking for is not more bureaucracy. They want things to move faster. I'm not in favour of what the province is doing,” he said.
Delhi Coun. Mike Columbus noted elected officials “get calls now saying it's hard to get through the system. Will this slow things down?”
Norfolk County has a number of advisory committees, including one on accessibility, which vet planning decisions before they get to council.
As well, elected officials noted the public is allowed – and regularly do – come to council to make deputations on planning issues.
“We already have nine of us sitting around the table making decisions and we already take public input,” said Charlotteville Coun. Jim Oliver. “Here we are going to create another advisory committee with two citizens on it. It will create another level of review.”
Planning staff acknowledged the new committee will create more work for them.
But “it's for a very good need,” said Pam Duesling, Norfolk's manager of community planning. “We want public input.”
Senior planner Mat Vaughan said the staff in his department feel the changes won't slow down the approval process.
Queen's Park has also ordered municipalities to come up with parkland plans. That means Norfolk must do an inventory of its existing parks and come up with a parkland policy – either taking land from developers to be turned into public spaces or putting money into a parkland fund.
Simcoe Coun. Peter Black said he favours taking land.
“Once we own the land, we can do whatever we want with it,” Black said. “We can sell it, We can sell it back to the developer.”
Other councillors, however, expressed concern town hall could end up with a bunch of small parks spread out across the county that are expensive to keep up.
“I think it would be great to have one big park some place,” said Simcoe Coun. Doug Brunton.
A parkland plan, said Duesling, will help the county better “understand where we have deficiencies and (an abundance)” of green space.
“It will help us know whether we should take the money and put it into existing parks or get new land,” she said.