Councillor says official plan meeting a waste of time
Norfolk planners and their consultant fielded dozens of questions about the county’s new official plan during a day-long meeting of Norfolk council on Thursday. From left are senior planner Mary Elder, planning consultant Matt Reniers, and Pam Duesling, Norfolk’s manager of community planning. MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER
Coun. Noel Haydt has accused his council colleagues of thwarting the ambitions of Port Rowan-area Ward 1.
At the end of a six-hour meeting Thursday, Haydt threw up his hands and said the entire day was an exercise in futility.
“The west took a beating today,” Haydt said. “We (Haydt and Langton-area Coun. Roger Geysens) couldn’t get any of the changes we wanted.
“I think I should’ve just stayed home and did some farming. I didn’t get a single thing that I asked for.”
Council called Thursday’s meeting to have a last look at proposed changes to Norfolk’s official plan. Under provincial law, municipalities must review their official plan every five years. Norfolk is nearing the end of this process.
On Haydt’s wish-list was a revision allowing smaller acreages to qualify as farms, provisions that would make it easier to expand the boundaries of hamlets and perform infilling development within the same, and the designation of “employment land” somewhere in Ward 1.
Haydt’s proposals failed to gain traction around the council table. After the meeting, he said Norfolk’s urban interests ganged up to thwart the ambitions of Ward 1, which consists mostly of agricultural land.
“My area is growing despite being held back,” Haydt said.
Haydt made a pitch for the creation of “employment land” in Ward 1 last year. “Employment land” is a new term used to describe what was formerly known as “industrial land.”
Council members shot down the idea last year because they don’t believe industrial-type activity is appropriate in an ecologically-sensitive area like Ward 1.
The Port Rowan-Long Point area is the focal point of the Long Point World Biosphere Reserve and the Big Creek Marsh. As well, the waters of Long Point Bay off Port Rowan are a major staging area for dozens of waterfowl species.
Haydt said at the time that no one would suggest or allow heavy industry in the Port Rowan area. All he was asking for, Haydt said, was the creation of areas where Ward 1 residents could invest in light manufacturing without having to leave the community.
As for reducing the allowable farm size from the current 100 acres, Norfolk planning staff says that can still be done with supporting documentation and an application to the county’s committee of adjustment. Staff has noted in previous discussions that 100 acres (40 hectares) is the common standard across Ontario for a standalone farm unit.
During Thursday’s meeting, Haydt asked why Clear Creek doesn’t qualify as a hamlet when 42 other crossroads communities in Norfolk have that designation.
Norfolk planning staff explained that Clear Creek is problematic because – according to hydrological projections – the settlement south of Lakeshore Road will be gone in about 100 years because of Lake Erie wave action.
“You’re eventually going to be left with four houses,” says senior planner Mary Elder.
Coun. Geysens was philosophical about the day’s events following Thursday’s meeting.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get the things we wanted,” he said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t win. But there are still chances to make changes. But those are the votes.”
Norfolk’s planning department will receive public comments on the revised official plan until May 25. The goal is to send the revised document to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing for its assessment in June.
Before the document comes to council for final approval in the fall, council members can continue pressing for changes.