Council moves ahead with new Official Plan despite dissenters

(Gazette file photo)

OLIVIA TIMM

FOR THE GAZETTE

A five-hour Special Council meeting Wednesday resulted in approval of Prince Edward County’s new Official Plan.

Council voted 10-4 in favour of passing the draft plan including several amendments, with councillors Andreas Bolik, Janice Maynard, Bill McMahon and Brad Nieman opposing. 

Prince Edward County Mayor Steve Ferguson said the plan, which is a living document and is typically reviewed every five years, adhered to the vision for the future, respected the County’s historical roots, agricultural heritage and protection for the natural environment. 

He acknowledged the significant amount of work that went into creating the document, which will outline the growth and development of Prince Edward County over the next 25 years.

“This is an extremely complex and important document that has been in the works for years,” Ferguson said.

Planning Manager Michael Michaud presented a revised draft presentation which included comments collected during the public feedback process, he said.

Cheryl Anderson of the South Shore Joint Initiative. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

He stated there was extensive consultation with the public that had over 1,300 viewings on the “Have Your Say” website and approximately 100 comments. The input was provided by several environmental groups asking for further protection of the County’s natural core linkages within natural core areas. 

Cheryl Anderson, speaking on behalf of South Shore Joint Initiative, the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory and the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County, emphasized the importance to add a 50-meter buffer around all County wetlands.

“Humans need a healthy, diverse biosphere to function and grow. Many natural features allow that to happen including wetlands. Our Official Plan, as a vital document, will define how we handle the next year of unprecedented development. Prince Edward County has demonstrated environmental responsibility by declaring itself an unwilling host for industrial wind turbines and acknowledging the climate emergency. My goal now – to convince you to enhance the protection for wetlands in the draft official plan,” she said.

Anderson said by ensuring a 50 meter buffer – replacing the existing 30 meter allowance – council will have the opportunity to protect not only the County wetlands, but developments that are built around them as well.

Council agreed to these terms, including Warings Creek. In a future Official Plan amendment, set no later than 2023, staff will review the potential to include the Slab Creek wetland as part of a natural core area and possible linkage to coastal provincially-significant wetlands.

Other main changes to the draft included the reduction of the number of severances per property from two to one, eliminating country lot subdivisions in the County. 

The draft also stated the County is processing subdivision applications within Picton, Wellington, Consecon and Rossmore, accounting for more than 1,500 units. Development in rural areas introduces more conflict, such as odour and noise, limiting farm expansion opportunities and concerns around insignificant water quantity in rural areas, the plan stated.

County resident Rosalind Adams urged Council to halt the Official Plan – calling it dangerous and noting we are consuming many more resources than the earth can afford.

“The first part of sustainability is the County’s ability to meet its needs. This doesn’t exist. To give two examples, we cannot feed ourselves. We grow lots of food, but not on the basis of our own soil fertility. This we must import from outside the County in the form of thousands of tons of industrially produced chemical fertilizers. Our fruits and vegetables are reliant on a further import from thousands of kilometers away and that’s human labour. Out of a population of around 25,000, the County cannot even muster enough of a workforce to get its own food from field to table,” she explained. “The much larger problem with our food system is that almost all the food consumed in the County does not even originate locally but is trucked in from hundreds to thousand kilometers away. At the other end of our consumption, we can’t deal with our own garbage. Virtually all of it gets trucked out of the county at huge fossil fuel expense. The most idiodic thing we do along these lines is the separate collection of compostable garbage which can generate soil fertility. Instead of building soil here, our compost is trucked 250 kilometers away and we call this ‘green.’

Adams went on to say we “cannot see the consequences of our unsustainable consumption because they are not happening here, so we don’t see the clearcut forests, the desertification of farmland, the sprawling smoke-spewing factories, we don’t see jungles being torn up. We offload the devastating ecological costs of our consumption onto distant people and ecosystems.”

“This seems to be working out pretty well for us despite what we are doing to others, we haven’t actually exceeded the ecological care and capacity here. Can’t we just go on like this? That is the County Official Plan in a nutshell, by the way. The answer is no, and not just for moral, but for material reasons,” she said.

She pondered, does the Official Plan prepare the County for collapse of global trade? For mass migration?For social conflict for resource wars?

“For us, the right thing is to reduce our material consumption by about 80 per cent. Difficult, but with confident planning, not impossible.”

Coun. Kate MacNaughton praised Adams’ deputation, stating she doesn’t quite know how to replace the existing OP that council is bound to, but that it is “critical because it is terrible and very outdated.”

She said she will take Adams’ comments into consideration to strategize practical planning moving forward.

However, Ameliasburgh councillors Janice Maynard and Andreas Bolik voiced their objections prior to a recorded vote.

Ameliasburgh Councillor Andreas Bolik (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

“We can do much better,” Maynard said. “The plan does not align with the vision of most of the constituents whose voices I represent, or the County’s strategic plan in the near and long-term.”

Bolik called the plan “not good enough” saying it is not only bad for the County, but terrible for Ameliasburgh. 

“It is a product that fails to incorporate a true understanding of all areas of this County and certainly not the needs and wants of Ameliasburgh residents. Residents of Ameliasburgh Ward asked for very little from this municipality but they received even less. Unfortunately this is not new. It goes back to amalgamation 20 plus years ago. My constituents are tired of bank-rolling experiments and mistakes in other areas of this County,” he said.

Bolik recalled the excitement and energy council displayed when elected two years ago, saying “things were going to be different.”

“That has now dwindled to a case of paralysis by analysis. We declare emergencies and then ignore them. We have endless special meetings where very little gets achieved. We spin our wheels, we lurch from one crisis to another. We ended up with a budget that is essentially the status quo we’ve seen for decades,” Bolik said. “This council aspires to fixing all that ails the world, but we can’t even figure out how to fix our roads – roads that all of our residents use all of the time.”

He said now, council is being asked to approve a plan that “caters to tourism and tourists.”

“Those activities may be part of the County’s future, but they have little positive relevance to those of us in the northwest. For Ameliasburgh, single-tier governance has been an abject failure. This draft plan is a perfect example of that. I can only conclude that it is now time to work toward extricating Ameliasburgh ward from the unwelding and unworkable municipal structure with which we are currently saddled. As I already stated a number of weeks ago, I cannot, nor will I, support this plan,” he added.

Coun. Bill Roberts, on the other hand, called it “a darn good new official plan.”

“It is contemporary, it is thoughtful, it is inclusive and, in many ways, it’s very compassionate. If faced with a choice of politics – of pushing apart, or pulling together – I wholeheartedly endorse the latter,” he said. “The world is too conflicted, too confused, and too bitter in a lot of ways and that bitterness is only fueled by division. I am really proud that we have got this done. I am really proud of our staff. I am proud of the public from all over Prince Edward County that contributed to its success and to its authorship.”

Council directed staff to prepare a Cultural Heritage Master Plan and to conduct a Shore Land designation review prior to 2023 for consideration in a future Official Plan Amendment.

The final version of the Official Plan, including maps and schedules, will be submitted to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing for final approval.