County to tap existing committees to serve in planning advisory role

(Gazette file photo)

Council has decided not to create a new dedicated Planning Advisory Committee after all.

Councillors initially supported establishing the advisory body during an October committee-of-the-whole meeting. However, the motion was deferred by council at their Nov. 14 meeting. On Tuesday, they decided to take another route, supporting a motion to acknowledge the Agricultural Advisory Committee, Health Care Advisory Committee, and Heritage Advisory Committee as functioning in the capacity of a Planning Advisory Committee (PAC).

Councillor Janice Maynard initiated the move to utilize the municipality’s existing committees in the capacity. During the October committee meeting, she said she didn’t see the need to form a new committee, indicating there would likely be a cost and the new committee would increase the workload for volunteers.

Several councillors backed that stance on Tuesday, including councillor Brad Nieman.

“We need to utilize the committees that we have,” he said.

Nieman sits as a council representative on the Agricultural Advisory Committee. He said during a recent meeting, there was discussion about having input in planning issues.

“I know the agricultural committee would be more than happy to participate in this,” he said.

Councillor Steve Graham if the goal is to create cohesiveness between various aspects of county culture like agriculture, heritage and planning, they should each be given proper attention through the existing committees.

“If we could maximize the efficiency of the committees we have, tweak them a little bit, reeducate them, get them more involved … it might make it all a little bit better,” he said.

The move to establish a PAC was initiated by the Smart Growth for Our Communities Act, which received Royal Ascent in July 2016. The bill made several changes, including a requirement for municipalities to identify a PAC. The PAC’s role is to provide feedback to council or staff regarding ongoing policy-related matters such as small homes, second units, and short-term accommodation rentals. The committee doesn’t have any decision-making authority and its decisions aren’t binding on council.

Engineering, development, and works commissioner Robert McAuley said staff recommended establishing a new committee rather than relying on several existing committees because it seemed to be a more expedient way of handling planning issues.

“It’s all one committee of different interests that are brought together to handle these planning matters,” he said. “Going to one or more existing advisory committees, which are structured with a different term of reference and a different focus, was seen as being more complicated.”

He said staff felt going to multiple committees could also add costs and could create some logistical issues.