After eights years, Lambton Shores Official Plan (OP) is being sent to the county.
This has been a controversial issue for the past three councils, and Tuesday’s meeting was standing room only at the Legacy Centre in Thedford, with placards and demonstrations to the point the mayor’s gavel was in full force.
The issue, for many stems from a May 11th meeting where in a majority vote, council, requested that the current draft of the Official Plan be amended to include a statement that “it is the Municipality’s intention to service the lakefront areas in Lambton Shores, currently on private septic systems, with municipal sanitary sewers for future long range planning and when there is proof that the sewer extension is warranted.”
That paragraph prompted mass alarm bells to the areas of Lambton Shores that are on septic systems. “We don’t need sewers, we don’t want sewers,” has been their mantra.
At Tuesday’s meeting Mayor Bill Weber, reacting to the placards being waved, that protest signs were not permitted and stopped the meeting often to tell the vocal crowd, “Please have respect for the people who were elected to sit at this table to make the decisions,” he said.
Updating official plans and zoning by-laws on a regular basis ensures that the most current provincial and municipal planning policy objectives are incorporated into municipal planning documents, providing greater certainty for the public, developers and other stakeholders in the planning process. This process can also help establish if existing municipal planning policies are working or need to be revised to achieve the intended results. The OP is a living document.
“As a long-term land use planning strategy, the new Official Plan will include goals, objectives and policies to guide growth and development in Lambton Shores over the next 20 years. Reflecting sustainable community planning and design principles, the Official Plans’ goal is to balance and protect Lambton Shores’ natural, social and economic environments and promote a high quality of life for its residents,” said Planner Patti Richardson.
Draft six has been in the public forum for more than a year. It was presented to the former council in June 2014, after a comprehensive review of Draft 5 by both the former Council and the Official Plan Advisory Committee. Councils’ review alone of the Draft 5 resulted in 202 questions for the Planner to address. The Council of the day directed that a copy of Draft 6 the Official Plan be available for viewing at the Municipal Offices in Grand Bend, Forest and Northville as well as at the Arkona, Forest, Grand Bend, Port Franks and Thedford Public Libraries and on the Lambton Shores web site. Draft 6 has been available for review by the Pubic since mid-June 2014. Draft 6 was the subject of two Public Open Houses held July 17, 2014 in Grand Bend and July 24, 2014 in Forest and a public meeting was held by Council on August 14, 2014. Comments from these Public Open Houses and Meeting on Draft 6 were presented to this Council in May of 2015 for review and direction. Draft 7 was prepared to incorporate Council’s directions after this review of Draft 6 and the public comments received respecting Draft 6 as a result of the public open houses and public meeting held in the summer of 2014.
Community members have voiced their objection to the process stating there has been no public consultation. The Planning Act requires that a Municipality in the course of Official Plan preparation hold at least one public meeting and one public open house. The Municipality has satisfied these provisions with three public open houses; August 25, 2009, July 17, 2014 and July 24, 2014 and a public meeting was held on August 14, 2014.
In addition, since the Municipality undertook the OP review, the plan in its various drafts has been reviewed by three councils and two Official Plan Advisory Committees.
Many of the objectors to Draft 7 of the Official Plan are of the opinion that the plan states that serving of the un-serviced area in Lambton Shores will occur short time frame (next year). There is currently no sewage treatment facility in Lambton Shores which is sized to service the areas of the municipality which are currently on septic systems. The new sewage treatment facility in Grand Bend is not sized to service the un serviced areas. The current Council has stated emphatically that there are no current plans to extend servicing.
Last week, council received a copy of the seventh Draft and a report from the Planner identifying with the revisions made to implement Councils’ policy directions from their May 2015 review.
Councilor Gerry Rupke proposed the draft be approved.
Councilor James Finlay said he felt it was not fair that he only had a week to read the document, not mentioning if he had previously read the sixth draft.
“There has been much controversy and opposition. He said the OP was merely the Planner’s opinion and did nothing to alleviate the concerns of the public. “Council has a duty to hold a meeting .” Finlay read resident letters he received , one from Elizabeth Davis Dagg and one from Anne Walkinshaw, both stating the “public should not be ignored and a democratic process must be followed.”
Rupke said he was speaking on behalf of himself and not council as he spoke to Finlay’s resolution.
”Over the past weekend more than 50 residents of Ward 3 contacted me asking me to vote against the passage of draft seven of the official plan. I respect their concerns, they were concerned about the political process and the need and cost of sewers. I’d like to talk about both these issues.
“I looked at the political process, what the Ontario Planning Act requires us as council to do in order to update the official plan. It requires that we consult with the public and the appropriate agencies. We need to hold at least one public meeting. I see the last Council has held a public meeting and two open houses since draft six was released. Based on the comments from those meetings we now have draft seven before us. My conclusion is that we have met all the requirements of the Planning Act.
“I also heard a lot about to sewers, they don’t think we need them and they don’t want to pay for them. Do we need sewers? “I am a professional environmental health engineer with 49 years of experience in the water and wastewater industry in Canada. I reviewed all the available technical information, reports and have had recent discussions with the MOEE. This review leads me to believe we should take a close look at what impact septic systems are having on our near shore water quality. Lake Huron is this community’s greatest asset. Our mandate as counselors is to do what is best for Lambton Shores and its residents. We have a great asset that needs to be protected. Our responsibility as council is to ensure that we as residents are not in any way degrading our Lake water quality.
“Draft seven the official plan says that Council will only consider installing sewers if the need is clearly demonstrated.
“What about costs? I too would find it difficult to pay up to $40,000 for the installation of sewers. If the need for sewers is established I will personally commit to work towards getting funding of up to 90% from senior levels of government for any sewer project replacing septic systems.”
The mayor had to again quiet the opposition from the crowd.
Councilor Dave Maguire cited other lake side communities such as Saugeen Shores and Port Stanley had similar wording in their Official Plans. He asked that the wording be changed. Rupke felt the wording in the plans Maguire presented would tie their hands, to be forced to put in sewers. He said the wording of Lambton Shore’s plan merely stated if there is ever a need, council would look at the possibility of installing sewers.
“What about the people who have not read this?” asked Finlay, “We are the voice of the public. We want democracy.”
Rupke asked to what end? “There is no logical end to this process. If we have another meeting and there are changes then we have Draft eight and so on and so on.” Finlay asked what was wrong with waiting another three councils, “waiting until they got it right.”
Councilor Jeff Wilcox said one big concern in the 2014 election was getting this OP passed. The last council was going to do the same thing. It is this council’s objective to get it done. It is a living document. People do not need a public meeting to object. There is an appeal process. We need to go forward for things that need to be happen, not things that people think are going to happen.”
The options for council Tuesday were to approve the Official Plan at the local level and advance the process by sending it to the County for their Approval, or they could undertake additional public consultation either by holding another public meeting(s) and/or public open house(s).
Council approved sending the plan to the County in a recorded vote with Councillors Ronn Dodge, Rick Goodhand and James Finlay voting against and Councillors Maguire, Cook, Sageman and Rupke as well as Mayor Weber voting for.
Richardson explained in her report that, “With Tuesday’s approval the plan is advanced to the County for their review and anticipated approval. It is the County’s decision as the Approval Authority to approve, approve as modified, or refuse the Official Plan. The County’s decision can be appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board.”
A list of all those who provided comments on the Draft Official Plan and those who requested notice of approval will be sent to County with the Official Plan.
The Sewer Treatment Plant, with funding from Build Canada is currently being constructed with a March 2016 deadline. Zones 3 and 4 were both withdrawn from this project by the previous council.