Eganville – Bonnechere Valley council passed the Comprehensive Zoning By-law, albeit reluctantly, with concerns about buffer zones and Environmental Protection (EP) areas on some properties.
“We are creatures of the province,” Mayor Jennifer Murphy acknowledged last Tuesday at the meeting of council. “We are low, low people. We are bottom feeders. We do not have the ability to change them.”
She was referring to the buffer zones around aggregate in the township. The larger buffer zones were brought in by the province and the township does not have control over changing this, she noted. The mayor pointed out several years ago when the County of Renfrew Official Plan amendment was in the process of being prepared there were many issues which the county brought up with the province. The vast majority were changed in ways which benefit the county and local property owners, but not all, she said.
“We lost the battle, but in the end, we won the war,” she said.
After some discussion, council agreed to pass the Comprehensive Zoning By-law but stipulated property owners who may have been impacted by EP changes on their property be notified. If the change was done in error, it can be reversed easily. An appeal would be more complicated, but council did agree to eliminate the fee for an appeal.
It’s been a long haul for the zoning by-law and following a recent open house and public meeting, there are still concerns in the community, but in the end, council agreed the benefits of the new zoning by-law are important to bring in. Among the benefits is the ability to have secondary dwellings on a property.
“There are people waiting on the zoning by-law,” the mayor pointed out.
Councilor Jack Roesner noted he did have concerns about the mapping.
“That anybody that comes up with an issue, that they will be able to rectify problems and concerns,” he noted.
Coun. Roesner said he was concerned about people not being able to build within the expanded buffer zones put in place for aggregate. However, CAO Annette Gilchrist pointed out people can build, but it becomes an issue if they want to sever a lot.
“It is only if you are creating a new lot,” she said, pointing out in most cases a study would have to be done anyway.
Councillor Brent Patrick pointed out many of the provisions in the zoning by-law are already in effect in essence because it was introduced at the County of Renfrew through the Official Plan.
“The unfortunate thing is we are already to the new standards, we have just not internally updated,” he said.
Having another public meeting or more ability for local residents to discuss their property with planning staff is important, he added.
Ms. Gilchrist said the open house was well attended with 50 people and another 30 came to the public meeting.
Coun. Patrick said having additional planning staff from the county available more frequently at the township office would be a good option.
“We don’t want this to be a negative for people,” he said.
It is already challenging for people to use their property and build on it in many cases, he said.
“Nowadays you have to spend a lot of money on studies for no reason because they are mandated,” he added.
“Moving forward with another open house if it is a public necessity, I am okay with that,” Councillor Tim Schison said.
The zoning by-law has a lot of good in it, he added. However, making sure people are contacted about issues with their property and new EP zones would be a good step to make sure property owners understand the implications about their property. He suggested each property owner who is impacted by a change in their property with a new EP be notified by the township.
“Some people might be unaware of it yet,” he said.
Mrs. Gilchrist pointed out in most areas the new zoning by-law is much more accommodating than the previous zoning by-law, so many people have been waiting on the change to build or sell a property.
“There are more restrictions in the current by-law than the new by-law,” she noted.
Changes Following Public Meeting
Earlier in the afternoon, council met with County of Renfrew planning staff who went over some of the changes made to the zoning by-law following the open house and public meeting. While some changes were not possible, a few were, County of Renfrew Director of Planning Bruce Howarth noted. He said the revisions in the by-law were made after consultations with staff and members of the public.
“Sometimes we recommended to make changes and sometimes we recommended to not make changes,” he said.
As well, the county is in the process of preparing a detailed map with the BV zoning on it. All properties and their designations are listed there.
“It will allow your ratepayers or chief building official to search digitally,” he explained.
Giving council a preview of how it would work, he showed how an address can be looked up and the zoning of each property identified. Different levels of maps also allow for the topography to be viewed which in some cases explains the EP areas a bit better.
“This is to make it clearer and easier to read,” he said. “It has a lot of advantages.”
Coun. Patrick asked who makes the choice to remove an EP zone. Mr. Howarth said if it is done in error, it can be removed easily. This was done in one township property following the public meeting. In other cases, the EP can be removed if other provisions are already in place which are more restrictive already. An example of this was if the setback on the water is already restrictive enough there is no need for an EP. This was done on another township property.
As well, mistakes can be fixed in the by-law very easily, he said.
“There are two safety nets,” he explained.
An obvious mistake is changed without complication, he said. As well, after one year township staff and county staff generally do a “housekeeping” by-law to fix things which were in place erroneously.
He pointed out in one case there was an endangered species found on Crown land in the township and this was supposed to be isolated to Crown land but by error it always was encroaching on private land.
“It just creeped on a bit,” he said.
When the county staff were made aware, the EP designation on the private land was removed.
“My fear with some of this is what happens if it slips through in the next couple of years,” Coun. Schison said.
The impact on private property concerns him, he said.
Mr. Howarth pointed out the township went “over and beyond” the minimum requirements to inform people about the zoning by-law and potential changes.
“Each property owner in the township did receive notice of this process,” he said.
Coun. Roesner said he was concerned about the aggregate zoning and the buffers around aggregate.
“People who contacted me are in total disagreement,” he said, noting the buffers were brought in by the province.
Mr. Howarth pointed out no new aggregate areas were identified in the maps. “The only thing that has changed is the separation distance,” he said.
The maps show dotted lines which clearly identifies the buffer zones as well, he said. Those buffer zones were put in place so properties would not be impacted by blasting, noise, dust etc. A 500 metre setback was seen as necessary by the province.
Mayor Murphy repeated the county pushed back on the province on many restrictions and was successful in most.
“You can’t look at us with an urban lens,” she said.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader