I am at a loss when describing our Township’s current situation regarding the potential passing of our draft official plan (OP), and my confusion and frustration is exacerbated by the approximate 120 residents in attendance at our latest and last public meeting addressing the OP. There appeared to be an equally split crowd, with those who
supported passing the OP as is, or those that want it delayed, with more time for review and passage by the new council of 2019.
This singular issue is the most divisive issue our residents have voiced concern over during our term as your Council. In fact, it has been as equally divisive within Council, staff and our consultants. It appears that none are willing to admit to making mistakes along the way or take ownership of the problems. The bottom line is – changes should
be made to specific sections of the OP, which I have spoken up about since the undertaking of this important project.
In a nut shell, we began our community consultation by inviting only a select group of people/associations to our first meeting(s) and from there we created draft recommendations that included comments referencing:
- Expropriation of land for waterfront access;
- Restricting lawn maintenance on waterfront properties for 30 meters from the shoreline;
- Limiting tree removal on private property by noting “The Township shall encourage measures to preserve mature trees of scenic value;
- Restricting commercial activities not related to agricultural activities on lands zoned agricultural;
- Limiting the number of boats you should have on waterfront properties (or at least the number of boat houses/slips);
- Describing what a home should look like by taking pictures of mansions on our river front and noting they should not look like those homes (without consent of the home owner);
- Designating potential sites and homes in the TWP as heritage assets without any reference to consultation with the site/home owner;
- Restricting patios and small structures, with a 10 to 15 m setback from the water’s edge which would be kept in its natural state or naturalized.
The list of restrictive covenants in the initial draft recommendations, and in fact the final draft OP, is nothing short of insulting to all of those that were left out of the process from the beginning and are still left out by terse or unanswered queries to us, questioning specifics within the document.
We started this process when a majority of our waterfront property owners (50% of our tax base) left their seasonal homes for the winter. We failed to consult with our agricultural community effectively before or after any documents were drafted, and we failed to respond appropriately as public objection was evident. Instead we went on the
defensive, refusing to acknowledge our mistakes, inherent problems in the process and in fact – the document itself.
My objections to the draft OP are not about any one segment of our TWP, they are about the process itself or lack thereof. If we as a community have to live by this document then we should collectively have the right to say yes. Yes, we were consulted. Yes, we were listened to and while we may not all agree with the final outcome, we accept that democracy prevails. At least let democracy be part of the process instead of defending the process because it suits your individual agenda.
John Paul Jackson CD, CPA, CGA
Councillor – Ward 2
Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands