TWPEC – Writing this column on Monday May 25, now that we are ten weeks into the Declaration of the Provincial Emergency on March 17, leads me to worry more each day about HOW or IF this situation that we find ourselves accommodating will end. At both the United County Offices and the TWP-EC Municipal Offices our staff have introduced measures to keep providing the basic services that our residents expect and good administration requires. Social Distancing has been introduced in all work places and the staff has adjusted to the inconveniences required and the public has respected the fact that the offices are closed to walk-in traffic and appointments are required for person-to-person discussions. Although we are told that these changes are effective for curtailing the spread of COVID-19 they come at the cost of creating a distance between local Municipal government and the public we serve. One of my worst worries is that we will not recognize WHEN or HOW to end COVID measures and return to a more normalized state of governance.
At the township level our Municipal Council continues to meet, with all members of Council at their desks, for both Committee of the Whole and Council Meetings, although the public gallery has been reduced to one quarter of its original size to now accommodate the large expanded circle required for the six foot separation of all desks and public seating. All of our meetings are video-taped and posted on YouTube as we make every effort to conduct public Council meetings in an Open and Transparent manner.
But there is a price to pay for COVID-19 adjustments, which is not immediately obvious to the general public and which seriously hampers Council ability to serve our constituents.
Although the Province has provided temporary changes under the Municipal Act which provide the ability to hold virtual/electronic Council Meetings which are open to the public to observe, we do not have the ability to hold PUBLIC MEETINGS, required under the Planning Act, in a similar manner. This is understandable of course as these Public Meetings, required under the PLANNING ACT, are necessary to provide the public with an opportunity to learn about and speak to issues such as ZONING BY-LAW Amendments, Site Plan Agreement matters, etc. Council must receive and consider the Minutes of these Public Meetings BEFORE enacting Zoning By-Law changes etc.
At first glance this may not appear to be a big deal but in TWP-EC we have FOUR such Public Meetings on-hold pending relief from the Provincial Order which prohibits gatherings of more than five people. At least one major real-estate deal, now over 18 months in coming together, is on-hold and at risk of collapse because of a long delayed Public Meeting required to deal with a Zoning Change. In the world of investors, both buyers & sellers, these kinds of delays can make or break a deal where timing is everything.
Pat Sayeau, Mayor
Township of EdwardsburghCardinal.