County Planning Staff members Bryan Weir and Iain Mudd made a presentation at the August 8th Council meeting at the invitation of Township staff to outline their invitation to merge their local Official Plan documents with the County Official Plan.
As they explained, the current Official Plan includes two components: a County section which outlines broad based policies applicable to all Townships to which all local OP’s must conform; and the local component developed by local councils. At the time of County restructuring in 1998, the number of municipalities fell from 18 to eight. These new municipalities had two or three Official Plans to administer, which were ultimately merged into a single document for each township. To reduce the paperwork and possible confusion, Townships were invited to have their local OP content placed in the County OP and repeal their existing local Official Plans. Initially Asphodel-Norwood, North Kawartha and Selwyn decided to go this route and have been using the local component of the County Plan for a decade, and in 2014 by Douro-Dummer and recently Trent Lakes followed suit.
Weir was careful to point out that townships continue to have specific variances in their local component, and provided examples of township-specific conditions applicable to issues such as the requirements for a severance. Townships continue to operate their own planning department for application processing. In considering site specific Official Plan amendments, the County continues to involve Local Council and hosts public meetings to obtain local input, and local representation will participate in the Technical Advisory Committee for policy direction.
The obvious benefit is cost savings. For participating townships, Official Plan updates and amendments are conducted at the County level. County residents see consistent planning policies, which is particularly important for residents in different townships on shared lakes and boundaries. Mandatory conformity to legislation such as the Provincial Policy Statement, the Provincial Growth Plan, Oak Ridges Moraine legislation leave limited discretion available to local government to exercise in their Official Plans and a growing number of municipal governments believe it is no longer worth the expense of doing this on their own.
The County is currently conducting their mandatory five year review in accordance with the current Planning Act and hope to extend the period between updates from five to ten years based on terms of new planning legislation. Cavan Monaghan has been asked to accept or decline the invitation to participate in the County Official Plan review currently underway within the next few months. Sounds like another step closer to amalgamation. KG