Province delays decision on Manitoulin Planning Board draft Official Plan

GORE BAY—The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) has delayed its final decision on the final draft Official Plan (OP) forwarded by the Manitoulin Planning Board (MPB) due to concerns raised by the United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising (UCCMM).

“The ministry did not issue its final decision on May 26 as the UCCMM has requested more time to respond to the Official Plan,” said Ken Noland, chair of the MPB on Monday.

Theresa Carlisle, planning board secretary-treasurer, told the Recorder on Monday that the MPB and the MMAH have received letters from the UCCMM, “who have been consulted on the OP all through the process, since it started in 2012.”

Ms. Carlisle pointed out previously the MPB had been provided a list of 36 modifications to the OP in April (2017) proposed by the MMAH. “Our comments had been sent back to the ministry for their consideration by May 26 but they haven’t responded with a decision.”

“We’ve been trying since 2013 to get this Official Plan approved and were so close to the end in April. They (Ministry) asked for an extension to provide modifications,” said Ms. Carlisle. And the planning board has raised a couple of concerns on the recommended modifications.

At its April meeting Ms. Carlisle had told the (MPB) board that Kay Grant, planner for the MMAH had been in contact with her to discuss the comments submitted to MMA on April 4, 2017 for the draft official Plan. Although no formal comments have been received from the MMAH, the secretary-treasurer gave an update on modifications which included that on modification 19-Sensitive or at capacity lakes-no new information has been provided to the planning board, regarding Lake Kagawong being listed within the OP Policy as at capacity by the MMAH.

The planning board at its April meeting had been told by Ms. Carlisle that on its request for advice from MMAH on how the province envisioned engaging with First Nations on planning applications. Ms. Grant had provided a couple of possible suggestions however it was not clear if they may contravene the planning act and if the suggestions would be agreeable to the First Nations. Ms. Grant was to provide additional input.

Discussion among the board members was that no additional (engagement) policies (as  being recommended by the MMAH) need to be implemented into the text of the draft OP regarding modifications 6, 18, 29 and 34 and that the same policies that the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands have in their O.P. should be in the Manitoulin Planning Board’s draft OP, which states, “public consultations regarding proposed official plan amendments, proposed zoning by-law amendments, proposed plans of subdivision and proposed consents will be undertaken as directed by the planning act and all relevant regulations.”

Ms. Carlisle had also informed the board at its April meeting that the Ministry had received the extension until May 26, 2017 to provide comments and modifications to the draft official plan.

“The gist of what they (ministry) came back with is that they want in place under the provincial policy statement is that we (MPB) must engage First Nations on any type of application. And now they want more discussions and input before making a decision on our OP,” said Ms. Carlisle.

Mr. Noland said “they (ministry) had a meeting with the (UCCMM) and want an extension on the time they respond on our OP. So the province has not issued its final recommendations on the OP and they are past the 180 day deadline on when they were to reply (after the Island municipalities adopted the OP).”

Currently the MPB under the planning act automatically requests comment and input from any resident within one kilometre of a planned development. However, the UCCMM has asked to be pre-consulted on all these developments.

“Its like the MTO (Ministry of Transportation), where they (MTO) can take six months getting back to us on an application for consent,” said Mr. Noland. “This just puts a hardship on anyone trying to create a  lot for example, that is the type of thing we are concerned about.”

“And the province has missed the deadline for final comments and recommendations,” said Mr. Noland. “We have been working five years to get the official plan approved and in place. Meanwhile the province rammed through the planning authority to NEMI (the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands) in less than a year. There were no issues raised with the NEMI plan and it was approved in a year.”

Mr. Noland noted the MPB has among others, two concerns with the modifications to the draft O.P. that the ministry had relayed. “One was that they have indicated Lake Kagawong is at capacity for development and the second concern is that they put more additions onto the engagement policies that we have to expand the consultation process with the UCCMM beyond the current legislative requirements.”

“In NEMI’s plan there is only one line that says that regarding proposed official plan amendments, proposed zoning by-law amendment sand proposal plans of subdivision and consents will be undertaken as directed by the planning act and all relevant regulations. “Why can’t we have that as well?”,” asked Mr. Noland.

Praveen Senthinathan of the MMAH told the Recorder on Tuesday, “in response to your question about a decision on the Manitoulin Planning Board official Plan. The Ministry did not make it decision on the official plan by May 26, 2017, to allow further time to consider ways to strengthen communications between Indigenous communities, the planning board and municipalities on Manitoulin Island on land use planning matters.”

“Ministry staff met with the United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising (UCCMM) on May 23,” said Senthinathan. “This provided an opportunity for conversation and knowledge sharing regarding the official plan. We value their input and the opportunity to consider their comments on the  official plan. The ministry recognizes the new official plan will be a historic milestone for the planning board, given the in-effect official plan dates back to 1978.”