Of­fi­cial plan gets TLTI’s OK

Con­tentious doc­u­ment gets ap­proval in nar­row vote

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - FRONT PAGE - WAYNE LOWRIE

Af­ter 10 months of di­vi­sive and of­ten bit­ter de­bate, the coun­cil of the Town­ship of Leeds and the Thousand Is­lands nar­rowly passed a new of­fi­cial plan this week.

The of­fi­cial plan process has stirred po­lit­i­cal turmoil in the town­ship for months as en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, water­front prop­erty own­ers, her­itage ac­tivists, sea­sonal res­i­dents, con­ser­va­tion­ists, devel­op­ers and farm­ers sparred to have their in­ter­ests re­flected in the plan.

Re­flect­ing the di­vi­sions in the town­ship, the of­fi­cial plan was ap­proved in a 4-3 vote.

Coun. John Paul Jack­son, who has been the most out­spo­ken coun­cil op­po­nent of the plan­ning doc­u­ment, had dire pre­dic­tions for the town­ship’s fu­ture if the plan was passed.

New busi­nesses would shy away from the town­ship be­cause of over­reg­u­la­tion, lead­ing to a growth in un­em­ploy­ment for youths, he said. Many youths and se­niors would be forced to leave.

In the ru­ral parts of the town­ship, agri­cul­ture would be af­fected by rules lim­it­ing land use and the abil­ity to sub­di­vide farms, he pre­dicted.

And the town­ship’s ru­ral way of life would be af­fected by the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment’s in­sis­tence that growth be steered to set­tle­ment ar­eas, Jack­son said. The prov­ince thinks the set­tle­ment ar­eas are more ef­fi­cient for polic­ing, schools and other ser­vices. How­ever, Jack­son said, it’s the area out­side of those vil­lages that make the town­ship spe­cial and unique.

Jack­son said the of­fi­cial plan dances to the tune played by con­sul­tants, plan­ners, Toronto politi­cians and bu­reau­crats while dis­miss­ing the views of res­i­dents.

The coun­cil­lor re­peated his con­tention that the pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion process was flawed be­cause it failed to ad­e­quately con­sult the town­ship’s 2,129 sea­sonal res­i­dents who were out of the town­ship when much of the con­sul­ta­tion took place.

Two coun­cil­lors – Jeff Lackie and Brian Mabee – joined Jack­son in op­pos­ing the of­fi­cial plan­ners.

Lackie said there are still many ques­tions on the of­fi­cial plan, and he urged that coun­cil de­fer it and take the time to an­swer the ques­tions.

He said he would rather that the coun­cil be ac­cused of be­ing over­cau­tious on the of­fi­cial plan than hasty.

Mabee was of a sim­i­lar mind, ask­ing “what’s the rush?”

He said the doc­u­ment is much im­proved from the ini­tial drafts but there are still ques­tions and coun­cil should take the time to get it right.

Af­ter the doc­u­ment is passed, it will be much harder to make changes, Mabee said.

Mayor Joe Bap­tista, who faces Jack­son and two oth­ers for re­elec­tion in Oc­to­ber, praised the plan for bal­anc­ing the pro­tec­tion of the town­ship’s nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment with the need to at­tract “smart devel­op­ment.”

In a veiled jab at Jack­son, Bap­tista said he was sad­dened by all the “fear­mon­ger­ing ” by op­po­nents of the of­fi­cial plan.

He re­ferred to the many re­vi­sions of the doc­u­ment, the pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion process and the fact that the town­ship gave care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion to any ques­tion it re­ceived from a res­i­dent.

Bap­tista said the of­fi­cial plan­ning process is not a done deal. The next coun­cil will have to do a lot of heavy lift­ing in draft­ing zon­ing by­laws as part of the plan, he said.

Coun. Vicki Leakey, who sup­ported the plan, also pointed to the next coun­cil’s work of draft­ing zon­ing by­laws. The of­fi­cial plan is “not the holy grail,” said Leakey, adding that it could be changed if prob­lems are found.

Many res­i­dents who were most op­posed to the plan, were ob­ject­ing to pro­vi­sions al­ready in the ex­ist­ing plan, she said. And op­po­nents were hard-pressed to come up with ex­am­ples of how the plan would af­fect them per­son­ally, she added.

Coun. Gerry Last said her sup­port of the plan wasn’t due to any pre­con­ceived no­tions – it was the re­sult of many hours of reading and study.

Last, who is run­ning for re­elec­tion in the ward that rep­re­sents many water­front prop­erty own­ers op­posed to the plan, said she is upset that the plan might be­come an elec­tion is­sue.

She called the plan “bal­anced,” while rec­og­niz­ing that you can’t please ev­ery­one.

Coun. Liz Huff, who also voted yes to the plan, said she liked the fact it has a nice lo­cal feel to it.

There al­ways will be a clash be­tween pri­vate and com­mer­cial in­ter­ests in plan­ning but she said the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple seem sat­is­fied with it.

Huff said the town­ship could take an­other one or two years to de­bate the plan and still end up with one very much like the one that was ap­proved this week. wlowrie@post­media.com

John Paul Jack­son op­poses the of­fi­cial plan.

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