PSWs get a second look at MNBP’s special council meeting
Following a special council meeting in Lion’s Head, Nov. 3, a new draft zoning bylaw for the Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula is now online at the Bruce County website.
The draft document was posted by Jacob Van Dorp, senior planner for Bruce County, for review prior to a public meeting in Tobermory Dec. 2, where the public will again have the opportunity to have input into the process, which began earlier this year.
“We’ll listen on the 2nd again and council will determine where we head from there,” Mayor Milt McIver said in a telephone interview. There is no fixed deadline for the new zoning bylaw to be passed.
A member of the public at the Nov. 3 special council meeting requested council expedite its discussion about Provincially Significant Wetlands (PSWs), to which council agreed.
Van Dorp said rather than talk about two options, as he had at the Oct. 10 public meeting in Lion’s Head, he was going to present “opportunities” in dealing with PSW zones. This approach followed on the heels of a meeting between Van Dorp and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF).
At the Oct. 10 meeting, two options for mapping PSWs were presented: mapping the boundaries as given by the MNRF or clipping the boundaries of the PSW zone to the hazard layer newly mapped by the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority (GSCA).
Van Dorp said the ministry had told him its PSW mapping for properties in the Stokes Bay area was inaccurate. The ministry undertook to correct this, but as of Nov. 10 he hadn’t yet received the revised lines.
However, a cluster of properties in Stokes Bay would have a “better line” for its PSWs after the adjustment, he said.
A second opportunity would be to recognize existing development by taking the area the GSCA didn’t recognize as hazards out of the EHPSW zone, he said. A third opportunity arose from the MNRF saying their mapping is conceptual and intended to be refined.
“Conceptual means that the boundary is intended to show roughly where it is with the intent that it be refined further,” he said.
Council decided, given this information, to reduce the amount of land within PSW zones in areas where the MNRF has noted inaccuracies. It will also “go around” existing lots of record where possible.
Currently, a zoning bylaw amendment is required under the Planning Act in order to change any of the PSW zoning.
“So the third opportunity would be to say that the chief building official as the zoning administrator can reinterpret that EH-PSW boundary if she gets a letter from the MNR that says that’s fine on a go-forward basis,” Van Dorp said.
“We do that now in terms of other hazards, we don’t do it in terms of the PSW because they’re not [currently] in the bylaw,” he said.
If the MNRF disagrees with a requested change, then the PSW boundary will stay where it is.
“The challenge the MNR has is they have one person in charge of all of Grey and Bruce Counties to handle all of these requests,” Van Dorp said.
“The MNR has almost no resources beyond that one person.”
An alternative would be for a resident to hire a wetland evaluator certified under the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System and submit a request to change the boundary to the MNRF.
Once a trained person goes out to identify a boundary, the MNR will take a look at it and agree to it or not, Van Dorp said.
The MNRF has the mapping completed by the GSCA for the municipality, Van Dorp said.
“And they’ve said it’s an immensely valuable resource to help them in determining where the boundary of that PSW should be – but they can’t take it just as the be all and end all.”
Still, it does give a little more flexibility to the mapping process, he said.
It addition to the PSWs currently marked on properties in the Stokes Bay area, which the MNRF has undertaken to fix, there is a cluster of Dorcas Bay properties and some in the Lindsay Road 20 area on White Cedar Road, he said.
One complication that can arise when considering changing boundaries of a PSW is whether or not indicator species are present.
“The MNR has said basically if you’re going to mess around with the zoning boundaries you should be able to defend them,” Van Dorp said.
When asked by Deputy Mayor Patricia Greig whether PSWs have to be mapped, Van Dorp said to meet the requirements of the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) the PSWs need to be included in the new zoning bylaw so that council can make appropriate decisions and not allow development or site alterations within a PSW.
“The unfortunate part is that they’ve never been brought in so at some point somebody’s got to make the decision to bring it in and that falls to you guys,” Van Dorp told council.
“We’re probably one of the last municipalities to bring this in. Pretty much everybody else has got them in there already.
“So if wetland protection is important – which the PPS says it is and you’ve heard submissions from the public as well about the importance of the wetlands, particularly the ones that are important enough to be significant to the province – then you’ve kind of got to stick them in.
“And unfortunately you guys are the only one stop shop when it comes to issuing permits because there is no CA [conservation authority] to handle the actual development permit even within adjacent lands to a PSW.”
While the GSCA does not regulate in NBP, it does offer advice to the municipality, which is always followed, Mayor McIver said.
Councillor Tom Boyle noted that the zoning bylaw will be reviewed in the future.
“In the next five years we do have to take a more careful look at systems approaches and understand where these indicator species are,” he said.
“We have to maybe look at alvars and all the other things we have in the natural heritage realm of things,” he said.
“Right now I think it’s a good step to get the wetlands. It’s crazy to have this information and not map them. It behooves the MNR to catch up with us and identify where this stuff is more accurately. We’ve done a lot of work here, we should get it mapped,” he said.
In a telephone interview, Mayor McIver said wetlands are extremely important and worthy of protection. He noted that in almost 100 per cent of instances, residents have no intention of doing anything on a wetland.
As for lots adjacent to a PSW, the province recommends 120 metres as the adjacent land buffer. Van Dorp suggested the municipality use site plan approval to determine whether or not someone can build on land adjacent to a PSW.
Council discussed creating a new site plan bylaw in regard to land adjacent to a PSW, but agreed getting the new zoning bylaw in place was the first priority. A new site plan bylaw will be referred to as a note in the new zoning bylaw.
“My recommendation would be when you get into that site plan process that we focus on best management practices because if you’re 90 metres away from a PSW or 110 metres away it’s likely that impacts could be addressed through some of the site planning for existing lots,” Van Dorp said.
Best practices might include, for example, if you’re building a new house to avoid clearing more trees and vegetation than necessary and not clearing a lot during the migratory bird season, he said.