County moving forward with mandatory planning advisory committee

(Gazette file photo)




The municipality may be establishing a new advisory committee to oversee planning issues in Prince Edward County.

Councillors supported a motion that would establish a planning advisory committee and terms of reference during last week’s committee-of-the-whole meeting. The motion goes to council on Nov. 14 for approval.

The move was initiated as a result of Bill 73, the Smart Growth for Our Communities Act, being given Royal assent and enabled in part by regulations which took effect July 1, 2016, a staff report presented to councillors last week says. The bill made several changes to the Planning Act, including issues related to Official Plan policies and administrative procedures, such as a requirement for a PAC.

“It is mandatory to have a planning advisory committee and staff are recommending a group of your current advisors put together a group with a couple of councillors and members of the public to act in an advisory capacity with no actual approval-granting authority,” said engineering, development, and works commissioner Robert McAuley.

The report says current advisory committees such as the agricultural advisory committee and the heritage advisory committee are acknowledged as advisory committees, but a formal resolution would have to be passed by council to that effect and would necessitate changes to the committees’ terms of reference.

“When we looked at that as staff, the concern was that those other committees are structured for a specific purpose — for example the agricultural advisory committee — and to alter them to also deal with planning policy might be a bit of a problem for those that are there with an agricultural desire and less of a planning or legislative desire,” McAuley said.

The new committee must consist of at least one local resident who is neither a councillor or County employee. Recommendations from the committee would not be binding on council decisions.

The report outlines a number of options related to the structure of the committee. However, staff recommended the committee comprise members of other advisory committees along with other appointees from council to function as the new planning committee.

“You would get each of the disciplines represented at the planning advisory committee as opposed to changing one of your current advisory committees,” said McAuley.

The report says the new committee could provide feedback to council or staff regarding ongoing policy-related matters such as small homes, second units, and short-term accommodation rentals. The committee wouldn’t have any planning decision-making authority of its own.

While the majority supported the motion, there were a few councillors who did not. Councillor Janice Maynard said the municipality has some strong committees that already deal with many planning issues.

“If we can indeed cover the requirements by using our existing committees, I really don’t see the need to form a new committee,” she said.

She said while the report doesn’t specify what the actual cost might be, there will be a cost. She said the new committee will also increase the workload and meeting schedule for volunteer members.