I am amazed to find out that Dennis Fox and apparently Councillor Bolik think that our new official plan does not protect our natural environment from development.
I refer Mr. Fox to Section 3.1 of the plan (pages 18 to 39) which is totally dedicated to Environmental Protection and Enhancement.
The new official plan includes measures to conserve and protect the County’s Nature Heritage System. Part of the protection includes identification of 11 Natural Core Areas – one of which is in Councillor Bolik’s ward (Sawguin) and one in Dennis Fox’s ward (Demorestville). These Natural Core Areas are connected throughout the County by linkages which provide corridors for wildlife. Measures are put in place to ensure that when major development is requested in the Natural Core Areas and Linkages Environmental Impact Studies (EIS) will be required. In addition, there is a new EIS template making what the County expects from the EIS much clearer. Proponents will be required to prove that what they are proposing will not harm the unique and important ecological systems of the Natural Core Areas. In addition to Natural Core Areas and Linkages, wetlands, Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest, woodlands, valley lands, watercourses, shorelines, ground water, steep slopes and wild life habitat all receive special protection in the new plan. Regarding lack of public engagement due to the COVID-19 pandemic and reduced broadband capacity in the County.
I submit that anyone who has a keen interest in County planning and development would find a way to access the draft official plan.
Over the past four years I have been involved with a small group of people who have met with planning consultants and submitted proposed changes to the plan. Our concerns were regarding environmental protection; however, I am aware that others with other concerns – developers and business people have also had the opportunity to meet with planners individually or in small groups. In all cases we have been treated with respect and courtesy – and I cannot imagine that were Mr. Fox or Mr. Bolik to approach the department with questions comments or suggestions for changes to the plan that they would not have had the same experience. To my recollection there were three recent online opportunities to comment on the plan – in November, December and finally in February. The February meeting was specifically planned to give the public ample time to view changes to the plan and comment after the December meeting. That was done after a request from the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists.
The plan will come up for review again in 2023. At that time the dissenting Councillors and others will have the opportunity to prepare a critique of the plan and to point out all the places that they are unhappy with.
I do hope that this time they take the opportunity to consult with staff, air their concerns and be involved in the process.