New Official Plan for Merrickville-Wolford

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At the last council meeting, Merrickville-Wolford council adopted their new Official Plan, which will guide development in the Village for the next five years. Before the adoption of the plan by council, a few members of the public addressed them with some concerns. A property owner in the Village, Mike Zaversenuke, was concerned about the restrictions the new Official Plan places on development in the heritage area of the Village. The Official Plan states that building design in these areas should be reflective of pre-World War II architectural styles, to keep the heritage feel of the Village intact. “Once the current building plan is approved tonight, which only allows pre-World War II designs and materials, how would the Village enforce current building codes?” he asked. “This plan will actually veto triple pane windows, steel fronts doors, and anything that is not pre-World War II.”

Village Planner, Doug Grant, responded to Mike’s question, stating that this section is an appendix to the Official Plan which sets out design guidelines, and therefore is not official policy. “It is a set of guidelines that is meant to help council decide on what sort of development approvals they’re going to be giving moving into the future,” he said. The guidelines are general enough, that they don’t affect things like triple paned glass, he says. “It’s trying to replicate traditional architectural styles in the existing built up pre-World War II portion of Merrickville.” These guidelines also only apply to applications for new development within the Village core.

Another resident approached council with the concern that an old growth forest on her property hadn’t been included as significant woodlands in the Official Plan. She is concerned that some of the old trees on her property might be vulnerable because the forest hasn’t been designated as significant, even though the adjacent property just outside the urban boundary does have this designation. “This particular stand I think has heritage value,” she said.

Doug said that there wasn’t any provincially significant woodland designated in the Village, but that, with any future development, there would need to be an environmental impact study done which could say the stand should be preserved. “You would adjust the development project to accommodate that,” he said.

Perhaps the biggest objection to the new Official Plan raised at the council meeting came from Deputy Mayor Michael Cameron. He said he was concerned about the section of the plan that directs the majority of development in the municipality to the Merrickville urban area. “If we concentrate on developing the urban area, that’s going to come at a significant cost to the expansion of water and sewer in the future, as we develop,” he said. “I think that this would put undue stress on the ratepayers to fund this initiative and that, given the fact that 67% of the population doesn’t have access to it, I don’t think that’s something we should be considering at this time.”

Doug responded that the provincial policy statement is very clear in stating that most development needs to take place in settlement areas. The same policy is also set out by the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville. “That’s where most development is intended to be directed,” he said. “The developers pay the cost for the development of their project and there is a mechanism in place where the Village can also charge additional monies if the sewage treatment plant needs to be updated or expanded.”

The Municipality’s new Official Plan was passed last Monday, but not without some dissent. When Mayor Struthers called the vote, all members of council voted to adopt the plan, except for Deputy Mayor Michael Cameron, who opposed the motion. Now that the Official Plan has been adopted by council, it will go to the County for final approval.

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