New Official Plan in works for Merrickville-Wolford

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The Municipality of Merrickville-Wolford is currently undergoing the process of updating the Municipality’s Official Plan. A draft Official Plan was made available on the Municipality’s website in September and two open houses and one public meeting in October were held to allow residents to comment and have their input on the draft plan. At the public meeting on October 15, Mayor Doug Struthers said that the two open houses were well attended, with over 100 people at the Merrickville open house and over 25 at the one in Wolford.

The council chambers were packed at the public meeting at the Municipal Centre where Village Planner Doug Grant listened to comments and fielded questions from residents and council. It seemed, from the meeting, that the most divisive issue in the document is the preservation of the heritage feel of both Merrickville and the hamlets.

Some residents feel that it is unfair to place heritage restrictions on new builds. They feel that more effort should be placed on building accessible and affordable homes in the Village. “We should be encouraging small single story homes,” said resident Mike Zaversnuke at the meeting.

Others feel that maintaining the heritage area in Merrickville is crucial to preserving the feel of the Village that attracts visitors and recently helped them win a Communities in Bloom prize. “I speak in support of that annex, and would like to see some stronger language added for it to be more rigid,” said resident Anne Barr.

Doug says he hasn’t recommended that the municipality seek heritage conservation district status for Merrickville because that can severely limit what you can do within the boundary. “We are trying to create a development approval climate where heritage is protected, without making it mandatory,” he said at the meeting.

Property owner and local developer, Chuck Fournier, also brought up the issue of internet connectivity in the Village. He said that, although he is unsure that this is something that can be addressed in the Official Plan, as a developer he sees it as an important part of attracting quality residents and businesses to the municipality. “We need a policy in place to get all of Merrickville connected to broadband,” he said.

Finally, resident, Rod Fournier, stepped up to the podium and expressed his concern that the draft Official Plan does not seem to look at the bigger picture when it comes to the future of the Village. He wants to see it reflect what the people of Merrickville-Wolford would like the Village to be in 10-15 years time.

The Mayor noted that, while he will be taking all comments and suggestions into consideration, with some competing opinions, it will be “a bit of a balancing act” to have them all reflected in the Official Plan. His recommendation is that the current draft, and all the comments, be referred back to the Planning Advisory Committee to be taken into consideration, and a final plan be presented to council for approval at a future meeting.

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