A question of “Ensuring Efficient, Effective Services and Civic Engagement”
The identification by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) of additional wetlands, in Merrickville-Wolford’s new Official Plan, has led to debate and discussion amongst residents, landowners and elected officials.
Hilary Thomson’s article entitled “Property owners fight back against new wetland designation”, in the February 5 edition of the North Grenville Times, is helpful in highlighting some of the current concerns. It also describes Council’s reaction to two landowners’ issues with the increased wetland designation on their properties.
I am concerned that Council, in its support for these landowners, may have opened the door to ongoing demands by developers to make representations to provincial ministries on their behalf.
Our Municipality’s new Official Plan and the Strategic Plan attempt to reflect the need for balance between development and environmental preservation. No such balance was evident in the resolution of Council to have MNRF “back-up their decision for deeming this area in the Village as a Provincially Significant Wetland, and to re-evaluate their decision without delay.”
The 2017 – 2025 Merrickville-Wolford Strategic Plan identified priorities and strategies to help guide Council’s decisions. The priority of ensuring efficient, effective services and civic engagement appeared, when developed and adopted, to be directly tied to ensuring that other priorities within the plan including “protecting heritage, rural, and natural environments” would be considered and supported.
The plan saw the Municipality valuing both thoughtful development and envisioning “a community that preserves local natural beauty and ecosystems”.
It appears that Council, as is its right, chose not to invite its own Planning Advisory Chair or its own Environment Committee to comment or provide input prior to passing the motion. The relationship of this Council to its committees is not clear to me.
When topics like wetlands that affect both development and the environment, arise, there is a need to refer issues and concerns to all stakeholders and related committees.
Council and committees, supported by staff, need to constantly recognize the seriousness and sensitivity of topics such as wetlands, private property, development and the natural environment. Supporting one side of a debate without due consideration of the other side does no good.
I would like to encourage the Municipality to adopt an approach where the viewpoints of all relevant committees are taken into account prior to Council taking a position on any given issue. Support for committee chairs and committee members in their efforts to contribute to the municipality and its residents and to inform Council decision making is required.
Merrickville – Wolford