There were three meetings of North Grenville’s Council last week – two on Tuesday, and one on Wednesday. The first meeting on Tuesday was a closed session, while the other two meetings were open session meetings, though they did not take place in the Council Chambers as usual. The November 7 meeting took place in Suite A of the Municipal Centre, and the November 8 meeting was held in the Parish Hall of the Kemptville Campus. The temporary location changes were the result of audio-visual upgrades currently being undertaken in the Council Chambers.
The first item of business in the short Tuesday meeting was a presentation from Melissa Leveck from Leeds and Grenville Interval House regarding Women Abuse Prevention Month.
Next, Council considered whether to resume having the Municipality perform civil marriage services off site (i.e. in locations outside of the Municipal Centre), which was commonplace before the pandemic, and is also a service offered by many neighbouring municipalities. The motion was passed, including a provision that the fees for civil marriage services will be slightly increased to better align with fees in neighbouring locales.
Council then jumped into some routine business, including the discussion of tenders and RFPs (Requests for Proposal) for local work that needs completing, including the moving of hydro poles at the Kemptville Water Pollution Control Plant. Deputy Mayor John Barclay asked CAO Karen Dunlop about whether the lowest bidder is always awarded the project when tenders and RFPs go out. She responded that the Municipality is looking into modifying the decision making process in response to complaints about construction delays, etc.
Deputy Mayor Barclay then gave an update from the Old Town Kemptville BIA Board, using some previous meeting minutes to describe what the BIA has been up to. Much discussion ensued as Council members shared their thoughts about the inner workings of the BIA, including whether its budget should be increased, and whether it should be expanded to serve more areas in North Grenville instead of just downtown Kemptville.
The November 7 meeting was very short, lasting less than an hour. The November 8 meeting began with a brief Committee of Adjustment meeting before jumping into a public meeting regarding several zoning by-law amendment applications.
Municipal staff had recommended that each of the proposed by-law amendments be made, based on their conformity with the Municipality’s Official Plan, as well as the Provincial Policy Statement, and other reasons for which the amendments were seen as having positive impacts on local planning. The first amendment was passed without any questions or comments from the public, but a comment was made regarding the second proposal considered, which was an amendment application that would allow the land identified as “Star Toilets” to be zoned for other types of business as well.
A neighbour who is surrounded on three sides by the Star Toilets property spoke at length regarding her concerns with the proposed amendment, alleging that the property owner does not follow zoning by-laws. She therefore expressed concern about what will be done with the property if more leeway is given. The neighbour informed Council that her property is now surrounded by toilets, and by the storage of an RV and several sewage trucks, which she contends was not part of the deal when the zoning was changed in 2020 to allow the toilet rental business on site.
After some discussion and some clarification provided by Amy Martin, the Municipality’s Director of Planning and Development, Mayor Nancy Peckford asked who the concerned neighbour should turn to if she continues to have issues with the uses of the subject property. Director Martin went through the neighbour’s options, which depend on the nature of the concern in each case. She also explained, following a question from Councillor Kristin Strackerjan, the reasoning used to determine specific permitted uses of certain lands, when such applications are made.
The Mayor’s final remarks on the matter suggested that it would be too restricting to designate the lands in question as being solely for Star Toilets forever. The zoning by-law amendment application was passed. The final item addressed in the public meeting was for a zoning amendment dealing with the permitted buildings on a rural property on County Road 44. This amendment was passed within a few minutes, as there were no comments from members of the public.
When the public meeting portion came to an end, the discussion remained on the subject of zoning and planning, with significant back-and-forth between Mayor Peckford and Director Martin. One topic of discussion was regarding the next phase of the eQuinelle subdivision and the Mayor’s concerns of “opportunity missed”, so to speak, from leaving it up to home buyers if they would like an additional dwelling unit on site. An eQuinelle representative pointed out that the type of subdivision makes additional dwelling units unappealing for a lot of eQuinelle’s homeowners, therefore creating a hard sell if there is wording in the by-laws that suggests a mandatory number of lots with additional dwelling units.
“I think it’s fair to say that eQuinelle, for the most part, can’t provide the housing affordability that we strive for,” the Mayor added in the meeting. She lamented that the affordable housing goals that the Municipality has are unfortunately not often realized in practice due to hindrances such as the lack of a market for lots with additional dwelling units. The motion under discussion was ultimately passed with slightly modified wording, though not before Deputy Mayor Barclay addressed the eQuinelle representative, imploring the consideration of other options for satisfying the Municipality’s goal of having 25% of new local housing deemed as “affordable”.
The November 8 meeting ended after just under two hours. The results of the full meetings, including detailed discussions, can be viewed on YouTube.