| Mar 27, 2008

Feature Article - March 27, 2008

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Feature Article - March 27, 2008 South Frontenac Council still divided over Official Plan By Jeff Green

Members of South Frontenac Council met this week to try and hammer out their differences on two issues in their Official Plan review which deal with the ability of property owners to develop lots.

They did plenty of hammering, but very little agreeing.

The first issue was that of so-called back lot development. As part of the review, township planner Lindsay Mills proposed that non-waterfront development on private lanes not be permitted.

In the three open houses that have taken place over the Official Plan review, many of the 100 people who attended commented on this issue, arguing that this kind of development should be permitted, as did a petition with 107 signatures

The petition also referred to the second major issue that has divided council, the so-called “starting the clock over” request. When the Official Plan came into effect in 2001, any property was permitted to be severed three times, to create three new lots and one retained lot, provided all the lots were 2 acres or larger and had sufficient road frontage. “Starting the clock over” would mean that after the revised Official Plan is approved, three new severances would be permitted even on properties that had already been severed since 2001. Those properties could be severed three more times.

In his reply to the petitioners and to the public, Lindsay Mills said that making the changes would “violate … existing provisions of the Plan”. Essentially, Mills argued that permitting non-waterfront development on private roads, and “starting the clock over” regarding severances, would have a detrimental effect on the “rural character of South Frontenac which the Official Plan is designed to enhance”.

According to Mills’ report, rural character is embodied by “large, un-crowded residential lots; private water and septic systems; mixture of woodlands, bush, agricultural fields and open landscapes; major service being located in adjacent cities; industrial activities limited to those which support the local economy; residential activity either singularly or in small subdivisions/hamlets; limited municipal services”.

The two measures that he advocates are both designed to curtail certain kinds of development, which he argues could lead to uncontrolled development, and which he maintains the township would have trouble dealing with in the long run.

Everyone on council had an opinion or two about back lot development.

Councilor Larry York said, “I don’t have a problem with back lot development, as long as it’s looked at carefully.

For Mayor Gary Davison, the problems will arise when the township is asked to take over roads that have become heavily populated. “We are having issues already on township roads,” he said.

Councilor David Hahn said, “People who have purchased cottage lots have not had to deal with back lot development, and they don’t want to.”

For Councilor John Filion, it is a matter of taxation in future years. “I look at facts projected through statistics. Between 2002 and 2112 we will see a 70% increase in taxes in this township. The only way around that is through economic development, and economic development means building new houses and increasing our tax base. Storrington has had the largest increase in houses and its taxes are less than the other three districts. We need to have that tax base, and if you can’t see it I’d say you are bad managers.”

“I must move to Storrington where the sun shines every day,” said Mayor Davison.

A consensus vote was taken and the proposal to prohibit back lot development was defeated in a 5-4 vote, with councilors Hahn, McPhail, Robinson, and Mayor Davison in support, and Councilors York, Filion, Hicks, Stowe, and Vandewal opposed.

A similar debate took place over liberalizing rules over severances, and the proposal to leave the Official Plan as is, and not “start the clock over” was defeated in a 6-3 vote. A variety of alternate approaches were discussed, and they will be considered at a future date. A few other, less contentious issues around the Official plan review, including those related to the lands around the Rideau Canal, were accepted.

Council will meet again on April 8 to discuss the Official Plan. A budget meeting is scheduled for either March 31 or April 2, depending on councilor availability.

[Editor’s note: a quick survey of the South Frontenac website revealed that in 2005, the most recent year for which tax rates are listed, the Storrington district rate was the highest of the four districts]

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