| Jun 05, 2019

As a general rule, public meetings on zoning bylaws don’t attract a large audience. North Frontenac’s such meeting last Friday at the Clar-Mill Hall in Plevna was an exception to that rule as the hall was full.

Planner Tracy Zander of ZanderPlan began the meeting by outlining several of the recent changes that have been made to the bylaw as a result of public feedback.

“The original plan was to take six to eight months,” she said. “But it’s been over a year now.”

Following a public meeting in November of last year, she said the main changes have included:

• The deletion of ‘forestry management’ and the inclusion of a new definition for ‘commercial forestry operation’

• New guidelines for ‘principle storage units’ in rural zones on properties that have no principle dwelling units

• Guidelines pertaining to boathouses

• Permission for ‘rural co-op housing,’ which she said “has a long history in the township”

• Parking for island and water access only properties

But while there were those who came to discuss most of the above changes, the issue receiving the most attention seemed to be Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI).

The ANSIs, created by the Province, severely restrict development and/or usage in order to protect unique features, such as animal or plant habitat, or geological features.

ANSIs are noted in Frontenac County’s Official Plan as well as the Township Official Plan.

However, there has been considerable opposition to their inclusion in the zoning bylaw from a variety of sources, including residents who might like to subdivide their property in the future (for offspring and other uses), logging operators and/or mining operations such as gravel pits.

Much of the opposition comes in the form of not knowing the specifics of why the the individual ANSIs were created in the first place and if they still are applicable (for example in the case of species protection, are the species still present).

Mayor Ron Higgins has been trying to get some answers from MNRF for some time now without much success.

“It’s been a high priority for me this past month and we did invite the MNRF to have a representative here for this meeting but they’ve had cutbacks and put a ban on travel,” he said. “We couldn’t convince anyone from Bancroft to come (and) we cannot acquire the designation justification documents.”

“We just feel overall, we shouldn’t have to prove the MNRF wrong,” said resident and owner of a gravel pit business Darwyn Sproule. “MNRF should prove they’re (ANSIs) needed.

“County planning exceeded (its authority) by promoting regional ANSIs to the same level as provincial ANSIs.”

In Sproule’s case, an ANSI has been laid over his licensed gravel operation.

Mark Snider, a planning consultant hired by Sproule said that zoning an ANSI as Environmentally Protected is “excessive and unnecessary.

“The ANSI west of Palmerston Lake includes a significant portion of the Ompah Settlement Area (and) if a new lot is created, it triggers an approval process.

“The ANSI would then trigger an environmental impact study (which can cost thousands of dollars).”

While Higgins told the crowd that there would be no decisions taken that day and that the meeting was for Council to gather information, Council did pass a resolution instructing staff to “remove ANSIs from the Zoning Bylaw” to considerable applause.

(Editors note – Darwyn Sproule is the Public Works Manager for the Township of North Frontenac as well as a property owner. He was speaking as a private citizen at the meeting, not a township official)

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