Comments on Planning Regulation or Community Benefits Charges?

Certain Planning Changes

I discovered from a recent email from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario The Province of Ontario is seeking comments on proposed regulations under Bill 108 and issued this notice, which I discovered in a recent email from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario . You must provide your comments by the end of day on August 6, 2019.

If you are concerned about any of the following matters, please follow the link to read more and perhaps comment to the Province:

  • Expanding the grounds of appeal of a decision
  • Changes related to the community planning permit system (a framework that combines and replaces the individual zoning, site plan and minor variance processes in an identified area with a single application and approval process)
  • Additional Residential Unit Requirements and Standards – mainly changes related to parking requirements
  • Removing restrictions and prohibitions in respect of the municipal authority under section 37 (Increased Density) with inclusionary zoning

See the Provincial Notice here:

https://ero.ontario.ca/notice/019-0181

Community Benefits Charges

There is also an opportunity to comment on proposed changes to the new Community Benefits Charges, by August 21, 2019.

The Minister is proposing that the following types of developments be exempt from charges for community benefits under the Planning Act:

  • Long-term care homes
  • Retirement homes
  • Universities and colleges
  • Memorial homes, clubhouses or athletic grounds of the Royal Canadian Legion
  • Hospices
  • Non-profit housing

See this link for more information:

https://ero.ontario.ca/notice/019-0183

If you have any questions about planning matters, please contact the Municipal Office at (613) 256-2064 and the planners: Director Nicole Dwyer at extension 259 or Planner Maggie Yet at extension 206.

Taxes and Finances

Without a history of regular financial reports to Council from the municipal administration and departments, it is hard to say how taxes will go.  The debt is currently about $4 million more than the $18 million that the ex-mayor claimed it would be at the end of 2018.

Council said that the reserves would be built up so much by 2018 that we could borrow from ourselves. The mayor wrote “…if Public Works needs $300,000 for a new piece of heavy equipment, the money comes from reserves.” However, at their last regular meeting, the 2014-2018 Council voted to borrow nearly another million dollars to buy a grader, a fire truck and other equipment. When asked by a councillor if reserves could fund it instead, the staff response was “no.” Reserves have  dropped below what they were supposed to have been at this point.

Where did things go wrong? Well, mismanaged projects and programs  headed and directed by council have cost far more than expected; in the worst case, the Pakenham library renovation project alone was approximately 100% over its budget (final figures have not been reported at this writing). On some projects, milestone and cost updates were so late that potential corrections could not help. A few projects came in so much under budget that the costing process seemed odd.

Most big-ticket projects were managed by small groups of councillors who made the spending decisions; the ill-fated library renovation and Gemmill Park projects are examples. Meanwhile, little investment of time in real public consultation was made in the Official Plan review and ill-fated park sales proposals. How much time and money were spent on ideas like paving the recreational trail for the imaginary hundreds who “commute” (when no funds were allocated – or likely – for upkeep)? Development charges earmarked for Almonte growth were spent elsewhere. The downtown infrastructure replacement project seemed to have been dropped except for end-phase benches. The result of the lack of public consultation and poor decision-making is that the Municipality has  incurred far too much in legal costs. Is there a contingent liability fund to pay for these mistakes? Or did it  cost us some basic services?

The Long Term Financial Plan apparently did not account for things like the ever-rising costs of energy, interest rates, salaries, benefits and shaky management. Residential property taxes and sky-high development charges can no longer remain the only sources of revenue.

I would like to see taxes as low as possible. With so little fiscal information in the face of some obvious misadventures, it will be a challenge. I think that a fiscally prudent back-to-basics approach will be required.