County requests increased planning powers
By Chad Ingram
May 2, 2017
Haliburton County will make a request to the provincial government that the municipality become the ultimate approval authority on official plan amendments, a change that could save residents thousands of dollars in fees.
Currently, official plan amendments must go to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing for approval, once they receive approval the county level.
“What I’m proposing is to cut out the last step,” county planner Charlsey White told councillors during an April 26 meeting. “It’s basically an exemption.”
The municipality will apply for a blanket exemption on all official plan amendments, which would make Haliburton County the final approval authority on such applications.
“It would save time, and it would also save money,” White said.
The ministry recently increased the cost of official plan amendments to a $12,000 fee. Added to the county’s nearly $1,500 fee, that means an official plan amendment costs the application nearly $13,500. An exemption from provincial approval would mean only the county fee would be charged. It would also speed up the process, as all consultation and processing would be completed within the county, instead of Toronto or Kingston.
To meet the criteria for an exemption, the county must have appropriately trained staff, the proper technology and data and an updated official plan.
Council approved the county’s new official plan during last week’s meeting, and Warden Brent Devolin said that while at one time municipalities may not have had sophisticated planning staff and technology, that isn’t the case now.
Dysart et al Reeve Murray Fearrey pointed out that with the county’s two-tier system, all planning applications are already reviewed by two separate planning departments, which could also help with the exemption request.
“I think the fact we have a two-government in Haliburton County . . . is a good thing,” Fearrey said.
If the county does become the approval authority, Fearrey asked what would happen in cases of official plan amendments that are appealed and go to hearing with the Ontario Municipal Board.
White responded that the county would be alone at the OMB, defending its decision.
“Which is fine,” she said. “We can do that.”
The new official plan approved by council last week includes new land rural and settlement designation (both urban and rural) and new designation for wetlands. Under changes the province made to the Ontario Planning Act in 2016, official plans will now be reviewed every 10 years, as opposed to five.
The official plan requires approval from the ministry before it’s enacted.