Making it official
By Chad Ingram
Published May 4, 2017
Haliburton County is making a request of the province that the municipality become the ultimate approval authority for official plan amendments and there is no reason the province shouldn’t acquiesce to that request.
Currently official plan amendments, which can be required for different sorts of development and building projects, must be approved by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing once they have received the green light from the local government.
Last week, at the suggestion of the county’s planner, council decided to request from the province an exemption from this procedure, an exemption that, if granted, would essentially make the county the final approval authority on official plan amendment applications.
This makes sense for a number of reasons.
First, the county has trained, expert planning staff, sophisticated technology and a wealth of data to draw upon. As Minden Hills Reeve Brent Devolin pointed out last week, while it may have been true at one time that municipalities did not have very developed planning departments, this is certainly not the case today.
Second, in the two-tier system still employed in Haliburton County, applications have already been vetted and approved by two levels of government before they reach the ministry.
An application in, say, Dysart et al, passes through the Dysart planning department and council as well as the county planning department and the upper-tier council before graduating to the point of provincial approval.
Third, the changes will save applicants a whack of time and money. An exemption would mean that all consultation and processing of a file would take place within Haliburton County, instead of requiring work in Kingston or Toronto. Currently, the fee for an official plan amendment application is nearly $13,500. The provincial fee is $12,000, the county fee $1,300. Eliminating provincial approval would also eliminate the large provincial fee.
There is also something to be said about autonomy, about the county’s ability to look after its own affairs.
While it’s true that municipalities are children of the province and must abide by essentially any regulation the province thrusts upon them, the province can sometimes be a nagging, helicopter parent hovering over its offspring with superfluous demands.
There’s simply no reason the county should not have final say on these planning applications.