NEC update

November 19, 2016 …

The Niagara Escarpment Commission is not in favour of expanding its planning area.
The commission unanimously approved a recommendation on Thursday to not endorse the Niagara Escarpment Plan area additions it had proposed, and that any future…






Copy/paste of the article (from the link listed above) on the front page of the Owen Sound Sun Times:

  • 19 Nov 2016
  • The Sun Times (Owen Sound)

NEC opposes expanding area

Chairman says more consultation, study needed; final decision rests with province

The Niagara Escarpment Commission is not in favour of expanding its planning area.

The commission unanimously approved a recommendation on Thursday to not endorse the Niagara Escarpment Plan area additions it had proposed, and that any future additions be considered after more extensive consultation with municipalities and property owners.

“We decided that it needed further study,” said NEC chair Don Scott. “There is a need for further research and analysis and it would have to be part of some consultation process with the municipalities involved and probably consultation with any ratepayers and property owners as well.”

The proposed increase came as part of a co-ordinated land-use planning review by the NEC, and called for a 23 per cent increase to the planning area from 195,000 to 240,600 hectares.

Scott said the timelines involved in the review didn’t leave time to properly analyze the areas and come up with a firm recommendation. The province wanted recommendations from the NEC on the land-use planning review by early 2017.

“Especially in the Grey County area, and a bit in Dufferin, there was quite a bit of negative feedback on the area,” said Scott. “A lot of that has to do with the lack of information, and really there was just not enough work done on these areas and the problem was the co-ordinated review was on a timeline.”

In late summer the NEC agreed to extend the deadline to submit comments on the proposed changes to the end of October after calls by local municipalities and ratepayers. In that time, additional public meetings were held and the NEC received more correspondence from those opposed to the changes.

The recommendation approved by the NEC on Thursday at its meeting in Georgetown came out of a staff report that outlined the feedback on the proposed changes.

The report said the NEC received more than 500 letters or forms opposed to the changes, in addition to almost 200 individual comments against expansion in Grey, Bruce, Dufferin and Simcoe counties.

Municipalities in Grey, Bruce, Simcoe and Dufferin expressed opposition, though the towns of Mono and Pelham both proposed adding lands that were not recommended by the NEC.

Scott said there are some areas that could be added to the NEP with little additional research, including parks that are half in and half out of the NEP.

“They can look at it down the road if they ever look at it,” Scott said. “Right now we are staying within the plan boundary and looking at policies in that area and some mapping changes within that particular area.” Grey County warden Al Barfoot said Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry Kathryn McGarry will still have to approve the NEC recommendation, but he is pleased the NEC appeared to have listened to their concerns.

“As long as there are no other details we are not seeing right now as a follow-up, this is what we were hoping for,” said Barfoot. “We just need (Minister McGarry) to give final approval on that.”

Emily Kirk, a spokeswoman in McGarry’s office, said Friday that the minister’s office looks forward to reviewing the NEC’s recommendation.

“There are real concerns being raised by some communities and these concerns will be carefully considered. Public consultation and feedback has been a critical part of the review and we will thoroughly review all comments and recommendations made when deciding next steps,” Kirk wrote via e-mail. “While no decisions have been made at this point, ultimately we are looking for a balance between protecting our natural heritage and promoting economic growth.”

About 70 per cent — or 32,000 hectares — of the land proposed to be added to the NEP is in Grey County. The most heavily affected municipality would have been Meaford, where 21,000 hectares was proposed to be added.

Meaford Mayor Barb Clumpus said she was “thrilled” to learn of the NEC recommendation.

“This has been a worry for many of our residents and we all agreed that the communication process was very, very flawed,” said Clumpus. “It did not allow for the public to be either aware of how this could impact their individual properties or what this meant to the individual municipalities affected by this.”

Among the concerns expressed by residents and municipalities were a drop in property values, more restrictions on properties and the loss of planning control over more land.

Grey County municipalities were also in a position to lose a combined $700,000 in annual property tax revenue if the proposed changes were approved.

Clumpus said Meaford has made the NEC aware that they are willing and anxious to be a partner in the objectives of the NEC, which is the protection of the environment.

“While we believe our policies and procedures are in place to do that, if there are any gaps then we want to know about it so we can provide the excellent stewardship we believe we already do,” said Clumpus.

Vaughn Johnstone, who has owned land in Georgian Bluffs in what is known as the Oxenden gap for the past 40 years, said the recommendation was an encouraging sign.

“All in all we thought it was a fair report,” Johnstone said. “Certainly someone has seen the light in listening to the people.”

Johnstone also thanked local municipal officials for their work, including Barfoot and the rest of Grey County council, as well as Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker for relaying their concerns to Queen’s Park.

“Had council not taken that initiative, none of the rest of us would have been able to put further voice to their initiative and make this come through,” said Johnstone.

Barfoot said the county is continuing to correspond with NEC staff on the land-use designation changes that are being recommended for the current NEP area.

“There are some we support and some we are not so supportive of, so we will see when that report comes out as far as what they are going to do there,” said Barfoot.

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