In the final meeting of their term, Meaford’s council approved the amended municipal Official Plan. The update of the Official Plan had been a priority for this term of council, and involved extensive community consultation.
“The Municipality of Meaford has completed the technical review, community consultation, and stakeholder engagement associated with the ten-year review and update of the Municipality of Meaford Official Plan,” staff advised council in a report outlining the update of the Official Plan. “This Official Plan Amendment is to achieve conformity to the Provincial Policy Statement (2020) and provincial legislative changes, as well as provide an opportunity to address local issues identified through the policy review and community consultation.”
Though not binding, an Official Plan provides a guiding framework for the Municipality’s vision of the community for the future.
“The Official Plan is a technical document that provides the framework for the Municipality’s vision of the community for the coming 25 years and guides the Municipality in its land use management moving forward. It describes Council’s policies on how land should be used and helps to ensure that future planning and development will meet the needs of the community,” noted the report to council.
Delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Official Plan was to have been updated in 2020 following the 2019 update of Grey County’s Official Plan.
In their final meeting before the newly elected council is sworn in on November 21, council voted 6-1 in favour of approving the updated Official Plan, with the lone vote against coming from outgoing Councillor Paul Vickers.
Vickers, who lost his bid for the mayor’s chair to fellow council member Ross Kentner, told council that from his perspective the updated Official Plan does not go far enough to increase the density of new developments.
“We have goals as a country of increasing our immigration by 500,000 people each and every year, so in 20 years we will have 10 million more people living inside of our country, and where are we going to put them?” Vickers asked his fellow council members. “It seems like Meaford has taken the approach that we’re special, and we don’t need development, and we don’t want as many people in our area. I find it concerning, I would say a minority of people don’t like density, and came to the meetings and objected to it, and it seems like now instead of having good planning, we’re basically just doing what people want. I find it disheartening, and I think it will be the demise, not next year, but in 20 years when all of a sudden our services are spread out further and further at lower density, and future councils will have to figure out how to try and make the budget work.”
Staff noted in their report that the updated Official Plan offers some flexibility in interpretation, allowing future councils to address concerns of the day when making decisions.
“The Official Plan affords some flexibility in policy interpretation by Council and Planning staff during the decision-making process and is implemented by the Zoning By-law, Subdivision and Site Plan Control, capital budgets, other by-laws and municipal activities. This ensures that the local Meaford context and site-specific concerns can be accounted for when making decisions and implementing policy across the planning horizon of the Official Plan,” staff advised.
As noted in the report to council, the amendment consists of changes that achieve the following:
1. Creating a 25-year community plan for managing growth and development founded on the context and community structure of Meaford;
2. Creating opportunities for housing through policies supporting intensification, diversification, redevelopment, and additional dwelling units;
3. Confirming and supporting the importance of Meaford’s commercial areas;
4. Incorporating community and Advisory Committees’ feedback on subjects such as:
a. community growth
b. protection of agricultural land
d. reinforcing the commitment to downtown
e. economic development and investment readiness
f. built and natural heritage
g. supporting all ages-friendly community development
h. community accessibility
i. sustainability and climate resiliency
j. parks system
k. community well-being
l. high quality urban design
5. Updating the forecasted population, employment and household growth for the planning horizon;
- Addressing community feedback relating to:
a. Rural Character and Settlements
b. Agricultural and Rural Lands
c. Downtown Development and Key Public Lands
d. Urban Character and Settlements; and
- Assisting in administering the Plan through:
a. Flexibility in Application, Interpretation, and Updating
b. Enhanced readability and understanding.
Over the months long project, “an analysis of the Official Plan was conducted to identify necessary edits to create conformity with applicable updates from Provincial and County legislation and policy. This included concurrency review of the Provincial level land use planning documents such as the Provincial Policy Statement and Planning Act, as well as the Grey County Official Plan and population forecasts. Advisory Committees and Community Connectors were asked to develop specific policy recommendations on subjects that related to the Committee mandates or that they were particularly focused on when in conversation with fellow citizens.”
Councillor Tony Bell congratulated municipal staff along with residents for the successful update of the municipal Official Plan.
“When I was campaigning I thanked a lot of people who told me they had participated by putting forward their comments, and I reassured them that I see woven throughout the new Official Plan their comments have been taken well into consideration, and so the people’s voice does matter,” Bell told council. “I see this as a very crucial document for our municipality, and I see this as a very dynamic, and fluid policy. So I want to commend our staff on how they reached out to the general public, all the groups that are in the municipality were engaged.”
The updated Official Plan and related documents can be found on the municipal website, www.meaford.ca.