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Council wants enhanced consultation on issues of public interest

Prince Edward County councillors want municipal staff to come up with ways the public can be better informed.

Council supported councillor Jamie Forrester’s request to have staff investigate ways to enhance public consultation following several incidents this year where he felt there were “flaws” and a “disconnect” in the process.

He cited concerns most recently over the music festivals rezoning in Cherry Valley, and and for expansion project at Quinte’s Isle; and also saw the same public concern with the intention to sell the old Picton Fire Hall among others.

“I got a lot of emails and phone calls supporting this motion,” he said. “It came apparent quickly that there seem to be flaws on the process of how we discuss these applications and get it known out in the public.”

Advertising zoning or Official Plan amendments in the newspaper haven’t been enough, he said, to give the public an understanding of what the zoning means.

“It either has to be more detailed, or more information or a further reach on major developments so more people get involved right at the beginning… understand what is really going on… We have to make sure people are more involved, and education in our process. I’m open to hearing ideas.”

Councillor Steve Ferguson agreed.

“We owe it to the public on major issues to give them respect of proper notification and the ability to research and understand the processes and decisions we are about to make,” he said. “A perfect example is the meeting on Monday on short-term accommodations that the public certainly voiced concerns and questions that needed consideration. We need to provide more information and to engage the public… especially on issues that relate to broad public interest.”

Councillor David Harrison said “otherwise, it seems council is not transparent.”

Councillor O’Brien noted that in the interest of transparency “we need to do a better job of engaging the public.”

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  1. Dennis Fox says:

    Right on Mark! This last minute concern about communicating with the public is a bit of a joke, considering this council’s record. They lost me when they ignored their own public survey results. The final decision on council size violated their own process, as advertised to the public and it was a model that was rejected by the public and by council itself! It was game time for them – at our expense. And now they want us to believe they want to hear from us – yeah right!

    I also find it disturbing that those who are now running for council (both incumbents and new)have not presented their platform to the electorate. While interesting and a little informative, the column in The Times is not enough to educate the public as to who to vote for. Knowing that a candidate is 6th generation or that another has a passion for the County, tells us nothing. I want to know what they believe are the challenges and what real ideas/solutions do they have to address them. What is their vision of where they want to see PEC go in the future and how do they plan to make that happen? Equally as important, I would like to see a candidate who really understands what a community with a declining population of 24,000 can realistically afford and what plan do they have to turn this most important and basic problem around.

  2. Mark says:

    How could you have had more public consultation on Concil size reform? The public were totally rejected. That’s what is ironic. Not forgotten!

  3. Gary Mooney says:

    Isn’t it ironic that some people complain when Council does nothing, and continue complaining when Council does something?

  4. Gary says:

    The public should ask each and every campaigner at the door there position on Council representation. To me this present Council will forever be remembered as the one’s that waffled on voter equity. They had an opportunity to make positive change . They failed miserably.

  5. Dennis Fox says:

    Gary – I agree with you 100% !! How can our council justify, (considering what Toronto City Council is now facing)that a PEC councillor now represents on average 1500 taxpayers, while a Toronto councillor (if Ford gets his way) will represent over 110,000 ratepayers – and ours feel they are overworked! Even after the rigged change, 14 councillors to represent 24,000 is ridiculous. If it wasn’t so sad, it would be laughable. Has anyone noticed that no one running for council has even mentioned the size of council in this election? I hope they don’t think the public have forgotten.

  6. Gary says:

    True and on base. I am very disappointed to be casting a vote for one voice at the Horseshoe while others are provided the luxury of voting and having 3 voices. I have been disenfranchised, so I do not have voter equity with my neighbors. This Council let me down and I am not as important as my friends. I see no fair resolution coming. I am just less!

  7. Dennis Fox says:

    The topic of this article is about Council wanting to find better ways to enhance public consultation. The concern, as expressed by a previous writer, is not about finding suspicion about everything Council wants to do, however, Council deserves to be criticized for this latest false effort. After almost 4 years in office and within weeks of the election, they now want to find better ways to communicate with the public? A person would have to be so naive to think there was no connection, that they rise to council’s defence. Same old, same old.

  8. Dennis Fox says:

    It appears that the issues of short term accommodations and affordable housing are being confused and tied to one another -they are entirely separate issues. If the public are doubtful about council’s motives at this time, just prior to election time – then who can blame them? Council has broken some very key promises to this community and have spent a lot of tax money on doubtful decisions – they deserve to be questioned and scrutinized!

    I too believe that council should continue to be active through this time period – the STA issue is a good one. But jumping on the bandwagon for affordable housing is highly questionable. For a community of 24,000 and declining – the only way for affordable housing to be created here is for either the province, the feds or a major developer to build it. Since none of the above have stepped forward, I believe it has become a red herring municipal election issue that should not be defended. But why do I feel that the same old, same old is destined to repeat itself?

  9. Gary Mooney says:

    It seems that there is suspicion that anything Council does currently is because of the coming election. How about giving Council the benefit of the doubt and accept that they are just doing the job for which they were elected?

    As with affordable housing and short-term accommodations, this initiative to improve communications with the community is highly commendable. But some improvements have already been made.

    A case in point is short-term rentals. There was a survey offered which attracted an astonishing 1500 reponses. Then there was a public meeting, held in both Picton and Wellington. Lots of input to assist County staff and consultants in coming up with a proposed approach.

    Now another public meeting to present draft regulations, attended by 200 people, with many good suggestions being made to allow further improvement of the regs.

    Councillor Forrester has raised the issue of communications regarding proposed development projects and zoning changes. Currently, advance notification is the responsibility of the proponent, and often ends up being inadequate. County government needs to become proactive in ensuring that major initiatives are made public before they come to Council for consideration.

  10. Gary says:

    Well put! Council size debacle haunts this Council forever. They ignored the public and left so many without voter equity once again heading into another election.

  11. Dennis Fox says:

    What Council wants to do sounds reasonable – the fact the election is just around the corner, I’m sure has nothing to do with their sudden desire to keep the public better informed and involved. That is until the question of council size comes up – then most run for cover including the ones who speak so openly in this article. Four years ago many of those being quoted in this article promised in the Wellington Times Survey to downsize council – but then broke that promise to the public. Even after receiving more public input from a Council survey, they still ignored the public and did what they wanted to do.

    Is it by coincidence that this topic has now come up at council?

    Sorry it is not what any staff report can do that will help the public – it is getting politicians who will listen to them and being honest too. Far too many in this group of councillors have proven that they have not earned the public’s vote. Hopefully the public will remember who they are on voting day – from council size, to the firing of the CAO, to the buying of a useless $700K convenience store, high water rates and finally because of their broken promise forced another OMB Hearing on council size costing the taxpayers another $250K!! Ask yourself who has really done the job? For those few who have, then vote for them – but don’t allow anymore pretenders back in – and that’s most of them!

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