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Picton councillors tackle County concerns during virtual/TV town hall

Councillors Kate MacNaughton and Phil St.-Jean during their virtual/TV town hall meeting.

By Sharon Harrison
Participants in the recent virtual/TV town hall meeting hosted by councillors Kate MacNaughton and Phil St.-Jean wanted to know when construction was ending at Main and Talbot; about shaming people not wearing masks; updates on housing projects, the police, and plans for noxious weeds and shoulder trimming, among issues.

When St-Jean and MacNaughton held their first public meeting in June 2019, it was to be the first in a series of informal public gatherings. Last week’s hour-long virtual town hall meeting was broadcast from Benson Hall, live both on Eastlink cable channel and the Picton Kinsmen YouTube.

“Originally, Kate and I had planned to do a live in-person town hall meeting at the historic Picton Town Hall and unfortunately COVID happened, so that changed everything – in everybody’s lives – including our ways to reach out to the community.”

While the virtual meeting was not interactive, the public was given the opportunity to submit questions ahead of time.

Betty, a Picton resident, asked about shaming people not wearing masks.

“It’s so important that we be respectful of everybody,” said St.-Jean. “We don’t know everybody’s situation. Some people just cannot wear a mask for medical reasons or otherwise…If you can wear one, please do because it’s a proven fact that masks will make us safer, and will help us to get through this faster.”

“Kindness is a very important quality to be putting out in the community right now,” added MacNaughton. “But I also know we’ve got a lot of people coming in that aren’t neighbours: give them a wide breadth if they are not behaving in a way that makes you comfortable. It is a much better way to approach it rather than confrontation.”

Betty also asked about social distancing after the tourist season is over, barring any outbreaks.

St-Jean said the municipality is controlled by the province when it comes to a lot of the regulations.

“We are in Stage 3 and I don’t believe we are going to step back any time soon; this is going to be here for a while, and think long-term.”

MUSEUMS, HALLS & LIBRARIES
MacNaughton spoke about the re-opening of the County museums in a restricted, limited way for Macaulay Heritage Park (Macaulay House and Museum), and Wellington Museum.
She noted Wellington Museum will have limited spaces made available to community or arts groups who may need to pivot to larger spaces or access larger outdoor areas, but they will also have some restricted tourism at those locations.

Libraries are now open, but are also offering online resources.

“There will be limits to how many patrons can be inside any of the buildings based on public health’s mandate which is based on square footage,“ said MacNaughton.

St-Jean said all municipal town halls will be allowed to be opened from July 31, with limited capacity based on square footage. For example, the Picton Town Hall will be allowed up to 34 bodies to allow for physical distancing. Openings will be done on a graduated basis.

“There are challenges with each of them; deep cleanings are required and we have to be sure all of the appropriate safety protocols are in place.”

St-Jean also addressed the openings during Stage 2 of businesses, particularly restaurants and bars who were hit the hardest in the community.

“Our businesses stepped up and all of these wonderful local people who were struggling through the shut down, they are so resilient, they have been so creative to try and stay alive and service the public,” he said. “I am impressed with the amount of support locals have given the businesses as well.”

St-Jean also noted that council approved an interim bylaw for the parking spaces to be utilized by certain businesses, on request.

PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT
MacNaughton said development in Picton topped the list of emails she received in the past month.

Nicky, from Picton, asked about the Rollins sub-division being built on farmland.

“I get that we need houses, but is there anything we can do to prevent other pieces of good farmland from going in the same direction?” she asked.

MacNaughton noted many of the areas slated for development in Wellington, Picton and Rossmore are farmland, whether it is zoned as farmland or not.

“We have an overarching guideline for development that Ontario municipalities have which lays out what the community allows for development in the region, and in relation to that plan there are secondary plans and they talk about more specific areas within a region,” explained MacNaughton.

“In our case, they lay out a boundary for area to be developed in Picton, it is no longer zoned farmland, it is zoned for future development,” she said. “We are getting a new OP [Official Plan], when we start consulting on that OP we might have an opportunity to look at the boundaries laid out in our Secondary Plan.”

St-Jean addressed a question posed by Picton resident, Sue, who asked about sewer and water infrastructure with new developments.

“The capacity is there,” said St-Jean. “As everybody knows, there was a very expensive treatment plant put in that is not operating at full capacity. It is well below its rated capacity and the reason it was built to that size was to encompass all of the identified capacity in the Secondary Plan.”

The new proposed development ‘Loyalist Heights’ sub-division was also mentioned.

“The developer has reached out to the public and we know there is another one coming, but they haven’t even made an application yet. We know there are a lot of implications on the community, particularly Waring’s Creek headwaters are in that general area,” he said.

St-Jean said this is a change we are going to start seeing and the public needs to be aware there is going to be more of this, he said. “You need to participate in the community discussion, don’t just sit back, I want to hear from you.”

MacNaughton noted the municipality has a new public consultation page on its website which she said was a place to find out about upcoming developments.

Sue also asked for thoughts on all new developments planned or proposed for the Picton area, noting a quick count is well over a 1,000 units in the pipeline. “Can our community and its infrastructure accommodate this level of development that is happening so quickly and how does it fit with maintaining the community’s character?”

St-Jean said the infrastructure is not a problem. “Whether the community wants it is another question,” he said, emphasizing again that community public engagement is important. “You need to be aware of what’s going on in your community and you need to participate.”

MacNaughton acknowledged that the challenges for engagement right now are considerable.

FORMER QUEEN ELIZABETH SCHOOL
Vicky asked if there was any information related to the former Queen Elizabeth Public School, a property declared surplus by the school board, and if construction was still planned for the land just west of the school property and behind Jasper Avenue.

St-Jean said they had no new information.

“There is certainly a very big interest on our part as a municipality, much like the purchase of Pinecrest School (for housing). We are very much interested in going down that route with Queen Elizabeth school,” said St-Jean.

The undeveloped piece of land between Jasper Avenue and the former school is known as the Barker Street development.

“The developer has forced it to go to an LPAT (Local Planning Appeal Tribunal) which is an Ontario Municipal Board hearing,” confirmed St-Jean. “That occurred for the first time about three years ago, and it’s still there. There is nothing happening right because it’s tied up with lawyers and developers.”

MacNaughton said what was proposed was a mix of family dwellings, a large apartment building and smaller lot town homes.

POLICING/MENTAL HEALTH
Alison Kelly asked if council had discussed police teaming up with mental health workers on wellness checks.

The OPP here embraces that, said MacNaughton, adding council has tasked the community and the CEDC (Community Economic Development Commission) with looking at the community’s safety and well-being plan that the OPP has put into action.

“They consulted with other organizations and focused on a life-long, well-being plan for community members.”

“Our OPP are ahead of the game. They have one of the first (plans) in Ontario, one of seven only, so they are trying to transform how they can move from getting involved after the fact, to preventing crime in the first place by giving people the support they need,” said MacNaughton.

“Our local OPP have been working on this for about a year, spearheaded by Staff Sergeant John Hatch.”

On average, the PEC OPP receive three mental health calls a week.

“They have developed a team approach called IMPACT (Integrated Mobile Police and Crisis Team) which they are hoping to launch as soon as possible.”

It is a crisis team with mental health workers who will go out to people who are in crisis and need intervention, and the police are there purely in a support capacity, said MacNaughton.

CONSTRUCTION
Another question from the public came from Andy who asked when the construction at the LCBO will be finished.

St-Jean confirmed the work in the Talbot/Lake area is expected to be substantially complete Sept. 4 and added the construction at Hill and Fairfield streets is to be completed by approximately Sept. 26.

MILLENNIUM TRAIL
Sue asked when the wild parsnip along the Millennium Trail would be cut.

St-Jean noted maintenance of the Millennium Trail had been put on hold due to COVID-19. He expects weed control and shoulder cutting will likely be done within next two weeks. He said there is great concern over some of the noxious weeds, like wild parsnip, noting there is a lot of it all over the County and said it is extremely difficult to get rid of, and cutting it is not the solution.

FEMININE HYGIENE PRODUCTS
Alison Kelly asked about providing free access to menstrual products in public washrooms in the County. MacNaughton noted the school board has already implemented this.

“It is something that gets overlooked with people experiencing poverty,” MacNaughton said, adding if there was an opportunity to do a pilot, the budgetary considerations would be minimal.

“It’s time has come and we just need to do it,” added St-Jean.

COMMITTEE AGE REQUIREMENTS
Kelly also asked what can be done to reduce age requirements for committees, noting it would be good to see more youth voices sharing living experiences .

“This is my favourite question of the night, and I cannot agree more,” said MacNaughton. “I would love to see age requirements for committees change to the voting age,” she said. “The moment you change the voting age to 16, suddenly, automatically all applicants to committees can be considered without any extra rigamarole.”

MacNaughton said there are ways right now where council can waive the terms of reference to allow someone young to participate on committees.

“Right now, we’ve got that step,” she said. “And we have a round of recruitment right now for four committees, and if we do get some youth applications, I think that will be very exciting. I am always looking for ways to engage younger people more.”

St-Jean said, “We need more youth to be involved; people in their 20s need to step-up.”

The video of the councillors town hall can be viewed at the Picton Kinsmen Bingo YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lXhp1roIMs.

There are a number of ways the public can engage with the municipality. The councillors suggest the best way is by phone at 613-476-2148 or email info@pecounty.on.ca Councillors Kate McNaughton and Phil St-Jean welcome questions at:
kmacnaughton@pecounty.on.ca or 613-921-1200 (Kate MacNaughton); pst-jean@pecounty.on.ca or 613-242-0478 (Phil St-Jean).

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