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Virtual look at Official Plan highlights land in the County

West Point and the Lakeview Trail along the shore of West Point and the MacDonald Trail that allows visitors to see the many trees that have been planted during the rehabilitation of the former MacDonald farm lands. – John Brebner file photo

By Sharon Harrison
A live-streamed information session on the draft Official Plan Wednesday evening gave the public a further opportunity to learn more about Prince Edward County’s Official Plan – a document that clarifies how the County will grow and develop over the next 25 years.

Michael Michaud, Manager of Planning with the municipality, gave a brief overview of the Official Plan, specifically highlighting three key areas where he has made changes. He noted they have received a lot of feedback on the document, all of which he has read prior to starting to formulating changes.

Relatively new to the position, Michaud said in his first week on the job he was tasked with renewing the current draft and making any changes, something he acknowledged has been a long time coming.

“We were looking to try and get it approved in December this year, and that has now dragged into January, which is normal for a larger document of that size,” said Michaud.

He said his task was to effectively pare down the document because it was fairly long.

“My task was mainly to reduce some of the wording and get rid of some of the policies that were maybe duplicated, or some of the wording that was there just to add a bit more information, but didn’t really add significantly to the policies.”

He stressed that the Official Plan is a live document, meaning it can be changed based on information that comes forward from time to time.

“We work on it fairly consistently,” he said.

“It is not static; we don’t write it and leave it for 25 years because things change, technology changes, the way of doing things changes, some new policies come into play and we want to upgrade the document and have a better vision for the community.”

“This document is superior to the previous document, but it may not check every box,” he said, noting the document is sometimes a little open-ended which allows for some interpretation.

“Not everything is black and white in the world; planning is a lot of shades of grey and we try and invent some interpretation into that for different scenarios,” he explained. “Nonetheless, It is a vision of our community typically and every five years we ask council if they want to re-look at any policies within that document.”

Michaud explained that council may see things that aren’t working even within year two and will ask staff to make changes and bring forward newer policies or more relevant policies to council for their consideration.

He noted how other plans feed into the Official Plan in order to have one cohesive vision for the community, such as the transportation master plan, the infrastructure master plan, some components of the tourism plan as well as the economic development plan.

The first of three changes Michaud is proposing concerns severances.

“Severances are degrading the vision for this community,” he said.

“When I arrived, I always heard that one vision is the quiet quaint rural community focused on agriculture and a lot of great environmental components to it,” said Michaud.

“The way you destroy that vision is by a thousand cuts with severances by creating smaller pieces of property here, there and everywhere throughout your community until the point where some of your pastoral rural roads end up being nothing but strip development and you are not really seeing what the community is all about.”

He also raised the point of water when it comes to severances.

“I keep hearing about how we are surrounded on three sides by water, but the land has no water,” he says. “Every severance requires a well of some sort and the more wells that are used and the more water that is being taken out of the community, the less water is available for agriculture or for existing residents that might have to fight for water now.”

He said severances were a negative contribution toward the vision of the community.

Speaking to reducing the amount of severances from two to one, he noted that there are currently 510 vacant lands within the rural and shore land designation that are greater than 0.8 hectares in size.

“With 500 properties sitting vacant, why do we need more? That represents about eight years of growth based on today’s 50/50 split of development.“

Addressing a question from the public, Michaud confirmed that a severance is a splitting off of an individual piece of property from a larger property.

“Typically you need a minimum two acres (0.8 hectares) to comfortably have a septic system and a well and the separation distances from those two components.”

He said there is currently a policy in place to allow two of those lots per larger parcel within the rural area and within a shoreline designation.

“The more we sever off our land, the more we get away from what Prince Edward County is all about and what the vision is.“

Michaud spoke to Prince Edward County not having a lot of water within its bedrock system.

“Without a lot of water to support these residential uses within a rural area, you end up in a situation where you have a dug well which is more susceptible to contamination, and or you can’t find water at all, or run out of water in a drought, and you need to truck water in.”

Looking at growth over the last five or six years, Michaud noted that 50 percent of growth is within severances (such as country lots and sub-divisions within shore land designation and rural land designation), and 50 percent is within settlement areas.

“This is contrary to the provincial policy statement under the Planning Act of Ontario which really wants municipalities to focus their growth within settlement areas,” noted Michaud. “That’s were growth is supposed to go.”

Settlement areas are communities such as Picton, who are on full services, to other settlement areas, such as Waupoos, who have no services.

Michaud notes that Section 1.1.1 of the provincial policy statement talks about land use and the ability to grow communities from within, make them more complete communities, make them more walkable and bikeable and active modes of transportation.

“If we have most of our development in our rural area, every time you want to get a bag of milk or you want to visit somebody, you have to get in your car, so you a create car centric society.”

He reminded that council has declared a climate emergency.

“Every time we get in our car, we are using fossil fuels. The Canadian government website indicates 25 to 27 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector of which private vehicles are a component of that: more compact communities allows us to be more environmentally-friendly from our fossil fuel footprint.”

He noted that the more development there is within a rural area, the more conflicts there are going to be especially with the farming community.

“Just because a property is designated rural, it doesn’t mean that it is poor agricultural land. A lot of times, you will get class one and two lands that are outliers from the main agricultural lands that are still viable and still farmable, even class three and four from a farming standpoint.”

Michaud spoke to natural core areas, noting the way the policy is written is ambiguous.

The term ‘large scale development’ means something different to 10 people, noted Michaud.

Further, he notes that the term ‘major development’ in the Official Plan is defined as ‘any development over 500 square metres of impervious surface, which could be rooftop, asphalt, concrete, etc.

“As soon as you make that threshold of 500 metres, you become major development and that seem to be a better, more definitive term to use in that scenario.”

“The policy is written, in my estimation, in a poor form in that I am not sure whether it means all the natural heritage areas. My interpretation at this point is that all the natural core areas, if it’s a major development, it’s not permitted.”

He said there is also a component of the policy that talks about if its Official Plan amendments that proposes this type of major development, then it’s only those that are permitted.

Michaud said there needs to be some clarification and noted he will be meeting with the author of the report in early December.

“We will get a little bit more clarity from what was meant by that particular policy and provide the general public and council with a bit more information on how to interpret that policy.”

A statutory public meeting for the Official Plan will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 15 and will be live-streamed on the County’s YouTube channel. The Official Plan will then be sent to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing for approval in early 2021.

The public are encouraged to provide feedback on the draft Official Plan at https://haveyoursay.thecounty.ca/ The video of the meeting can be viewed on the County’s YouTube channel.

 

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  1. Gary Mooney says:

    I hope that people commenting here will copy these comments to the County’s “Have Your Say” web page so that their comments will be considered.

  2. angela says:

    I was one of those young people with not much prospect of getting a good job in my home community. The county did not give me a well paying job but I never resented that. I found work in Belleville and commuted. I am grateful that in many ways Prince Edward County resisted change for a long time. It is a unique place and I am not convinced that newcomers fully understand that. They love the wineries, the scenery, the culture brought here by talented outsiders but have no real idea of what makes the locals tick. Some of us feel a deep sadness about what has and is being done to our county. It is highly unlikely that we will ever feel gratitude to those who renovated our “crumbling” houses and now seek to “modernize” our harbour with restaurants and boardwalks.

  3. Ign says:

    ….as if on cue! I don’t believe I stated nor implied that the influx of businesses or tourists had somehow ‘rescued’ anyone but in my opinion it’s disingenuous to also position everything (and sadly everyone) that is new as somehow a scourge on the County and that somehow the prospects for the area 40 years ago were better than they are today. Perhaps it’s a generational thing but I’m sure if you could go back in time and ask the youth of the County in 1980 what they thought of the area and their prospects in it and then compare it to their responses today they would paint a very different picture. Certainly there are challenges and issues, key amongst them affordable housing, but these are not unique to the County or even the country and their solution does not reside in throwing out the proverbial baby with the bath water.

  4. Susan says:

    Up and down Paul St in Picton houses are selling in a week from $700,000 to $1,000,000. How does that sustain a vibrant community with youth and aged?

  5. Gary says:

    In fairness I truly believe “WE” speaks to the majority of locals who living thru Covid are somewhat tired of development for the needs of the rich or uncaring visitors looking for fun times.

  6. angela says:

    Those crumbling houses were the unpretentious homes of many local families. Thanks to the newcomers and tourists for “saving” us. Now we have luxury houses that cost up to a million dollars or more but the only problem is locals cannot afford to live in them. We have been rescued from our rose-tinted past and given a supposedly shining future. Funny, but we never realized how little we had or how much we needed to be reinvented as the tourist capital of Ontario. Strange how happy one can be if one does not know any better.

  7. Ign says:

    Totally agree Dave Thomas, sadly there are a very vocal few on sites such as these that resolutely refuse to acknowledge any positives from both development and tourism…instead they lament the loss of a rather rose tinted past complete with declining population, closing canneries, exodus of youth, crumbling houses, closing schools and little inward investment. Nobody would argue that change can be difficult and that not all of the changes the County is experiencing are positive, but to dismiss and complain about everything is frankly getting tired. …..and one final point, when you are complaining please refrain from broad pronouncements of “we” don’t want/like/need …you don’t speak for all of us!

  8. angela says:

    Some years ago members of the yacht club decided that a boardwalk would be a wonderful addition. It would stretch from the club house to Chimney Point (the old water purification plant). A great idea except no one gave a second thought to the residents of Hill Street. That new boardwalk would have run directly below their homes. There were major concerns re loss of privacy, the potential for a carelessly tossed cigarette starting a fire on the embankment and the noise factor. A petition was started and the plan was abandoned. If you have “modernization” of the harbour with restaurants etc and built a boardwalk you will be invading the privacy of all the families who live along its planned route. This year showed us just how boisterous and rude tourists can be. They demonstrated no respect for private property. In what universe would you turn them loose virtually in local residents’ backyards? I am sure they would not mind leaving their garbage along the way, answering Nature’s call if required and otherwise making life miserable for homeowners on Hill Street. A beautiful, natural harbour is being turned into a playground for tourists as is the rest of our county. When does this insanity stop? It is not the locals calling for boardwalks but who cares about them?

  9. DAVE THOMAS says:

    There is lots of room for improvement. Too many of these arguments fail to consider that there is middle ground to be found between those who wish to improve versus those who want to keep things the way they are. A good example is the County wineries. I am sure there was opposition to those when they first started sprouting up but I for one feel that they have been a welcome addition to the cultural and community fabric of the area. The skateboard park has been a resounding success. Anyone thinking about improving the harbour isn’t thinking about putting up a ferris wheel ride. How about just being able to walk along the harbour front? Wouldn’t that be nice? Currently not really possible.

  10. angela says:

    Picton Harbour does not need “modernization”. We do not want to become Little Toronto. Why is it that the minute some newcomers land here they seek to improve us? Soon all that set the county apart will be gone.

  11. Dave says:

    There are quite a few home builders who would go out of business with this plan since they can’t obtain the land and funding for a whole subdivision.

    Also it would significantly hurt farming families if they can’t sever their land for their kids or to fund their retirement etc.

    There are large areas of the county that simply are not good for agriculture. Why refuse to allow it to be developed?

    Does the water and sewer facilities have the capacity for all this growth? Probably not, so now who pays for that?

    I find the following statement is nonsense:

    “Every severance requires a well of some sort and the more wells that are used and the more water that is being taken out of the community, the less water is available for agriculture or for existing residents that might have to fight for water now.”

    Water is being taken out of the community? What? It is being taken out of the ground.
    Also water for agriculture mostly comes from rain. Very few farms irrigate their fields.

    If there is concern about the water table then make the lot sizes larger and mandate cisterns in rural new builds.

  12. Luc says:

    Torontonians here. We absolutely adore PEC. We’ve been planning a big move for our family but specifically for our son who has Autism. The pandemic was the final blow for us. We’re not your typical city folk either.

    Maintaining the integrity of the county is critical for a healthy and prosperous future. Locals must come first. Schools, hospitals, businesses, streets and roads, and yes, green space, trees, and the environment need to be maintained and protected.

    It’s no secret anymore. Torontonians are flocking. The county should be future-forward for its citizens first and must remain strong and unshakable in its history, charm, and character.

    Any and all new developments have a significant impact on the environment and character of the towns. Building “out” is very challenging and should only be pursued with advanced and strategical planning.

    We’ve found walking on the main streets actually quite dangerous as all the action is there. The traffic tends to get a little aggressive in many parts of the county’s main roads. Both Picton and Wellington could benefit from moving crowds to other streets via attractions and businesses.

    Also, it’s shocking to see that Picton Harbour is so dated (and quiet). It would be such a dream to modernize the area and marina with boardwalks, restaurants and a small amphitheatre.

    We’re entrepreneurs with two creative kids looking to build a life elsewhere. PEC has so much going for it and we hope that the people in charge can (and will) make the right decisions moving forward. We also hope that families like ours are welcome to help create change and participate in the decision making.

    Happy to be here. Thanks for listening.

    Luc L.

  13. Dan says:

    Mr. Michaud, respectfully, severances are a product of a piecemeal approach to planning and development by many councils and staff over a 30 year period. The impact of which today is that I cannot sever lots for my children in the tradition of farming and managing the land as my family has done here since 1840.

    So instead of allowing farmers and landowners to manage their land as they have done for centuries and allow for reasonable severances, we have folks moving here and buying hundreds of acres of farmland to build a house when they only need an acre or two. Will l be forced to sell my whole farm to then turn around and buy over-priced lots so my kids can afford to live here?

    As others have said, the county’s approach demonstrates closed a closed mindedness that is leads us further away from where we should be. Your suggestion that we can’t move forward with reasonable development due to fear of rural ‘strip developments’ is necessarily hyperbolic and unhelpful.

    Meaningful consultation please. Listen please.

  14. Ign says:

    Acknowledging that it is often difficult to pick up on the nuances of what someone is saying from a second hand report such as this is, it’s never the less equally challenging not to feel after reading this report that the call for feedback is merely paying lip service to a ‘done deal’. It’s clear that Mr. Michaud has very strong views on severances and concerning to me that it appears that many of the changes and ‘proposals’ being presented originate directly from those personal views and ‘vision’ for our community . Phrases such as …..severances are ‘degrading’ or ‘destroying’ or a ‘negative contribution’ to the ‘ vision for this community’, or characterising our rural development to date as ‘leading to nothing but strip developments’ don’t suggest to me an open mind.

    I continue to feel that what little ‘consultation’ is currently happening on the Official Plan during an unprecedented health crisis is both ineffective and, frankly, negligent for such a crucially important and far reaching document.

  15. Teena Karsai says:

    I don’t suppose banning airb&b’s and STA’s within ALL town limits would occur to anyone? Free these homes for living in full time or long term rentals where the darned owners actually live in the County so they can be reached in person for emergencies instead of empty streets off-season. A full on bed and breakfast where the owners live on the premises full time and actually serve a full breakfast (what a concept!), as well as hotels with full time staff should be exempt.

  16. ChrisW says:

    “Typically you need a minimum two acres (0.8 hectares) to comfortably have a septic system and a well and the separation distances from those two components.”

    Steeped in history now, but the community out at Prinyers Cove should never have been allowed.

  17. Bob Burkinshaw says:

    It is good to see the focus on making the urban areas walkable. It has been a surprise to see how many areas of Picton don’t have sidewalks. For example, the lack of a sidewalk connecting the newish Pine Ridge development to town is a big surprise. I hope that the planting of street trees also becomes mandatory in any new development. Some newish areas of Picton without street trees are as bleak looking as any I have seen anywhere in Ontario.

  18. Ign says:

    Phrases such as …..severances are ‘degrading’ or ‘destroying’ or a ‘negative contribution’ to the ‘ vision for this community’, or characterising our rural development to date as ‘leading to nothing but strip developments’ don’t suggest to me an open mind.

    I continue to feel that what little ‘consultation’ is currently happening on the Official Plan during an unprecedented health crisis is both ineffective and, frankly, negligent for such a crucially important and far reaching document.

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