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Councillor 'disgusted' with length of Official Plan review

Dutrisac has long fought to make it easier for residents who own land zoned for agriculture to split up and sell their land.
While one city councillor is anxious to make it easier for agricultural land to be divided and sold in Greater Sudbury, required changes to the Official Plan has taken years. However, the lengthy process of revising the city's main planning document should be complete sometime in the first quarter of 2015. File photo.
Dutrisac has long fought to make it easier for residents who own land zoned for agriculture to split up and sell their land. Current rules strictly limit how the land can be split up and sold, with an eye on ensuring there is enough land for agriculture, and to direct residential development to areas with existing municipal services.

But meeting in November, the planning committee supported an option Dutrisac brought forward that would make it much easier for landowners to divide and sell their properties.

She reacted angrily when told that no decisions have been made yet on revisions to the Official Plan. She was under the impression that the relaxed rules were already part of the revised plan. If not, then what was the point of the November meeting? she asked.

“I feel as though I have been mislead,” Dutrisac said. “What's the role of public consultation? What's the role of council?”

City planner Mark Simeoni said the meeting in November, and well as the one held Monday, was part of the consultation process. It's a lengthy, but necessary, part of formulating the revised plan, he said.

Any changes in policy will be included in the draft revised Official Plan, which will be sent to the province for review. Then it will come back to planning committee, then head to a final round of public consultations. That process should be completed in the first quarter of 2015.

“There was no intention to mislead,” Simeoni said. “We simply presented a policy discussion on the issue.”

Ward 7 Coun. Dave Kilgour, who chairs planning, said the time for council to make decisions on the revisions is getting closer.

“We don't make any firm decisions on this until it goes to the final draft,” he said.

But Dutrisac said farmers have been struggling for years because of provincial land restrictions. Only big farm operations are viable, which means many people have land they can't farm successfully, and they can't divide it up and sell it.

“I'm disgusted with this whole process,” she said. “I have nothing to gain personally from this. I'm just listening to the people of Sudbury who want change.”

When he was introducing the report at the start of the meeting, Paul Baskcomb, the city's acting general manager of growth and development, said it's easy to think a review of the OP would be a quick process.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Baskcomb said. “This is the most import planning document in this community. While it's talking time, I think you'll agree it's time well spent.”

For the first time, the Official Plan will include the effects of climate change as part of the planning process, and preparing for an older population is also being factored in. The Official Plan is the document that is the basis for all zoning and other land use decisions in Greater Sudbury.

The Plan is updated periodically, and is meant to guide planning for the next 20 years. While it must conform to provincial planning rules, there's considerable room for local decisions on how to best guide development in the city.

In broad terms, the review evaluates, for example, whether there is enough residential, agricultural and other types of land in the city to meet projected demand. It also re-enforces the intensification policy, where most development takes place in areas already serviced by municipal water, sewer, roads, etc.

That maximizes the use of existing services, while reducing demand for expanding infrastructure into new areas. The plan tries to balance the need for intensification, while respecting the existing character of residential neighbourhoods.

Darren MacDonald

About the Author: Darren MacDonald

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