After years in the making and a newly-elected council determined to see its timely completion, the final approval of the Town’s official plan is within reach, but Dock Area residents, fiercely protective of their neighbourhood, are not happy with what they’ve seen in it.
It includes a secondary plan for the Dock Area, which stretches from the Melville Street town-owned dock to King Street and the beach at Queen’s Royal Park, but residents were dismayed to learn last week that some of what they thought would be protected in the plan is not.
Two open houses were held at the community centre last Wednesday, and a public meeting will be held Monday, leading to the adoption of the new official plan, which has been under development since 2015.
It replaces a document approved in 1994, and when passed by council, anticipated by the end of April, it will be sent to the Region for its approval.
The purpose of it, said consultant Rick Hunter at last week’s open house, is to “reflect local priorities, needs and aspirations.”
It has to be consistent with provincial planning policies, he said, and some of the delay has been due to the 2017 reviews of the provincial Growth Plan, Greenbelt Plan and Niagara Escarpment Plan, all of which impact the local official plan.
There have been several drafts presented in recent years —one in 2015, three in 2016 and the latest in December 2018, which incorporates comments made about earlier drafts, said Hunter.
It will still be an “interim situation,” Hunter said, while the Region completes its growth management review now underway.
The two meetings drew about 100 residents, who were given a brief presentation outlining the process to date, with consultants and planning staff on hand to answer questions.
One of the areas of concern mentioned by residents at both meetings was the town’s Dock Area which, planning director Craig Larmour explained, has three documents outlining potential development of the neighbourhood.
The official plan had an amendment approved in 2014 to incorporate the Dock Area secondary plan, but council also approved a master plan in 2015, called the Dock Area Public Realm Landscape Design Concept. Residents remember the more recent process, and pointed out discrepancies in the plans.
The secondary plans, which include those for St. Davids, Queenston and Glendale, as well as the Dock Area, form part of the official plan and are binding.
The Dock Area master plan is not part of the official plan — which is all very confusing, almost dizzying, given that in some cases they appear to be contradictory, says Dock Area resident Paul Shepherd.
He was concerned to learn at the meeting that issues he thought were settled about the future of his neighbourhood are not, or if they are, not in the way most residents would want them to be.
“A lot of what shows up in the secondary plan isn’t what we agreed on in the latest discussion,” said Shepherd.
For example, he was surprised to learn the secondary plan calls for the paving of a path along the waterfront, which residents had asked to be left in a natural state.
It shows more development, and larger houses, when many residents thought they would be protected from large homes that overpower their smaller neighbours, he said.
“There are a lot of other bits and pieces, such as changes to road patterns. It seems the official plan is not protecting the Dock Area in the way we expected it would.”
He was disappointed to learn, after following up with the planning director, that the master plan, which best reflects what most residents want for their neighbourhood, is not a binding document, he said.
While he was also told the secondary plan would be reviewed, “I’m concerned we’re relying on a review that will come after, of a document that now includes some items we’re not happy with now.”
The statutory public meeting under the Planning Act will be held Feb. 25, during the committee-of-the-whole meeting which begins at 6 p.m. in the Town Hall.
Public comments must be received by the Town by March 15.