Bill 23 could threaten South Glengarry waterfront development control

In this November 2021, file photo, a waterfront development lot in Summerstown, Ont. South Glengarry is concerned a provincial bill to fast track housing could undo protections in place for waterfront lots in the township. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

WILLIAMSTOWN – South Glengarry’s planner is worried provincial legislation could undo some protections for waterfront housing development in the township.

The Ontario government’s Bill 23, called the More Homes Built Faster Act, is currently in a public comment review period and is meant to streamline red tape for home construction.

In a letter to municipal councils, Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark called it a “bold and transformative action” to build 1.5 million homes in Ontario in the next decade.

Speaking to council Monday, Planning General Manager Joanne Haley called the legislation “definitely interesting” and said the township would be affected by five different schedules under the act.

Haley says once of the biggest changes would affect site plan control on waterfront development and redevelopment of waterfront lots for single family homes. The control was put in place in 2010 as the township dealt with “an abundance” of drainage and grading complaints, mostly perpetuated by raised septic beds.

The site plan control process, which can take anywhere from 30 days to six months, is automatically triggered for development on the south sides of County Road 2 and South Service Road in South Glengarry.

“What I’m reading is we can’t have site plan control for developments of 10 residential units or less. So it will be interested to see how we’re going to capture some of those grading and drainage issues. Maybe we don’t. But in speaking with lawyers…there was comments made we will be looking at development agreements that’s still permitted under the Municipal Act to capture areas of concerns for councils,” Haley explained.

Haley said the media coverage of permit exemptions under the proposed legislation has been “skewed a little bit,” suggesting that development could happen in wetland areas but she believes it’s been “taken out of context.”

She added that a “big significant change” would allow the Ontario Land Tribunal to award legal costs to the municipality for cases deemed frivolous and be able to dismiss frivolous appeals. In the past, awarding costs was “very rare,” Haley said.

The legislation would also limit third party appeal for zoning amendments and minor variances, which Haley said could knock about 20 days to the development process. “Decisions of councils would be binding. Again, I need to learn more to truly understand how that process is going to lay out.”

Coun. Martin Lang, chairman of the board for the Raisin Region Conservation Authority (RRCA), called the situation “worrisome” and “almost as if this was planned” while municipal councils are changing with a limited comment period. “Hopefully that’s not what they (the Ontario government) were up to.”

Lang says conservation authorities have “some serious questions with it” and are quite concerned about freezing of development fees and not allowing the RRCA to work with municipalities on development applications. “Some of the comments we receive tonight you may not receive anymore from the conservation authorities. So then is the municipality going to have to hire somebody to do this or Joanne going to have another person on staff to make some of these comments, to assess some of these issues that are going to still be out there.”

Lang said he has a draft letter from the conservation authorities, including RRCA, that will probably come to councils to sign.

RRCA General Manager Richard Pilon told Cornwall Newswatch a joint letter from the 10 Eastern Ontario conservation authorities will be ready to submit to the province’s standing committee by Nov. 17.

Haley is expected to “have something” for the Nov. 21 council meeting but didn’t know how much more information would be available. The 30 day comment period on the legislation closes Nov. 24.

Haley added that she “heard through the grapevine” that the province plans to pass the legislation very quickly – possibly to become law before the Christmas holidays.