The letters to the editor, the social media posts, the emails and the phone calls have started to ramp up prior to the June 14th special meeting to discuss the Clair/Maltby secondary plan. I fully understand why. This land use planning for the last “green field” space in our city is a big deal.
There are some common themes that have emerged regarding those that are choosing to reach out to myself, Council, city staff and the public:
1. The process is too fast
2. Developers are getting their way
3. The city doesn’t care about the environment
I want those directly impacted by this planning exercise, and those that have a keen interest in it, to know that these concerns (in my opinion) are false.
I still do not know how I will vote on either June 14th or at the ratification vote on June 25th. I have yet to see the final recommendation report from staff. The public sees the report at the exact same time as I see it. I have yet to hear from delegates and I have yet to hear from my council colleagues surrounding this issue.
And so, I’d like to share with the public a Q&A that Council received from staff due to the increase in questions around these issues above:
Dear Mayor Guthrie and Councillors,
We have received a number of inquiries asking for information regarding the Clair-Maltby timelines, so to ensure that you all have the same information, please find below a detailed response. I’ve attempted to set the context for the response by including parts of the questions/inquiries.
Project Initiation Timing – was this expedited due to pressure from the development community or as part of OMB settlement discussions?
No. It was part of our Department’s work plan to begin this project in 2015 – and we brought forward a project initiation report to Council in June 2015 to begin the Terms of Reference phase of the project. The Terms of Reference phase included community engagement and review of a draft version of the terms of reference by interested stakeholders before it was presented to Council and approved in December 2015.
With respect to OMB settlement discussions that occurred in late 2015/early 2016, we did commit to making the project a priority for the City, which is included in current OP policy (see below), and to retaining our consultant team by April 2016 to get the project started. We did retain our consulting team within that timeframe and to date, have made the project a priority.
Applicable OP policies:
220.127.116.11 Special Study Area policy for Springfield Golf course – “The completion of the Clair-Maltby Secondary Plan is a priority for the City.”
10.2.6 Secondary Plan policy – “The Clair-Maltby area, with boundaries generally identified on Schedule 2, is the only remaining greenfield area in the city that has not been comprehensively planned. The completion of a Secondary Plan for the Clair-Maltby area is a priority for the City and the Secondary Plan will be incorporated into the Official Plan through an amendment upon completion. The Secondary Plan will be prepared by the City in consultation with landowners, stakeholders and the community and approved by City Council.”
Timeline for completion/Reducing the project timeline:
When the project was being initiated in June 2015, City Council made general comments encouraging staff to find efficiencies with respect to the timeline where possible.
We presented the terms of reference to Infrastructure, Development and Enterprise Committee on December 8, 2015. The staff report for the Terms of Reference (http://guelph.ca/wp-content/uploads/IDE_agenda_120815.pdf#page=20) recommended a four year timeline for the project but also indicated that the consultants will be requested to identify opportunities for efficiencies while still meeting the requirements of the terms of reference and all applicable legislative, policy and regulatory requirements.
Accordingly, through discussions with the consultant team, efficiencies were found and the revised timeline was presented to Committee of the Whole/Council in July 2017. Along with the revised timeline, the risks associated with the revision to the timeline were highlighted in the report:
Generally, we worked to begin the groundwater monitoring as soon as possible so that 2016 would be considered a monitoring year, rather than waiting for 2017 to be the first year of groundwater monitoring. This year, 2018, will be the third year of groundwater monitoring and will be used to confirm findings to date. However, as noted in July 2017 report, if unexpected data comes back from this year, the shortened timeline may not be possible to maintain.
To clarify, the reduced timeline does not propose to reduce the scope of the work that was intended to be completed, in particular, it does not compromise the environmental review that was to be undertaken. Rather, it reduced the time we had to prepare for environmental monitoring to begin (i.e. we initially had more time to negotiate property access and dig the monitoring wells) and introduced some minor risks to the Phase 3 timing (i.e. the 12 months anticipated for phase 3 may have to be extended if the data collected this year significantly alters the findings to date).
June Council Decision:
In June, Council will be asked to approve a preferred land use plan as the basis for the next round of more detailed technical work. Council is not being asked to approve a final land use plan that designates lands and will become part of the City’s Official Plan.
The approval of this plan is critical in order for the next phase of the project to begin. The next phase will undertake:
· detailed modelling and analysis to understand the potential environmental impacts or implications of the plan in order to mitigate those impacts – mitigation could include modifications to the land use plan.
· Detailed modelling and analysis with respect to servicing, assessing the financial impacts and developing detailed policies.
Essentially, we need to know that Council is generally satisfied with where we are going from a land use perspective, to undertake the next level of detailed analysis. This is with the understanding that the next level of technical information can, and likely will, result in modifications to the land use plan. Staff expect that the plan will continue to be refined and modified as we work through our detailed analysis and develop draft policies for the secondary plan area.
As many of you recall, the project was set up to be an iterative process to allow both technical and community input to inform the project. We will continue to engage the public throughout phase 3 of the project, including meeting the statutory requirements of the Planning Act and the Environmental Assessment Act.
Pushing ‘pause’ – what are the implications?
Pushing ‘pause’ on the process would not mean that additional work would be undertaken to achieve a better understanding of the environmental implications – the work plan and timeline already allow the project team to have the required understanding (at a landscape level, appropriate to a secondary plan) before any final decisions are made. Pushing pause would only mean that project team wouldn’t be focussed on this project for the time that Council determines a pause is necessary.