Politicians expect a ‘showdown’ at OMB over Lambton official plan

A farmer near Alvinston works his fields. File Photo

Even if Lambton County Council approves the new official draft plan June 7, some politicians say it is headed for a showdown.
The County of Lambton has been revising the planning document for nearly five years. Over the last few months, a committee has been going over the major issues including how much land Plympton-Wyoming should be able to develop near the lake and concerns of landowners that the plan contains environmental rules which will stop them from using their own land.
Brooke-Alvinston Mayor Don McGugan thinks the plan is headed to the Ontario Municipal Board — no matter which way the vote goes.
According to McGugan, fears generated by landowner groups opposing the plan are “over-exaggerated.”
“That’s the way I see it,” McGugan told Brooke-Alvinston council at its regular meeting May 11.
McGugan, a former president of the Lambton Federation of Agriculture and longtime agriculture lobbyist, thinks the county has dilly-dallied long enough on the plan.
But McGugan came face-to face with the opposition which has slowed the plan. A farmer at the meeting told council he’s worried the new official plan may dictate how he can use his land.
And he wonders if he’ll be told how to manage his land by protecting species, preserving wetlands, being forced to plant vegetation buffers, and told where to plant his crops.
A number of Lambton County landowners share his concerns.
Members of the Concerned Landowners Legal Defence group have been leading the charge against the official draft plan. The organization has retained a London-area lawyer to represent its position.
McGugan believes the landowner’s fears are unfounded.
“Whatever way you’ve been working your farm, there’s no change,” McGugan explained to the man. “I’ve had calls from every mayor in the municipality and that’s what I tell them.”
Oil Springs’ Mayor Ian Veen is on the same page as McGugan.
He says it doesn’t matter which way the plan sits — it will likely go to the OMB.
“It (the draft plan) in its current form is pretty good,” Veen explains. “You’re not going to please everyone.”
In the end, it’s the province not the county that has the final say, says Veen.
Enniskillen Township Mayor Kevin Marriott is taking a more measured approach, adding he thinks problems with the plan can be worked out. There’s no urgency to pass the document, he explains.
“I, myself, would like to avoid going to the OMB,” Marriott said. “All it does is cost money. “I’m still weighing it,” he adds. “I’m still a bit undecided.”

– Pam Wright/The Independent