Four more months of official plan review

A farmer near Alvinston works his fields. File Photo

Enniskillen’s mayor is hopeful county politicians can ease concerns about the draft Official Plan given a little more time.
County planning officials and politicians have been working on the road map for development in Lambton County for more than five years. In 2016, a group formed called Concerned Landowners’ Legal Defence Fund. It’s spokesperson, former Lambton Shores Deputy Mayor Elizabeth Davis-Dagg raised over 30 concerns about the document saying individual property rights will be damaged if the draft is approved. She and the group are particularly concerned about the county naming natural heritage areas, which the group believes will mean they will no longer be able to farm in certain areas.
The Concerned Landowners’ Legal Defence Fund has threatened legal action if the draft is approved and that’s something Kevin Marriott would like to avoid. He was on a committee looking at some of the group’s concerns. “I think we’re 80 per cent there,” he recently told Lambton County councillors during a meeting where they were expected to pass the document.
But Marriott wanted to delay the decision. “We have to clear the air for those people,” he says. “There are misconceptions we have to clear up. There are also things which need to be tweaked that would make this plan acceptable to a lot more people.
“We’re still working with the old (official) plan. We’re not under any pressure to pass this. The world is not going to end if we don’t pass this until fall.”
Council agreed, saying the document should return to the committee to come up with a strategy to meet with concerned landowners and explain the plan more fully and suggest any changes.
“I would rather have a good, functional official plan than a plan that is passed quickly,” agreed Sarnia City/County Councillor Andy Bruziewicz. “It needs community consensus. If it takes another four months, I can live with that.”
But St. Clair Township Mayor Steve Arnold says most of the concern is surrounding the provincial natural heritage guidelines. “If this body thinks we’re going to change the ministry’s designation on property – we’re not,” he said.
Dawn-Euphemia Mayor Al Broad sees the four-months as an “opportunity for all of county council to review the plan and make sure it is what we want.”
The group will also study a local Property Rights Council, suggested by Davis-Dagg. She says citizens who didn’t agree with the county’s decisions on their land could go to the council for appeal.
Councillors asked staff to report on the idea and how it might work.