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Friday, September 30, 2022
New permit system for development discussed

The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is looking at implementing a land-use planning system that would allow more “certainty” when it comes to preserving the character of the town.

At the open house held at the town hall Tuesday, town’s planner Jesse Auspitz explained how a community planning permit system would work if a bylaw is passed.

About 25 people, comprised of community residents and developers, attended the meeting. Lord Mayor Betty Disero was on hand as well along with Couns. Stuart McCormack and Norm Arsenault.

One of the main objectives behind the system is preserving a “small-town character,” Auspitz said. A “handful” of Ontario municipalities, including Gananoque, as well as the province of Alberta have implemented the system.

The permit system provides an alternative to zoning, minor variance and site plan control processes by combining them into one application and approval. Town council or a delegated authority would be in charge of making a decision regarding issuing a development permit.

The town’s official plan will have to be amended to include policies allowing to implement the system.

The system would be applicable to the entire town of NOTL but some bylaws may be passed for certain character areas, Auspitz said.

The permit system is comprised of three components: a policy basis within the official plan, a community planning permit system bylaw and a development permit that can be issued as a planning approval.

The process of reviewing development permit applications would be expedited and would take 45 days, compared to 90 days for zoning, 30 days for site plan approval and 30 days for minor variances.

“A lot of the control comes from the forefront,” Auspitz said.

There are three stages to the process. The first one is gathering public input and adopting official plan policies. The next two steps would be passing community planning bylaws and issuing community planning permits.

Currently, neighbours can appeal the decision regarding minor variance and zoning bylaw amendments. But with the community planning permit system, only the applicant can appeal the decision. The applicant will also have 20 days to do so.

“The development industry will still have opportunities to appeal,” Lord Mayor Betty Disero said. “I just didn’t want to give the community members that are here the impression that once this is all in, nobody can appeal. I’m just trying to manage expectations.”

The public can provide their input regarding the proposed policies by making a delegation to council at the next public meeting on March 9 or by sending their written submissions to the town clerk.

Anyone, who has made a submission to council before a decision on establishing the system is made, will be able to appeal council’s decision or non-decision to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.

Once a bylaw is passed, it cannot be amended within the next five years unless decided otherwise by council.

The Village developer John Hawley commended the town for looking at the proposed system.

“I think it will provide certainty for residents,” he said. “It’s a really positive tool the town can use. It provides so much more certainty upfront.”

A draft bylaw can be viewed on the town’s website on Public Notices under the Planning Act webpage.

The next public meeting regarding the permit system will be held at the town hall at 6 p.m. on March 9.