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Niagara-on-the-Lake
Tuesday, January 31, 2023
Letter: NOTL does not yet have an approved official plan

Dear editor:

In Bob Bader's response (“Town passed its new official plan and now it's up to region,” May 19) to my recent op-ed, he questions the accuracy of my observations of the town's alleged official plan.

The simple fact is that Mr. Bader is wrong. There is no new official plan. The Region of Niagara has also not held up official plans during its own review process, as evidenced by Welland, Thorold and St. Catharines all adopting new official plans during that process over the past six years.

Our entire “new OP” process was nothing more than political gamesmanship to make it appear something was being done – and virtually everyone has fallen for it. With all due respect to Mr. Bader, several of our own town councillors were surprised to learn there is no new official plan.

In politics a kernel of truth is often used to create the illusion of an entire story's accuracy.

So, to explain, two months after the council was sworn in, and an interim control bylaw was put in place, the mayor received a letter dated February 2019 from the minister of municipal affairs recommending all towns pause their official plans as new legislation was coming that would need to be incorporated in all new plans.

However, because the interim control bylaw was in place and political promises were made, the town ignored the minister and continued ahead with the official plan process, wasting staff time and taxpayers' money, to produce a document that had no chance of ever being adopted.

This was highlighted by both the town's director of planning and the town's principal planner advising the council, in writing, that the new plan did not conform to legislation.

Regardless of staff advice, on Aug. 15, 2019, the town held a special meeting where the mayor pressured council to adopt a new official plan.

This was a full six months after Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark informed the town that the new plan likely would not conform to updated provincial policy.

In a continuing saga of wasting tax dollars, the town kept forging ahead and on Oct. 22, 2019, council passed a bylaw adopting the totally flawed official plan.

On Jan. 30, 2020, the region forwarded emailed comments from the province informing the town that its new plan did not meet provincial policy and in February 2020 the plan was kicked back to the town to start over, once it was in conformity to the policies of higher levels of government.

To the best of my knowledge NO town staff have worked on the “new” official plan since February 2020, more than two years ago.

The town is still operating with its 25-year-old official plan, no differently than the last council. It's possible that Planscapes, the town's consultant, may have been working on the document and billing taxpayers but that would be pointless until the region's plan is approved.

However, none of that matters as far as Bill 108 and second dwelling units are concerned because at any time in the past three years the town could have passed an official plan amendment allowing second dwellings in conformity with Bill 108.

As recently as Sept. 7, 2021, the Town of Pelham passed an amendment to its plan outlining the criteria and allowing secondary dwellings in residential homes. The region and the province both accepted Pelham's amendment.

With respect to my suit against the town, the matter was heard by three learned justices on April 27, 2022, at the Court of Appeal and should they rule against me then I will pay the town's legal fees as agreed. However, should I win, I promise you I will seek full compensation for every dime of damages caused by a totally politically driven circus.

As an aside, I see Mr. Bader lives in Shaw's Lane: a project we developed several decades ago, a project the naysayers of the day claimed would be the last nail in the coffin of NOTL, a project that went to the Ontario Municipal Board. We won.

Look up. If there is a roof over your head, a developer put it there. You're welcome.

Rainer Hummel

St. Davids

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