Council Planning to upgrade Notifications to Residents

Over the past few years, there have been concerns raised by citizens about the notification process for actions planned by Council that might affect them.  This was a major issue in the rezoning of land to permit a French language school at New Amherst – see links below.  At that time, Council asked staff to come up with a definitive policy that would improve this type of communication with the public.  At the Committee of the Whole Meeting of Council on April 23, 2019, staff provided a 42 page report including some recommended upgrades and it was approved by Council for implementation subject to consultation with the public.  This will involve an online survey available from May 6 to May 27 followed by a Public Meeting on June 3rd from 5 to 6 pm.  The focus will be “Planning” changes but that includes multiple items.

394 College Street
394 College Street

Another couple of contentious issues that underlined the need for more engagement on Zoning changes were the objections to the Legion Condo development and the rezoning of 394 College to allow multiple apartments in a heritage house (photo above right and links below).

Categories of Planning Changes

  1. Official Planning Act (OPA)
  2. Zoning By-Law Amendments (ZBLA)
  3. Draft Plans of Subdivision/Condominium
  4. Site Plan Approval
  5. Consents and Minor Variances

The report looks at what other municipalities do and what the options are.

In the case of the first three categories, the Planning Act specifies that at least one Public Meeting shall be held and specifies how residents should be notified.  Although the Town currently follows that direction and more, the report offers multiple options that could be used to provide additional and/or better notification.

For Site Plan Approval, the Town currently provides more notification than required by the Planning Act and in this case, the report suggests minor improvements.  Similarly, for Consents and Minor Variances, the report suggests minor upgrades.

Other Municipalities

Twenty-Nine other municipalities were surveyed, ranging in population from 6,300 to 193,800.

Public Notifications for OPA’s, ZBLA’s and Draft Plans of Subdivision/Condominium

Mail out & Sign Posting Only 38%
Mail Out & Newspaper Only (Currently includes Cobourg) 10%
Mail Out, Sign Posting & Newspaper 48%
Newspaper only 4%

Open Houses for OPA’s, ZBLA’s and Draft Plans of Subdivision/Condominium

Open Houses mandatory for all applications 18%
Open Houses required/requested only for larger and/or sensitive projects 50%
No Open Houses 32%

For Site Plan Approval (SPA) Cobourg currently provides more notice than 81% who do not provide any Notice of an SPA whatsoever. For Consent and Minor Variance applications only 13% of respondents implement a mail-out and newspaper procedure as is done by Cobourg but most use sign posting.

Online Communication Survey

As would be expected from an online survey, most of the 110 respondents said they “find out about new development applications/proposals via newspaper advertisements and social media.”  However, many said that this news blog was a good source of information on planning issues.

Based on the above and Council’s stated requirement to improve engagement and transparency, the report lists these options.

Topic Options
OPA, ZBLA and Draft Plans of Subdivision/Condominium Option 1 – Sign Posting in addition to existing notification methods
Option 2 – Public Open House

  • 2a) – for all applications;
  • 2b) – for large, complex applications;
  • 2c) – no change to current process

Option 3 – Radio Ads for special planning and development projects that affect the broader community
Option 4 – Planning Opinion Report before Statutory Public Meeting [if Options 2a) or 2b) implemented, after the open house and prior to the Public Meeting], with final Planning Recommendation Report after the Statutory Public Meeting
Option 5 – Timing of Public Meeting — Convene the Statutory Public Meeting no later than 30 days before the end of the respective Planning Act timelines

Site Plan Approval Option – Enhancements to the existing signage program for consistency and corporate branding
Consents & Minor Variances Option – Sign Posting in addition to existing notification methods
Social Media Platforms Option – Targeted Social Media Messaging (‘hot button’, calendars, webpages, social newsletters, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter)
Public Meeting Procedure No change to current procedure (standard municipal Agenda template)

The intent is to ask the public which option is preferred.  Staff plan to implement an intensive communication program with a survey (May 6 to May 27), notices in the Newspaper, Social Media notices, Posters, Press Releases and a special page on the Town’s web site.  The Public can then indicate preferences at the Public Meeting (June 3rd from 5 to 6 pm) and Council meetings (C.O.W. July 22 and regular Aug 12).

The Committee of the Whole approved proceeding with the plan to consult with the Public.  The survey (when available) can be reached by clicking “Planning Act Applications” on this page.


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Miriam Mutton
5 years ago

I read this piece by Mr. Draper, then went to the Town’s main web site and typed in ‘current site plan applications’ in the search window on the home page. The request lead to standard pages but no general listing of current applications. I know it is there, somewhere. Planning staff have helped me find it previously.
How about improved direct access to the business of the town from the home page of the main web site? For example, separating notices of road closures or temporary water shut-off from announcements of a new show opening or other community events.
Another recent example of prioritizing news, on regular pick-up day the week of Easter Monday I wondered if there would be regular day waste/recycling pick-up that week. Visited the County web site and ‘bam!’ a banner right across the home page saying the waste calendar was incorrect and that indeed it would be regular pick-up schedule that week. No scrolling or waiting for a slide show. No time wasted, the bags were at the curb asap.