‘Very frustrating’: township responds to new legislation

Council discusses how to retain control, input into community growth

KENILWORTH – Wellington North has aligned township bylaws with new provincial laws Bill 109, the More Homes for Everyone Act, and Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act, which were respectively passed in April and November last year.

Bill 109 changes require municipalities, as of Jan. 1, to refund fees for zoning bylaw amendment and site plan applications if municipal decisions on those types of applications aren’t met by certain timelines.

In response, Wellington North has now outlined what defines a completed application.

And the township can, within 30 days of receipt, refuse to accept or consider an application if completion requirements aren’t met by the applicant.

Bill 109 changes also mean site plan application decisions fall to township staff, no longer council, as was previously the case.

When it comes to Bill 23, “the government is moving fast and the changes are far-reaching,” chief building official Darren Jones wrote in a Dec. 19 report to council.

Namely, Bill 23 now exempts residential projects with 10 or fewer units from site plan control, as well as the exterior design of buildings. Currently, the township’s bylaw exempts projects with three or fewer units.

To stay in compliance with the legislation, township and county staff are proposing:

  • requirement of applicants to consult with township prior to submitting zoning bylaw amendment or site plan approval application;
  • a 30-day review period for applications to determine completeness;
  • site plan approvals issued in principle and with conditions that need to be met before plan signed and building permit issued;
  • chief building official Darren Jones be designated to approve site plans, with plans circulated for awareness;
  • township staff will no longer review residential projects with 10 or fewer units, putting onus for construction compliance on the developer and their engineer.

At a Dec. 19 meeting, held virtually over Zoom, councillor Sherry Burke wanted to know how council could retain control of community growth.

“How do we, as council, still control some of the growth and allow our community and stakeholders to have a voice in shaping our community?” Burke questioned.

“We all know that Bill 23 specifically is very frustrating for all of us,” Burke said, adding “some really great strides” have been made with public meetings and forums about growth in Arthur and Mount Forest.

“With some of the legislation that’s gone through as of late, thank you to the province, how do we protect those conversations that we’ve had and safeguard the ability to still shape our community and follow the guidelines that are being put out?” Burke asked.

Her question was a tough one, CAO Brooke Lambert said.

“As a municipality, we are required to be compliant with legislation,” Lambert said.

Jones’ report and its associated bylaws implementing the changes described in his report (and this story) outline “how we’ll be implementing some of the details we know,” Lambert said.

As for how council will have a voice in the township’s evolution, Lambert recommended ongoing public forums, noting the county’s ongoing municipal comprehensive review.

“There’s been a shift in the context, and so having those conversations with the community again … I think is still really valuable,” she said.

“And then it’s up to staff and council to find creative ways to help shape that growth as we can, as we are allowed to.”

Mayor Andy Lennox suggested the township could “arm” itself with information gathered from public forums to help inform future conversations with the province.

Council voted to receive the report and authorize the signing of attached bylaws.