MUSKOKA - The process could be so much easier, argued a District of Muskoka councillor.
I’m wondering if there is an opportunity to simplify the process. That application came to the township council, a district committee, a district public meeting, back to township council, it’s coming here - Murphy
Muskoka Lakes Mayor Alice Murphy sounded off on procedural redundancies in the District of Muskoka’s planning department at a district meeting held Oct. 1.
The discussion started with a district plan amendment application submitted by a commercial development owner from the Township of Muskoka Lakes. The amendment would allow the development to use private servicing since district water and sewer services do not exist in the property’s location.
“I’m wondering if there is an opportunity to simplify the process. That application came to the township council, a district committee, a district public meeting, back to township council, it’s coming here,” said Murphy.
“The number of times that I have touched this application is many, along with my colleagues. I’m wondering if this — and other simple applications like this that are really just specific to an area municipality — could not be addressed at the area municipality level so we don’t have to burden district council.”
She noted district council has to deal with applications such as these from every area municipality. This happens on a regular basis, she said.
Staff’s response was that the application required an amendment to the district’s official plan, which meant the district was required to handle the application. Sending it to the township for feedback is part of the district’s procedural policy for dealing with such applications.
“It’s a fairly straightforward process,” said Derrick Hammond, director of planning for the district.
But Murphy questioned why such applications had to be a district responsibility. She noted that as part of the district services review everyone was struggling with ways to streamline processes and issues such as this were a prime example.
“Is there a mechanism in the planning act that would allow that to be downloaded to the area municipality?” she asked.
No one seemed to give her a straight answer.
District Chair John Klinck pointed out provincial legislation requires upper-tier government such as the district to have an official plan, but those plans are not a legislated requirement for lower-tier government such as the region’s area municipalities.
Hammond said the district could not download its official plan functions unless the district was prepared to absolve itself of all its services.
Murphy then stated she was not suggesting the district deviate from what is legislatively required of it by the province, but that given the services review finding the simplest way to get things done would be warranted.
A fellow councillor then tried to explain to Murphy why the application was bounced around so much and noted that the application had just been tweaked to allow for additional zoning changes.
Murphy seemed bemused.
“Dare I ask? Just to be clear. That application will then go back to the township for an application for zoning changes? Is that correct?” she asked.
The district downloaded authority over zoning issues to the area municipalities years ago, so staff confirmed Murphy’s assumption was correct.
Council approved the amendment application and it will now head to the township council table for consideration.