Cooperation yields clarity on service delivery

By Darren Lum
The following are news briefs from the Highlands East special meeting of council on April 19, held virtually.

After several months of collaboration, Highlands East staff presented the consolidated planning fees for Zoning Bylaw Amendments and Official Plan Amendments in line with all four of the municipalities, which included a standardized notice format, harmonized planning fees, and continuing work on streamlining of consent preconsultation.
It was the result of several months of work, which came from the working group planning staff from all four municipalities and Haliburton County, including the chief administrative officers, as led by Algonquin Highlands CAO Angie Bird. This comes after recommendations outlined by StrategyCorp in a service delivery review, as provided to Haliburton County on Nov. 25, 2020.
During junior planner Kim Roberts’ presentation on the service delivery review – consolidated planning fees for Zoning Bylaw Amendments and Official Plan Amendments, she said, “fee harmonization” is expected to help with simplifying and reducing the confusion for residents, contractors and developers.
“And many fees are not truly covering costs and an increase in fees could improve cost recovery for planning services,” she said.

From a recommendation by StrategyCorp, staff looked at taking the highest municipal fee and using that as a basis for the harmonized fee schedule. Roberts said there were two challenges with this approach because municipalities charge fees in different ways.
“While some charge a flat fee, Highlands East charges municipal administration fee and a deposit. Some service fees are in place in Highlands East while others don’t charge … And then different municipalities have different development challenges. And this is pretty pertinent to us. So, for example, the municipality of Dysart and Minden Hills have larger centres and they potentially see development proposals more frequently than more rural route municipalities like us,” she said.
She said there has been great change in Haliburton County the past five years as far as planning goes. This prompted a reexamination for the fees, and how the fees were charged. Staff looked at other examples of fees in Muskoka, City of Kawartha Lakes, Peterborough County and Northumberland County. The staff looked at consistency as far as charging the same fees and to have the same process for deposits, language used and definitions for applications.

The idea that they came up with was draft fee bylaws for major versus minor applications for zoning Official Plan Amendment and different categories for site plan approvals.
“This is acknowledging that larger or more complex planning proposals take more time and resources … than the more routine ones we handle. So, rather than a blanket increase to all fees, it makes sense to target a higher fee on those applications where they’re ultimately going to require a lot more staff or consultant time,” she said.
A flat fee is being proposed to replace the administration, plus a refundable deposit.
“We think it’ll better capture staff time in-house and decrease the admin burden on our already [busy] finance staff,” she said.
Unless it is legal or peer review deposits for professional services, the general processing will be covered by a flat fee.
She noted how none of the 36 zoning bylaw amendments in 2021 would qualify as a major zoning and there weren’t any official plan amendment applications either. Fees for minor zoning bylaw amendment and official plan amendment fees remain the same.
“So, the increase is only applying to the less commonly seen major applications,” she said.
Council accepted the service delivery review and approved the draft planning fees bylaw.

Lineup your paint cans
The next Household Hazardous Waste Day in Highlands East is scheduled from 10 to 2 p.m. for May 14.

Mask wearing indoors
Although the mask mandates were lifted for the interior of public buildings in the province, including in Highlands East buildings, the township will be asking people to wear masks indoors since Medical Officer of Health for the Haliburton, Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit Dr. Natalie Bocking recommendations for mask wearing to reduce the chance for transmission of COVID-19 said Shannon Hunter.
After Deputy Mayor Cec Ryall asked to confirm if the public will be asked to wear masks, CAO Shannon Hunter said, yes, and that barriers for staff will remain up and the public will not be permitted past. All staff will be masked. She adds if anyone comes into a meeting at the board room masks will be required.

Let your fingers do the voting
This upcoming municipal election on Monday, Oct. 24 Highlands East residents can vote by either phone or on the internet. This concept provides more options for people to vote.

Municipal land policy, first draft
Junior planner Kim Roberts provided a report to council about the first draft of a land policy to update the existing policy (2007-0053) on shoreline road allowances. There are three application types: access road or driveway; encroachments onto road allowances or municipal land not abutting water; and shoreline encroachments.
Roberts said the new policy is to essentially update and incorporate that policy, which will clarify requirements and provide policy direction to the public and staff on the use of shoreline road allowances. However, this new policy will also apply to scenarios where a person is seeking access for example, to the IB&O Trail – things that are not “road allowances.”

Other issues that the municipality needed to address was the complaints or issues related to docks on land across from municipal roads.
“Without a policy in place, we’re making all these decisions kind of on an ad hoc basis. So, what we’re really looking to do in putting in this policy is kind of codifying what we require while providing council room to have discretion, if they want to require more or require less depending on the application they receive,” she said. “So, the goal of the policy is to provide direction to staff and the public as far as the kind of the requirements and expectations in using municipal land and on open road allowances for legal access and to deal with encroachments to protect the public interest and access to public or municipal land and to ensure that private individuals are kind of blocking public access or use,” she said.
The old policy did not require public consultation or notification when a requests were received by the municipality for road allowances or municipal land.

“So, we’ve included a consultation strategy in the policy, which provides a notice kind of depending on how you’re planning on using it. For example, for access use, the notice would go to the adjacent landowners of the road allowance for an encroachment notice will be sent to landowners within a 60 metres of the encroachment … comments or concerns could be provided to council, but ultimately council’s decision on the agreement is final and there’s no kind of an appeal mechanism,” she said.
Staff were directed to present a bylaw at council’s next meeting for consideration.