When reached to comment about the op-ed Consultants question Grass Lake proposal, the Municipality of Dysart et al’s Mayor Andrea Roberts said in an email, “No, I won’t comment at this time, but I will say this: there will be due process for this application and I will ask my questions during the rezoning application meeting, when there are staff and the applicant present to comment,” she said. “Many people who are opposed continually reach out to me or the rest of council to comment on an application that has not come to the council table. That’s not the way it works. The applicant will have an opportunity to present their proposal, staff will comment, and members of the public can comment in person, (registered on Zoom), or in writing.”
Carolyn Langdon, resident and member of the Friends of Grass Lake responded to the mayor’s comments with this emailed response:
The applicant, Harburn Holdings, had access to the planning department and all its resources in a pre-consultation phase. The township mailed out an information package to residents in June 2021 on behalf of the applicant which the “process” didn’t require. The residents of Grass Lake had access to nothing. We had to find our own way through the labyrinth of planning processes, maps and specialized language. We undertook this diligently and doggedly, spending hours meeting and poring over documents and maps. We appealed for help to our local councillor and mayor and were met with “no comment.” At great expense we finally hired a full service planning firm out of Peterborough who prepared, on our behalf, a 34 page response including appendices. This due process that the mayor refers to allows us five minutes access to our publicly elected council. Friends of Grass Lake can appear before council at a public meeting and will have five minutes to state their concerns. Five minutes to point out egregious deficiencies, and numerous contraventions of Official Policy. How is this going to be possible? Is this the only occasion to speak with our publicly elected officials? The municipal election in November can’t come soon enough.
FGL will now be represented by D.M. Wills before council and therefore have only one delegate at the public meeting.) www.dysartetal.ca/en/build-and-invest/planning-and-land-use.aspx#Pre-Consultation
We had full intentions of responding without the expense of representation but once we started digging we came up with more questions than answers. In an attempt to get some of these questions answered in a straightforward manner we came up against an impermeable wall of bureaucracy. We were referred to documents whose archaic language we had difficulty understanding. We were also referred to a newly digitized Ontario government site for maps, maps which the planning department must have downloaded themselves during the pre-consultation phase. We put hours and hours of searching and a few hundred dollars down that rabbit hole, called the Onland Ontario Registry Access Portal.
We could get no guidance from the council representative for the area or the mayor on how to navigate the planning process or to understand how a property owner can make major site alterations prior to applying for a building application without the township having any knowledge of or role in the process. It has gotten so bad that we now have to resort to the time consuming and costly Freedom of Information process to get information.
No one would offer us the information that Dysart, unlike the majority of townships across the province, has no site alteration bylaw that would have outlined dos and don’ts for landowners felling trees and bulldozing land. The average person still believes that townships wouldn’t let landowners get away with practices such as dredging and filling in wetlands. We now know that Dysart is one of only three holdouts in Ontario without this level of protection.
It’s been an expensive and steep learning curve. We hope to be able to share with other county residents what we’ve learned about this wetland site including the larger picture of how unprepared we are as a township and as a county to manage future development.