City Council weakens Official Plan

June 11th, 2012

The Guelph Chapter of CoC presented concerns to City Council on OPA 48 at a Council Meeting on June 5. We feel action was rushed and gives insufficient protection to our river systems, among other things. Dr. Hugh Whitely — a professional engineer, professor emeritus, and principal expert on Guelph’s rivers — said,

There is substantial concern among members of the Guelph Community that OPA 48 is a flawed document that may have important defects with regard to protection and enhancement of the river corridors and the integrated Natural Heritage /Open Space systems of Guelph. This concern is heightened by the lack of explanation as to why the changes in the  policies of the Official Plan with regard to the river corridors and the Linked Open Space Concept in OPA 48 were never brought forward for public discussion.

In addition, the previously adopted Natural Heritage Strategy (OPA42) addresses only “natural heritage features” and does not include parks and other features along the rivers. After adoption of OPA 48 about 96% of the City’s Official Plan is new, and the impacts of the changes have not been addressed.

Under the River Systems Management Plan (which was part of the previous Official Plan) the River Systems Advisory Committee, a group of volunteers selected by city staff, should have been consulted. It appears that the River Systems Advisory Committee was not informed that the changes in the Official Plan would be so far-reaching. In fact, the new Official Plan drops the River Systems Management Plan altogether.

Details showing the magnitude of the deletions from the Official Plan only became public about a week before Council met. Details about additions to the plan are still missing. We joined other citizen groups in asking for a delay to allow more careful examination of the changes and an opportunity for input with respect to the final plan. However, Council voted 8 – 4 not to delay OPA 48 and then approved it by an 10 – 2 vote. The Mayor appeared to be instrumental in encouraging Councillors to proceed with the vote. (Her blog post justifying OPA 48 came out before the matter came before Council.) Councillors voting to delay as requested by CoC and other groups were Councillors vanHellemond, Guthrie, Bell, and Furfaro

Recent media coverage:

  • Guelph Mercury article after Council vote;
  • James Gordon interview on CFRU about community concerns on June 4;
  • Dr. Hugh Whitely was interviewed on CFRU on June 11.

Click here for the CoC Guelph written submission to City Council on June 5.

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