With little time to properly digest the wealth of documents dropped on Grimsby residents, especially those in Grimsby Beach, about that area’s Land Use Planning Study, many have been asking for more time to discuss the “draft” documents and their implications.

As part of the drop of documents, the draft report from the consultants suggested a “Secondary Plan” rather than what seems to be the first and more desirable option for residents, a Heritage Conservation District plan. The development-oriented report came as a surprise to many residents and clearly they are not happy.

A series of posts and comments from Grimsby Beach residents, including the one below have been making the rounds and getting many “likes” on social media:

In a previous post, we noted that the Town has scheduled an Open House and Public Meeting on the Grimsby Beach Secondary Plan and Zoning By-law Amendment for November 4th, together on the same night. But to re-iterate the comment in the Town email, Council is not making a decision that night, rather it will come at a later date.

Planning does not appear to agree with concerned residents and sent out an email to them late on Friday afternoon. For clarity, the email from the Town and commentary will be broken up into sections:

Comments: The consultation will continue after the November 4th meetings, but as outlined further down in the Town’s correspondence, as far as the Secondary Plan and Zoning By-Law are concerned, email comments will be the primary method of that public consultation.

There is no debate that everyone will be able to speak, it’s the law. But since the Town has not resumed in-person meetings, only those who are able to get on Zoom or be willing to sit and listen to a telephone for a few hours will be able to participate in these meetings.

Quite simply, shoe-horning two meetings on two important planning instruments, a Secondary Plan and Zoning-By-law Amendment into a single and early Thursday night is inopportune. The community certainly is asking for more than that.

Comments: This list of highlights of public participation and opportunities for engagement were largely before the consultant released their draft documents proposing more development-oriented policies, namely the Secondary Plan. There should be much more engagement on the draft proposals now that they are out, rather than cramming three electronic meetings into the span of only ten calendar days.

Comments: This re-iterates what the legal minimum standards are for meeting notification and the required public disclosure of planning documents. On such an important planning matter, during a pandemic, where not everyone can participate equally, it is even more crucial to provide expanded opportunities for public participation and comment on these draft documents.

Comments: It is important to listen to all voices. A great deal of this public engagement has been done electronically, as will be the meetings on November 4th and “emailed comments received by November 30th”. Unfortunately not all voices know how to or want to go on a computer or Zoom meeting.

And it should not be just be about “hearing voices” it should be about hearing informed voices. While Town Staff and their consultants have been looking at these documents and proposals for months, it is unreasonable to expect residents to be able to digest a large amount of unfamiliar content, process it and raise their concerns in such a short window of time.

Ending Considerations

While there has been a great deal of public engagement prior to the release of the draft report, it seems that opportunities for public comment on the proposed Secondary Plan and Zoning By-law are very limited.

Given the unique quality of Grimsby Beach and it’s importance to all residents, certainly much more input and guidance from the public should go into the consideration of this Secondary Plan and Zoning By-law Amendment. In that regard, it should be noted Councillor Bothwell has put forth a Notice of Motion in the agenda for Monday night’s Council meeting to spin-off the Public Meeting of November 4th until a later date.

To put things into a different perspective, this is not just about giving the public the opportunity to speak on matters, it also boils down to ensuring our tax dollars are spent on what the community actually wants. If a plan is rushed through to the dislike of the electorate, at this stage of the election cycle they have two remedies… the ballot box and/or an appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal.

While the first is self explanatory, the latter comes down to timing. With the current case load and timelines of the OLT, by the time any possible appeal of these proposed plans would reach the hearing stage, we would most likely be into a new term of Council who could simply respond to the community and withdraw any objection to the appeal, rendering the plans, but not the money spent on them, moot.

If you haven’t already done so, you can find out more about the November 4th meetings and links to register at: https://www.letstalkgrimsby.ca/grimsby-beach-study

Do you think this matter needs more comprehensive public input? If so, email Members of Council and let them know your thoughts:

Jeff Jordanjjordan@grimsby.ca
Ward 1
Reg Freakerfreake@grimsby.ca
Kevin Ritchiekritchie@grimsby.ca
Ward 2
Dave Kadwelldkadwell@grimsby.ca
Lianne Vardylvardy@grimsby.ca
Ward 3
John Dunstalljdunstall@grimsby.ca
Randy Vainervaine@grimsby.ca
Ward 4
Dorothy Bothwelldbothwell@grimsby.ca
Dave Sharpedsharpe@grimsby.ca