Springwater’s Allen on Bill 66: projects in works
Mayor Don Allen
‘Not going to do anything untoward, but not going to handcuff ourselves’
By Kate Harries AWARE News Network
Springwater Council voted last night to take a wait-and-see approach on Bill 66, after being told by Planning Director Brent Spagnol that he was not in a position to provide meaningful comment.
However, Mayor Don Allen made clear that the proposed legislation – decried in some quarters for allowing municipalities to set aside environmental protection and government transparency – may be useful.
“There are things in play as we speak that potentially we could use Bill 66 – as best we know it and as we continue to find out about it – to help with respect to that economic development,” Allen stated.
“I can’t say any more right now, it’s early stages,” he added, indicating that there is more than one project that is in the works that could benefit from the provisions in Bill 66.
The matter was on the agenda because of a letter from the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition urging council to commit not to use Bill 66. Such resolutions have been passed by numerous councils across the province, including Bradford-West Gwillimbury.
Spagnol said the comment deadline set by the province (to January 20) is too short, and the province has provided insufficient information. In particular, he would want to review the regulations related to the “open for business” bylaw before advising council.
Springwater CAO Robert Brindley said council rightly has concerns about the environment and potential abuse of power.
“At the same time there may be instances within Springwater where such a bylaw might be advantageous, where it doesn’t affect those things. We don’t have the details yet to make those decisions. At the same time, the motion proposed in this correspondence I feel is premature until we know those rules.”
Brindley suggested that council may decide to put what he called “more belt and suspenders” in terms of keeping some environmental protection in any “open for business” bylaw process.
Allen described Bill 66 as “a very surprising bill in different ways because of the number of acts that it catches,” but he said it’s hard to interpret at this stage because of the lack of regulations.
However, “the majority of people in the township elected us because they felt we could do the best job. So you put your faith in us as a council,” he told those attending and watching the council meeting. “We’re not about to squander that.”
He added: “This is a municipal council-generated initiative, it’s not a developer-generated initiative, it’s with respect to employment lands, not residential, so it certainly won’t happen with this council that this is abused in any way to the detriment of the environment.”
He promised: “And as has been the case with the previous council, and will be the case with this council, there will be full and open disclosure and communication of public meetings where that’s appropriate so have faith, we’re not going to do anything untoward with respect to this.
“But we’re also not going to handcuff ourselves, we’re very keen on economic development.”
Councillor George Cabral echoed Allen’s call for the electorate’s trust. “I certainly see the concern, I would like to think that everyone would have some faith in us.”
Councillor Jack Hanna asked that staff respond to the province to the effect that the township does not have enough information, but will determine its course of action in the future once the regulations are received.