Essa mayor wanted NVCA to ‘adjust flood lines’ at March meeting, wife’s property could benefit
New Tecumseth Free Press Online September 23, 2009
On Fri., March 13, 2009, Essa mayor David Guergis, accompanied by his wife, Leesa Turnbull-Guergis, and Colleen Healy, his Township’s Manager of Planning, attended a “Special Meeting” of the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA) Executive Committee, and informed them that Simcoe County’s Corporate Services Committee had voted “to have the Conservation Authorities taken right out of the planning process and that the planning roles and responsibilities be moved to the Upper Tier County Planning Department,” according to minutes of the meeting.
Mayor Guergis’ wife was on hand because she owns property at Lot 21, Concession 1, 305 Mill Street, Angus, planned to accommodate a Canadian Tire development, but is located in a flood zone which means “certain exceptions would have to be met in order for development to take place.” Ms. Turnbull-Guergis had requested to speak to the executive.
The minutes note that executive committee Chair Walter Benotto, asked Mayor Guergis to keep his deputation to the Conservation Authority Planning process and was asked not to speak specifically on the proposed development.” The minutes show that Mayor Guergis did in fact reference his wife’s situation, suggesting that the NVCA needed to “adjust its floodlines” and “questioned why the subject property is zoned a 1-500 year flood event.”
Following are excerpts of the meeting as recorded in the minutes:
“Mayor Guergis advised that he attended a meeting with Mayor Ferguson and Deputy Mayor Savage of Clearview Township, and Mayor Patterson, Town of Wasaga Beach and the Minister of Natural Resources, Donna Cansfield. The subject of the meeting was the slowing of development in their communities because of the Conservation Authority Planning process. Mayor Guergis advised that it was stated by Mayor Patterson of Wasaga Beach that they have lost 50 per cent of their commercial development in the Town of Wasaga Beach because of the Conservation Authority Planning process. Mayor Guergis stated that Essa Township is losing development as well.”
“Mayor Guergis stated he has noticed recently that Conservation Authorities are broadening their horizon of hurdles through soil testing and other legislation that in the past they haven’t dealt with. In his Township anywhere where there are watershed concerns, they are losing development. Further, Mayor Guergis stated that the City of Barrie is a wonder because they seem to be developing right in the middle of wetlands, more specifically Ferndale Drive.”
“With reference to the proposed development property owned by Leesa Turnbull-Guergis, Mayor Guergis concluded that he has never seen flooding problems in this area. He advised that as an NVCA Board Member in 1997-1998 he remembers clearly a discussion where Wayne Wilson, CAO/Secretary Treasurer stated that our water levels are receding and the exact words (as noted by Mayor Guergis) were that this is a trend not a cycle. Mayor Guergis went on to say that, if water levels are receding, the Conservation Authorities should adjust their flood lines.
Mayor Guergis then questioned why the subject property is zoned a 1-500 year flood event. He expressed his frustration and advised that he is glad his colleagues feel the same indicating that they are well on their way to working with Minister Cansfield to make changes in the planning process.
Fred Nix stated that Mayor Guergis had appeared before the Executive Committee over one year ago and talked about the streamlining of the planning process. At the next meeting of the Board of Directors, a standing resolution was passed indicating the NVCA agreed to participate in a working group with County Council to explore the planning process. No such working group was ever stuck. Mayor Guergis advised that County Council is past the review stage, that the NVCA knew how he felt one year ago and did nothing.
(Committee member) Fred Nix (Mono Township) advised the Mayor of his meeting with Minister Cansfield last year. At that time the Minister never indicated that there was a problem with the Planning process.
Fred Nix reiterated that the Conservation Authorities are under a Provincial Mandate and that they must follow that mandate.
As a point of clarification, Fred Nix asked the question “did Cal Patterson, Mayor of Wasaga Beach say that a 50 per cent lack in commercial development was because of the Conservation Authority Planning process?” Mayor Guergis confirmed that statement. Wayne Wilson, CAO/Secretary-Treasurer acknowledged that these were obviously very serious allegations and that NVCA staff will follow up with the municipalities. He did confirm that the NVCA is on record as wanting to work with the municipalities through the County to streamline the process.
Wayne Wilson, CAO/Secretary-Treasurer advised that the Province Wide Flood Standards are set by the Province and implemented by the Conservation Authority. Mayor Guergis expressed his displeasure with the mapping that came out of the Greenland Study. He indicated that Essa Township had the mapping for 2004 but did not know about the new mapping that came out in 2005.
Wayne Wilson, CAO/Secretary-Treasurer advised that there was a joint process between NVCA Planning staff and the Essa Planning staff. The study started with preliminary maps and they were finalized to be part of the Official Plan. From a process point of view mapping was done by professional engineers using the best science of the day. The maps the NVCA is using are the maps stamped by the engineers.
In closing Mayor Guergis advised that there is a meeting scheduled with Minister Donna Cansfield next month with the Mayors of Simcoe County. The Conservation Authority will not be invited. At that meeting the Mayors of Simcoe County will present planning reports showing how much development had been delayed/cancelled because of Conservation Authorities preventing or slowing development.
The Mayor stated that “Conservation Authorities are at about 11:59 on the clock and if they don’t sit down and start talking to municipalities, then shame on them.” (New Tecumseth rep) Joan Sutherland responded to the Mayor asking how he could make that comment when he has two representatives sitting on the NVCA Board of Directors who have never indicated there is a problem. Mayor Guergis advised that this is true because he cannot go to all of the meetings.
Following mayor Guergis’ deputation to the executive committee, the minutes show that Ms. Turnbull-Guergis expressed her frustration at discovering the hurdles to developing her property because of the flood zone.
“She stated that a considerable amount of money has been spent on tree removal for the subject property. She questioned why she had not been informed that she would not be permitted to build on the property before she had made this investment” according to the minutes.
Fred Nix, asked if there been an application submitted for this development? Mrs. Turnbull-Guergis replied that there has not been an application made. Chris Hibberd, NVCA Director of Planning advised that at the time Mrs. Turnbull-Guergis applied to sever the property, comments were submitted to Essa Township Planning department advising that certain exceptions would have to be met in order
for development to take place. Mr. Hibberd also confirmed that to date an application had not been received by the NVCA and that no comments can be made until the application is received. There has been no refusal for development as there has not been an application submitted for comments. Wayne Wilson, CAO/Secretary-Treasurer reiterated that it is very important that the application process is followed in order for staff to start consultation with the proponent. Mayor David Guergis and Leesa Turnbull-Guergis left the meeting at 1:30 p.m. (they arrived at 12:35 pm).”
The minutes show that after the Guergis’ left the meeting, Essa planner Colleen Healy was asked by Benotto “if the NVCA is stopping commercial development in Essa Township.
“Ms. Healy replied that nothing is being stopped yet; the proponent through pre-consultation has been advised to submit studies as any developer would be requested to submit. Those studies have not yet been received. Ms. Healy also confirmed that the proponent was notified of the comments provided by the Conservation Authority when the severance application was received. The proponent has not applied for a permit to develop the subject property through Essa Township. Ms. Healy concluded that Essa Township Planning staff have a good working relationship with NVCA Planning staff and through the Official Plan process they will be working closely with NVCA staff and the Township’s Consultant.”
On Sept. 2, mayor David Guergis moved a motion to dissolve the NVCA citing concerns that “the NVCA is not doing what we need to protect the environment” according to a published report. That was deferred to Sept. 16, which was again deferred into October.
For the record, Mayor Guergis questions the accuracy of the minutes.