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Oct. 16, 2021 | Saturday
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Town to host open house seeking resident opinions on official plan
NOTL Municipal Offices. (File photo)

The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake wants to hear residents’ concerns at the official plan open house.

On Feb. 13, there will be two sessions in the auditorium of the community centre at 14 Anderson Lane, from 2 to 4 p.m. and again from 6 to 8 p.m.

The open house will be an informal forum for NOTL residents to take part in the planning process and voice any concerns.

Rick Wilson, senior planner for NOTL, said it will mainly be an information session. The official plan covers themes for the municipality’s growth and development. Residents may have certain areas of interest they will want to address, he said, adding that the town wants to encourage anyone to come out with questions or opinions about the plan.

“We have been hearing from residents with specific questions about details of the plan. We will try to answer those and, if we can’t, we will take any input and review it in the context of what they’re asking and try to resolve it.”

Updating the official plan is a public process. Municipalities are required to address certain provincial and regional policies. Wilson said interest groups may have certain things they would like to promote, such as residential development, agriculture or heritage preservation. Issues need to be balanced and addressed by provincial legislation and by the desire of the community.

Residents who want to send in requests for the open house need to address submissions to the town clerk, which will be reviewed by planning staff and consultants.

Wilson said he would like to see many residents take the time to stop by the open house.

“We’re anticipating and hopeful. We want to encourage participation.”

The current official plan is from 1994 and approving a new one is a priority of the new town council. Wilson said there has been a lot of interest in the process over the years. “We’re hoping a good number of people come out so we can get better participation and a sense of what the public feels about the final draft.”

After the open house, the next step will be a public meeting on Feb. 25, where the information presented will be heard by council. All the public comments will be presented and council can weigh what planning staff has recommended through policy, and what was heard through the public consultation process.

Planscape, a company specializing in land use planning, was hired in 2015 and has been on board as a consultant throughout the drafting of the official plan.

“We want to try to get the public’s input on this,” Wilson said.

Residents wanting to be informed before attending the open house can read the official plan, which has been posted on the NOTL website for several weeks.

“That’s the most important, that they’re informed on the information being presented.”

Residents are encouraged to contact Wilson if they have any questions.

“We will try and explain what some of the constraints are through a provincial perspective. Ultimately, (the official plan) is a community document that provides vision for the town. We want to take that local input and work with that under the provincial structure.”