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Letter: City's Official Plan not same calibre as other municipalities

'This document is so critical and it is city council’s opportunity to show how great this city is with the input from all of its residents'
2021-08-06 official plan map
Carol Tanguay has concerns that the City of Timmins new draft Official Plan focuses on the two boxed areas of the map, while the rural areas are not mentioned in the critical document.

TimminsToday received this open letter to Timmins council from Carol Tanguay regarding the city's Official Plan that is being updated. She's encouraging people to have their say on the document when there are public meetings. The full letter is as follows:

Dear Mayor Pirie and Councillors,

I have been reading numerous Official Plans from across Canada. Each Official Plan is like a new “book” and, in most cases, once you are done reading it you feel that you know the city, town or village you just read about.  You can feel the energy as you read their Official Plan and you get a sense that they are “marketing” or “selling” how great they are and you want to go visit once you have read their document.  Unfortunately, I don’t get the same feeling when I read our Official Plan and I will attempt to explain my reasons why below.

Official Plans are land use planning documents which guides municipalities’ growth and development. The planning horizon is 20-25 years, therefore, it plans for our future.  The Official Plans also include local context for social, economic and environmental concerns which pertains to each municipalities’ specific needs or situation.  This brings me to the reason for writing to you today. 

The following is the link to the Third Draft of the Official Plan.

When you read the above document, you will find that it has little to no local content. There has been little to no public input and residents of this city do not know how important and critical this document is. The first draft of our new Official Plan was dated Feb. 11, 2019, and one public meeting was held in this time frame. There have been no consultation meetings, no town halls and no public meetings to date for the second or third draft. I fail to understand why $2 million were spent on Timmins 2020 which was a five-year plan but little attention is being paid to this most critical document for the city. Major consultation meetings were held and announcements were posted in various media outlets for the Timmins 2020 and nothing has been done to date for the third draft of our Official Plan.

I would like to bring your attention to page one of the third draft of the Official Plan, specifically Section 1.1 Background, second paragraph (copy attached) which states: “The new Official Plan for the City of Timmins has been prepared with considerable input from provincial ministries, the Mattagami Region Conservation Authority, key community based organizations and stakeholders as well as from the residents and business people of the community. The input received from the Official Plan public consultation program1 was extremely valuable in formulating the policies comprising this new Plan. In addition, the completion of a comprehensive background report2 was also instrumental in drafting policies for the new plan.”

If you read the footnote at the bottom of page one you will see that the “considerable input” from the residents and “input received from the Official Plan public consultation program” as well as a “completion of a comprehensive background report” was taken from documents dated 2004 – 17 years ago.

Timmins’ Official Plan is not inclusive and does not list all settlement and rural areas as per other official plans. If you do a search, you will not find any mention of Kamiskotia, Connaught, Barber’s Bay, etc. yet they are located within the city’s boundary lines and they all pay local taxes. I was advised by the city that they are showing on the attached schedules of the Official Plan. If you look at the schedule attached, you will see the boundary lines for the city as a whole, however, the communities are not identified. These maps only identify names of the townships, i.e. Tisdale, Mountjoy, Whitney, German, Shaw, etc. Where are the actual communities identified which contains our neighbourhoods which make up the city as a whole?  I was advised by the city of the following – “Porcupine, South Porcupine, Mountjoy, Schumacher and the Town of Timmins have not existed since in 1972.  All of those municipalities were amalgamated to create the “City of Timmins”. 

My question to this is: Why would Timmins residents be treated any differently than other amalgamated cities across Canada? From reading their Official Plans, it appears that it is their individual amalgamated communities which help to make their cities great. I would like to bring your attention to Schedule A – Land Use Plan which forms part of the City of Timmins (attached).  You will see two boxes in the centre of this map. The Official Plan appears to be focused on these areas while the other rural areas within the boundary lines are not mentioned in this critical document. 

The wetlands are not listed or identified.

There is a definition for the “Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River System” – why?

Schedule A  - Land Use Plan shows Matheson as one of the “townships”.  I don’t believe that Matheson is within the city boundary lines. The only reason I can think of is that it is only a name to this specific area or township.  Please feel free to correct me if this is incorrect.

Black River-Matheson has their own official plan which is inclusive of their settlement areas, rural areas and it names all of them.  It also references Shallow River Poplar Outwash Conservation Reserve and their Provincially Significant Wetland surrounding Moose Lake.  Their official plan includes clauses such as “Encourage recreational opportunities for Black River-Matheson’s youth and residents”; “Develop a local farmers and crafters market in downtown Black River-Matheson”.  “The township shall promote the use of green infrastructure (c) Encourage green roofs, permeable surfaces, street trees, and other elements.”  It also includes the following: 

  • “The Township shall promote and provide a variety of opportunities for the community at large to become engaged and participate in the planning for their community. 
    • (a) To encourage and promote community participation in the planning of the municipality.
    • (b) To develop and implement traditional and digital engagement tools to reach youth, adults, including older adults, and challenged persons to participate in the planning for their community.”

Sudbury, as well as other cities and towns, has done extensive work on their Official Plan which is inclusive of all their settlement and rural areas; wetlands are listed, etc.  Videos are posted of their town hall meetings on their website. Their Official Plan states:  ”The community of Sudbury will continue as the central urban area and focus of the majority of growth and change. Our local communities will also grow and change.”

It is important to note that all cities and I believe towns across Canada are amalgamated and all of their amalgamated communities are identified in their Official Plans.  Please correct me if this statement is incorrect.  According to the Official Plans I have read, this has been the case, i.e. Ottawa, Toronto, Sudbury, Matheson, etc.

Cities have included various social, economic and environmental concerns into their documents.

For example, London’s Official Plan's land use planning goals states:

  • "Two primary goals will guide land use planning for methadone clinics and methadone pharmacies:
  1. Plan for these uses in locations that best meet the needs of those who use methadone clinics and methadone pharmacies.
  2. Minimize the potential for land use conflicts that can be generated by methadone clinics or methadone pharmacies.”

The following is a letter to the Mayor of London regarding a Proposed Official Plan and Zoning law amendment as per the methadone clinics dated February 24, 2012 for information purposes.

The Official Plan purpose for the Town of Innisfil states: “The Official Plan is entitled “Our Place”.  Our Place is more than a land use planning document. It is a guide to enhance place making, community character and social connections in our Town and to guide municipal actions and other Town master planning processes.”

In the third draft of the City of Timmins’ Official Plan, Clause 1.5.1 Purpose states:

“The purpose of this Plan is to promote policies to effectively manage physical development and redevelopment with the City of Timmins over the next 20 years (2041) and the resulting effects on the social, economic and natural environments of the municipality.”  Reference to “20 years (2041) relates to the “planning horizon” and is not a “purpose”, therefore, should be removed. 

This wording should be under 1.4 Monitoring and Assessment which reads: “The Official Plan is a policy document intended to guide decision-making over the long term.” I suggest that “over the long term” be replaced with “over the next 20 years (2041).”

Attached is the link to The Ontario Municipal Councillor’s Guide for information purposes – specifically Section 10.  Land Use Planning.

Section 10 Land Use Planning states: “Community or land use planning can be defined as managing our land and resources. Through careful land use planning, municipalities can manage their growth and development while addressing important social, economic and environmental concerns. More specifically, the land use planning process balances the interests of individual property owners with the wider needs and objectives of your community, and can have a significant effect on a community’s quality of life.

You have a key role to play in land use planning. As a representative of the community, you are responsible for making decisions on existing and future land use matters and on issues related to local planning documents.

It is important to note that land use planning affects most other municipal activities and almost every aspect of life in Ontario. Council will need to consider these effects when making planning decisions, while recognizing that most planning decisions are long-term in nature. Public consultation is a mandatory part of the planning process. You and your colleagues will devote a large part of your time to community planning issues. You may also find that much of your interaction with the public involves planning matters.

Good planning contributes significantly to long-term, orderly growth and efficient use of services. On a day-to-day basis, it is sometimes difficult to see how individual planning decisions can have such impact. Making decisions on planning issues is challenging and, for these reasons, it is important to understand the planning system and process.”

Other Official Plans have referred to various studies, assessments, plans, etc. within their documents.  This is not the case in our Official Plan.

Our vision statement is the same as it was since August 2010. 

The first version of the Official Plan was in effect since Jan. 21, 1977, and the second version was in effect as of Aug. 10, 2010.  It took 33 years to get a new Official Plan, therefore, this is our window of opportunity to ensure that the third version addresses all concerns of the residents, i.e. sewage and water infrastructure including dismantling the lagoon which studies show was supposed to be done in 1993; remedial plan for the Porcupine Watershed, community identity, solutions for the opioid crisis, etc.

I was advised by the city that the Official Plan is a “planning tool” and that it needs to be “general, flexible and open”.  The Provincial Policy Statement 2020 is the “planning tool”.  It doesn’t make sense to incorporate these policies into another “planning tool” as it relates to this document.  The planning horizon is for the next 20 to 25 years, therefore, this document should not be “general, flexible and open”.  It is a “blueprint” for the city’s future which needs to be defined.  Changes can always be made by a bylaw but a clear direction needs to be defined in this critical document.

If you do not have engaged citizens then everything is meaningless.  You can have great infrastructure, public spaces, and all the amenities you want, but it doesn’t mean much if no one is using it.  For every city to function and cater to the needs of its people, those people need to be engaged and involved. They need to understand what is going on in their city, know what resources are available to them, and be a part of the decision making process. The young adults who were children the last time this document was revamped or newcomers to the city, etc. may have new ideas as to what direction they want to see their city grow and develop. The city needs to educate and inform its residents of this document.

The Planning Act states, “The Act encourages early upfront involvement and the use of mediation techniques to resolve conflict. Make sure you make your views known early in the planning process.” This is my reason for bringing the above to your attention. The Official Plan is already on its third draft and the residents have not been consulted.

The City of Timmins’s Official Plan is not of the same calibre as other great cities and towns in Ontario.  This is the most critical document for the city in order to grow and develop into the future.  It is a new document with new provincial policies and guidance but it does not feel “new”.  The city is not clearly defined and does not give “positive energy” compared to others.  In one section the city calls itself a “community” then it is a “municipality” then it is a “city” and then it refers to itself as “urban” or “Timmins”.  I have not come across this scenario while reading other official plans but then again I have not read them all. From the documents I have read, other locations have called themselves a “Town”, “Town Centre” or a “City” and does not use multiple descriptors throughout their official plans.  In most cases, “settlement areas” have often been referred to as their “communities”.

This document is so critical and it is city council’s opportunity to show how great this city is with the input from all of its residents. If there is any document or valuable information which I may have missed I welcome the opportunity for you to share this information with the residents of the City of Timmins. 

We, the community, are looking forward to your follow-up in regard to this very important matter and what the next steps will be.  It is important to remember that together we can all make a difference.  The decisions you make for us today as our elected officials will guide all of our futures for the next 20-25 years.  Hopefully the ending in our “book” will have a positive outcome.

Thank you for your consideration in the above matter.


 Carol Tanguay