This evening's council planning meeting was the first meeting for the new mayor and council. Mayor Hope got off to a bad start by forgetting to call the meeting to order. He frequently stumbled when reading his lines, and had to be assisted though procedure numerous times by the Municipal Clerk. Since Planning meetings are not televised, Hope, who never attended a council meeting before tonight, had to wing it for his first meeting. He seemed uncomfortable, a little confused, and completely dwarfed by the giant mayoral chair which was returned to the council chamber at his request. Hope's personal coach, sharply dressed from the waist up for television, sat helpless in the audience coughing and clearing his throat nervously.
The first eight planning items were fairly straightforward, passed by council without presentations. The final item involving a Plan of Subdivision in Harwich, just north of the Lynnwood Subdivision, had some public opposition. Under planning meeting rules, this led to presentations, questions, and debate which lasted over two hours.
The proposal called for the first phase of a 36 residential lot development, consisting of 19 units. The biggest concern of council was that the proposal called for the first 19 homes to be on a septic system, but then be switched over to municipal sewers at the homeowner's expense when they become available in the area. Phase 2 would not proceed until sewer service is completed. The project can not take advantage of a new sewer main recently installed to the north, since it is a force main that would require additional pipes and pumping equipment.
Mayor Hope inquired, "If I may ask a question of administration, I guess it's puzzling me and I'm trying to understand this. The concern was the Ministry of Environment's concern over the septic system that's going to be out there under the new - if this phase is permissive, allowed to continue. My concern is that - around standards, are we going to overfill the community with septic systems? And how do we explain to other rural areas that are being forced into septic systems, where we're allowing new phases and new subdivisions to go on septic, do you understand where I'm coming from? We have to have consistency in what we're trying to achieve, and our overall goal of protecting the environment and protecting the development end of it. But here we're allowing a septic system under the proposal, but in other communities outside the city of Chatham, we're mandating and forcing under MOE to put in sewer systems, so help me to understand."
Administration replied that the area in question is pre-designated under the Official Plan for residential development. The type of estate residential lots are large enough that they are allowed to be built with private systems. This allows a compromise where the developer can build 19 lots now, leaving the rest until full services are available.
Councillor Fluker stated, "I am not comfortable to vote on any of these issues tonight until I get the answer back from the PUC (which I've belonged to for many years)." Fluker continued, "I'd like to know what our capital plans specifically are for the next 5 years."
As a result, Fluker expressed that council didn't have enough information to make a decision, and moved to defer the matter to the PUC to put forward a servicing plan for this area, including PUC costs, potential costs to the developer, and the route that the services would go.
Council passed the motion, expecting it to come back to council within three months.
Full audio from this meeting is available /multimedia/20061211-council.wma">here. 14MB