After months of controversy, the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands has a new official plan.
The counties council of Leeds and Grenville unanimously approved the 10-year plan this week, despite lobbying both for and against it by township residents.
Normally, counties council’s approval of official plans is routine as long as the proper procedures were followed and the plans comply with the counties plan and provincial rules. This year, the council endorsed four other township plans without controversy.
But the TLTI plan was different.
Its plan sparked a bitter political feud in the township and a divided TLTI council narrowly endorsed it, sending it to the counties for approval.
Two weeks ago, TLTI councillor John Paul Jackson appeared before the counties planning advisory committee to urge that the plan be put on hold until a new township council takes office in December. The newly elected council members want to take another look at the plan, Jackson said, as four members of the new council sat in the gallery to support him. (Jackson won’t be among them, having lost his bid to become mayor.) “You have an opportunity to correct a wrong by a lower tier government and allow our new council an opportunity over the winter months to revisit the process and the plan and decide how to move forward,” Jackson said in his pitch to the committee.
Jackson said seasonal island residents weren’t properly consulted, other councillors and staff gave out false information, and the plan was biased in favour of what he called “special interest groups.”
Jackson failed to persuade the majority of the planning committee, which recommended that counties council give it the green light.
When the plan went to counties council this week, official plan supporters got their oar in.
Martin Bordt, co-president of the Thousand Islands Area Residents Association, said his group, which promotes environmental preservation of the Thousand Islands, has been involved with the plan since its beginning.
His group supports the plan, even though the extensive review process has seen it watered down from an environmental perspective, he said. But the changes were compromises that his group can live with, he added.
Bordt disputed Jackson’s assertions, saying township residents had been thoroughly consulted in what he called one of the most publicized consultations ever in the township.
Counties council members concurred with Bordt’s side of the argument, unanimously agreeing to the official plan.
Augusta Mayor Doug Malanka, who opposed the approval during the planning advisory meeting, changed his vote to back the rest of council.
Malanka had feared that the counties would be leaving themselves open to lengthy appeals of the plan by the new TLTI council. But on reflection, he decided that he should not base his vote on what might happen in the future, Malanka said.