By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
The way planning must evolve to meet the changing needs of the community can be seen in a matter that came before Cobourg council Monday on how zoning rules for rehabilitation and treatment centres and emergency-care establishments – in this age of the opioid overdose – might look.
It wasn’t much on the radar back in 2011 when Meridian Planning Consultants Inc. were engaged for a comprehensive zoning bylaw update that is nearing completion. Now, following the council vote, Meridian will be asked to undertake this additional chapter of the process for an estimated $30,000 cost.
A report from Director of Planning and Development Glenn McGlashon described enquiries regarding the possible use of one or more Cobourg properties for residential rehabilitation and treatment centres that might offer both in-patient and out-patient care for those addicted to drugs or alcohol. While that is a laudable aim, McGlashon said, “concerns have been expressed about land use compatibility, particularly the proximity of such facilities to sensitive uses, such as schools, daycares, playgrounds and other community facilities, and seniors/nursing homes.”
Offering one specific, he cited a project that would remodel space at the medical clinic at 316 King St. E. for such a purpose – a building very near two schools with a combined student body of 2,400 and also close to a multi-unit seniors’ complex.
Dissatisfied with the nine-year (and counting) process by Meridian, Deputy Mayor Suzanne Seguin offered a different motion that would see an RFP issued for a planning review of rehabilitation and emergency-care facilities rather than leaving it in Meridian’s hands.
“I strongly think sole-source is a bad direction for this council to go,” Seguin added.
“I think there should be a fresh look. I think it should be something we are open to examining.”
Manager of planning Rob Franklin said that the process was held up by an Ontario Municipal Board challenge, but the main reason for the long delay is the inability of staff to spare the time to work with the consultants as much as was needed.
This is especially true in recent times, Franklin said.
“2019 was the busiest year on record. In my 25 years in municipal governance, that by far was the busiest year we have ever had, and we are well on the way to topping that already in 2020 – and we are also dealing with COVID.”
Mayor John Henderson expressed confidence in Meridian, saying the process is 70-80% complete.
“They have the more-relevant information on the Cobourg situation, bar none,” he said.
“I know we are in unusual circumstances. I cannot support the motion for an RFP because I do not believe these are normal times, and I have great confidence in Meridian working with staff.
“We are not at the end, but we are very close. I still like to believe they will bring their best expertise to the table on this issue.”
Seguin was unmoved, saying that the $50,000 contract was a lot of money in 2011, and she could not see any reason the process should not have taken, at most, two years. Still, her motion providing for an RFP was defeated when put to a vote.
Councillor Emily Chorley, who had seconded Seguin’s motion, said she couldn’t support the original one made by Councillor Nicole Beatty unless there was a time line for delivery. Franklin said that any attempt to estimate when that might be – especially in these unpredictable and unsettled days – would amount to crystal-ball gazing. On top of that, Henderson pointed out, the town might at some point have to deal with a second wave of the coronavirus.
Chorley made an amendment that set a deadline of Sept. 1, 2021, with the proviso that – should this date not be met despite best efforts – staff should provide council with an update.