Landowner’s association laud changes to conservation authorities
WINGHAM, ONT. -- As conservation authorities express disappointment and anger about having some of their powers to protect the environment stripped away, some Ontarian’s couldn’t be happier with the changes.
Bob Weirmeir is the president of the Saugeen Regional Landowner’s Association. He lives near Elmwood, Ont.
“Conservation used to be a very well respected organization, but anyone whose had any dealings with them recently, comes away with a bitter taste in their mouth,” he says.
Weirmeir feels that conservation authorities needed to reigned in.They were working outside their mandate, frustrating landowners and municipalities across the province, he says.
In the Municipality of Brockton, Mayor Chris Peabody says their local conservation authority held up plans to remove the Truax Dam for almost nine months.
“We almost lost our funding over the project because of that red tape, so I’m glad to see there are now time limits on the permitting process for conservation authorities,” says Peabody.
Leith Coghlin’s public relations firm, EnPointe has been representing landowners battling with conservation authorities for the past several years. He doesn’t think the changes went far enough.
“In this province we put halos over things like conservation and environment, but we don’t really assess whether they do anything. North America has 63 sub-national jurisdictions between the U.S. and Canada. Ontario is the only one that uses the conservation authorities model,” he says.
Several municipalities have come out in support of conservation authorities, who say the creation of ministry zoning orders to override conservation authority development permits, will lead to development at the cost of the environment.
“We have made improvements in terms of reduction of red tape, and reducing our timelines. We acknowledge sometimes that process got a little too long,” says Dan Gieruszak, chair of the Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority.
Landowners like Bob Weirmeir feels like the changes mean that balance will finally restored between the people that own the land, and those tasked with managing the environment around it.
“The pendulum just swung too far the other way. This should bring things back in line,” he believes.