Alfred-Plantagenet Mayor defends council’s position on proposed asphalt plant
There's a reason the members of Alfred-Plantagenet council have remained so tight-lipped about the proposed asphalt plant.
According to a statement posted by Mayor Jean-Yves Lalonde on the township's website and in local newspapers, council understands that residents are concerned and said the township wants to make the best possible decision for the municipality and its residents.
"Before making an educated decision, council must be informed of every aspect of this project. The council's position must be supported by sound planning arguments in order for it to be successful before the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB)," Lalonde said. "I sympathize with everyone concerned by this project. At this time, I can only encourage you to trust the democratic consultation process in place."
Since the first public meeting to discuss the proposed asphalt plant was held in July, residents have criticized council and accused some members of being "too involved" in the project.
Councillor Raymond Fredette has declared a conflict of interest in the project because is son is involved.
Suzanne Lavoie, who lives on County Road 17 only a few lots over from where the proposed plant could be built, brought up Fredette's conflict of interest.
"It's interesting that he has a conflict and the plant could be built in ward two, which is his ward," she remarked. "I live in ward two and so do a lot of people here tonight. Those of us who live there currently have no council representation because our councillor has a conflict of interest. Essentially, we are now orphans of democracy. We have no voice to stand up for us."
Lavoie proceeded to ask the mayor numerous questions, which he did not respond to.
During the public meeting, Lalonde assured residents their questions would be answered, but members of council and representatives of P.B. Paving and Landscaping refused to answer any questions at the meeting.
One resident asked Lalonde if he would want his grandchildren living next to an asphalt plant. Lalonde only shrugged in response.
Many residents complained they were not properly notified about the public meeting and others have loudly stated the project is a "done deal."
"Many individuals have criticized my attitude, the council and the administration during this public meeting," Lalonde went on. "Others were convinced that the asphalt plant was a done deal or that council was involved in some way with the promoters of the project. Let me reassure you that it is not the case."
Lalonde explained that the company, P.B. Paving and Landscaping, has filed an application to amend the United Counties of Prescott-Russell (UCPR) Official Plan and this application is combined with an application to amend the township's zoning bylaw.
"Council cannot change the zoning category of a property if this category is not in compliance with the Official Plan designation," he explained.
Lalonde also stressed that the consultation process has been fair and democratic, despite what many residents are saying.
"The consultation process prescribed by the Planning Act started with the filing of a complete application on June 13 and the public meeting for the purpose of presenting the application and the issues at hand was held on July 16," Lalonde said. "Members of council received a copy of the notice of the public meeting at the committee of the whole meeting held on June 26 and council was informed of the application at the same time as everyone else. The purpose of the public meeting is to gather the comments of the population and the message received is clear."
As for the reason why he and his council colleagues have remain tight-lipped about the project, Lalonde said any comment made by himself, a member of council or staff member can be used "for or against the township during an OMB hearing.
"All applications to amend the Official Plan or the zoning bylaw can be appealed by a taxpayer or a promoter and be brought before the OMB. Any comment made by myself, a member of council or the administration during a public meeting can be used for or against the municipality during the OMB hearing."
As a result, Lalonde said council and staff must remain "impartial" as the process moves forward.
"It is unfortunate but that's how the system works," he stated. "We cannot expose the municipality to a potential risk of a lawsuit when the public consultation process has just started."