Michael Banner discusses the proposed amendments with residents.
BY SOUTHGREY.CA STAFF — A public planning hearing was held at the Markdale Arena on August 26 to discuss two proposed Grey Highlands bylaw amendments. Grey Highlands Mayor Paul McQueen, Deputy Mayor Aakash Desai and Council members were on hand as well as municipal staff. Councillor Paul Allen chaired the meeting.
Director of Building and Planning Services Michael Benner outlined each of the amendments, the first of which recognizes resource-based recreational uses in site-specific locations. Nicknamed the camping bylaw, the proposed amendment allows for campgrounds within Open Space zones. Any application to rezone a property within the municipality to allow for resource-based recreational use would be assessed on an individual basis and could be subject to additional environmental or community impact studies, also given adherence to certain size and conditional restrictions:
According to Benner, public response to the proposed campground bylaw has been very positive so far. A few people in the audience also let their views be known including a young boy whose comments and bravery in front of a large crowd earned him an impromptu ovation. "I really like camping," he said. "I like to fish and it's a great way to meet new people," he added.
Those sentiments were echoed by Grey Highlands Chamber of Commerce President Stewart Halliday. "We welcome new businesses and new campground owners," he advised. "I thank the municipal planner and council for moving ahead on this project," he continued.
Many residents attended the public hearing held at the Markdale Arena.
The second bylaw amendment addressed a motion made by council in February, to consider reducing the minimum size requirements of dwelling units in the municipality. Benner explained that previously, the Ontario Building Code dictated dwelling size according to minimum dimensions for individual rooms combined to compose a minimum standard. Benner's proposal would remove the minimum size requirement completely.
The amendment does not address minimum lot size requirements for smaller homes. Currently, minimum lot sizes are flexible, uniquely determined by the conditions of a given lot and what services are necessary or available to create a fully-functioning dwelling on the property, such as water and waste management system considerations. By example, septic systems would require more space than a sewer hookup.
Dwellings that can be towed as a trailer or mobile home will continue to be disallowed as a primary residence in the municipality.
Several audience members spoke in favour of the need for smaller, more affordable homes in the municipality for both millennials and seniors. Markdale Rotary President Patrick Petch came armed with statistics. "The average home in Grey Highlands sells for $497,000. The average millennial's salary is only $38,000 per year," he explained, making the point that homes are generally unaffordable to millennial buyers who according to Petch can only realistically handle a maximum mortgage amount of approximately $200,000.
Builders in attendance added their concerns with the escalating cost of new homes, citing a minimum construction cost of $150 per square foot. Reducing the size of homes, while creating a less expensive option for buyers, can only go so far in bringing home prices down to an affordable level. Lot size and location play an important role in determining the price of a home in Grey Highlands.
Senior planner for Grey County, Scott Taylor stood up to say that he was closely watching this initiative. "It is a great conversation and we will work with municipal staff to come up with solutions," he said.
Following the August 26 public meeting, all comments received by the municipality on both bylaw amendments will be considered in a report to be provided to council sometime in September or October when determinations will be made. These amended bylaws could conceivably be in effect within two months.
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