MRC meeting TNO Zone 501 zoning changes and last-minute budget revisions

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Allyson Beauregard

CAMPBELL’S BAY – The 18 mayors and representatives from the MRC Pontiac attended the monthly Council of Mayors (CoM) meeting, November 25. The agenda included a vote
concerning Zone 501 of the TNO,

Allyson Beauregard

CAMPBELL’S BAY – The 18 mayors and representatives from the MRC Pontiac attended the monthly Council of Mayors (CoM) meeting, November 25. The agenda included a vote
concerning Zone 501 of the TNO,
the adoption of the MRC Pontiac budget, a request regarding the Black River, and an update regarding the Lac Dumont beach access road. 
After a lengthy debate, the CoM decided to move forward with changing the zoning of Zone 501 of the TNO to commercial. Eight mayors voted against the zoning change: Kathy Belec (Mansfield), Terry Murdock (Thorne), Bill Stewart (Campbell’s Bay), Irene Nadeau (Ile-du-Grand-Calumet), Doris Ranger (Sheenboro), Donald Gagnon (Chichester), Terry Elliott (Clarendon), and Kim Villeneuve (Otter Lake).
With 26 outfitters already established in the area, those voting against the zoning said the area is already too crowded and expressed their desire to keep the area entirely open for the public to access as they wish. “The only thing Pontiacers have to do here is hunt or fish. There’s no way they want to lose what they were given back, years ago,” said Nadeau. 
MRC Pontiac Director General Remi Bertrand explained that
commercial zoning could prevent the Ministry of Natural Resources from issuing exclusive rights for the area; a request from a local outfitter, for exclusive rights, is already on the table. “As it stands, the Ministry has little choice but to issue exclusive rights for a portion of the area since it was zoned previously to allow it. They are ready to issue exclusive rights but
the decision is currently withheld administratively, due to job changes. Commercial zoning gives them
another option,” he explained.
Colleen Larivière, Litchfield Mayor, added to Bertrand’s statement: “None of us want exclusive rights for the area, so if we don’t do this, we’re asking for it because we will be shutting the door and allowing the Ministry to have control and make the decision,” she said.
A committee will be formed to
follow up on the issue; they will also have power to decide if permits are issued. In addition, the CoM made a motion stating to the government that they are “open for business”, but are absolutely against exclusive rights.
In compliance with the Planning and Development Act, a public consultation meeting on the draft bylaw will be held at the beginning of 2016.
The MRC Pontiac recently learned of a modification in the way the
government calculates the distribution of natural resources’ royalties which resulted in a loss of about $95,000 to the MRC and required them to rework their budget at the last minute. “We found out about the change by accident on November 19. Nobody was aware and we weren’t informed. The division of revenues that was once calculated based on the size of the territory is now more largely based on population, reducing our usual
revenue from $152,110 to $58,000,” said Bertrand.
To compensate for the loss, the MRC is forced to delay the hiring of an Assessment Department employee until later in the year, postpone certain
projects until 2017, and use a much larger portion ($210,000) of their accumulated surplus in order to balance the budget and honour their promised 1% (mill rate 0.1388) municipal share increase. With $5,781,485
in predicted revenues (this includes the funds from accumulated surplus) and the equivalent in expenses, the MRCs balanced 2016 budget was adopted.
The CoM passed a
resolution to be issued to the government stating their disagreement with the change as well as the lack of notice.
Biomass project,
Lac Dumont
and the Black River
Bertrand informed Council that he and Pierre Vezina, Project Manager, will be travelling to Atlanta in mid-December to investigate another technology for the Biomass Conversion Centre.
The Ministry of Forests, Fauna, and Parks has authorized the MRC Pontiac to close the Lac Dumont beach access road, with three conditions:  that the road be closed permanently, the MRC and its partners will bear the associated costs of doing so, and the closure will be within the lease limits of the SAGE, an organization that is currently leasing the beach area. The public boat launch at Trout Bay is expected to be complete by June 2016; the MRC has now obtained all authorizations and permits to carry out the work, estimated to cost about $30,000.
The CoM will ask
the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environ-ment and the Fight Against Climate Change to remove the Black River from the watercourses within the MRC Pontiac’s jurisdiction due to the complexity of managing the area, which includes a hydroelectric dam and retaining structures to create reservoirs, and the resulting expenses. 
The next meeting will be held December 15.