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The 1019 Report

Local Journalism Initiative

As Hudson town council prepares for another public consultation meeting next week on its proposed planning bylaw that seeks to outline how and where development should be allowed, specific themes of consensus are emerging, says Mayor Chloe Hutchison.

As an example, the protection of what Hutchison refers to as “bio-diversity corridors” has surfaced as one area residents favour as a workable way to enhance the protection of natural spaces and eco-systems.

Homeowners are showing support for the concept of protecting trees on their properties and surrounding areas, known as buffer zones, as a means of enhancing the town’s tree canopy. The positive response, Hutchison said, is growing as more residents learn about council’s overall aim of providing a framework for sustainable development.

“As long as people can use their property,” Hutchison said, the buy-in from residents appears to be there.

“They don’t want a full lockdown,” she explained, referring to restrictions that would limit the use and enjoyment of their land, but are willing to tolerate limits, like bans on tree cutting except in specific circumstances.

Even some developers have admitted, she said, to wanting to build in a more sustainable way without having to clear-cut a lot.

“It’s all about how you get there,” Hutchison said in an interview yesterday.

In a separate interview, councillor Mark Gray underlined how many residents are embracing the notion of preserving and enhancing eco-corridors, referring to it as an issue that has caught the attention of many residents.

“It’s an important theme people have picked up on,” he said after reviewing many of the submissions made during the consultation period.

During the public consultation period, which wrapped up Feb. 7, the town received about 100 written submissions that included comments, questions, criticism and support for the planning review process that was launched in December. Earlier this month, council unveiled a draft bylaw that outlines the areas it intends to prohibit tree-cutting and new construction. The bylaw also outlines a list of exceptions that addresses many of the concerns expressed. These exceptions include allowing new construction on any serviced lot, giving the green light to landowners who want to build homes in the first phase of the Willowbrook development in the east end of town.

Hutchison said some changes will be made to the draft bylaw that was presented earlier this month based on the comments and issues raised during the consultation phase. More information will be outlined on these changes at next week’s information session, set for Feb. 21.

Following that meeting, council intends to approve a final version of the planning bylaw at a special meeting Feb. 24. Both these sessions will be hosted virtually, although possible in-person access may be offered if pandemic restrictions allow.

According to the draft of the bylaw made public, areas that cover about 37 per cent of the town’s territory will be included in a conservation zone that would be subject to the tree-cutting ban. These areas have previously been identified as having the most ecologically value. These areas were initially included in a 90-day freeze on development initiated in December. This initial freeze will now be lifted, replaced by the new bylaw that imposes similar restrictions but with a list of exceptions that will allow construction and some tree cutting under defined circumstances.

The latest ban will remain in place for several months in order to give council time to review and amend a series of zoning, subdivision, site planning and architectural integration regulations to ensure the conservation plan is enforceable.

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