N.B. residents’ input needed for land-use planning for agriculture and forestry
February 14, 2023 By Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Communication will be the key as the expanded Woodstock municipality in New Brunswick sets out to quickly amend its land-use and zoning bylaws to meet the needs of its new rural landowners and residents.
“We can’t do this work if people don’t provide information,” said Jennifer Brown, a land use and community planning expert with Dillon Consultants, during a presentation to council on Jan. 24.
Brown, who has worked closely with CAO and director of development and planning Andrew Garnett and staff over the past few years, addressed council.
She explained Dillon’s expanded role would provide time for the town to build its development and planning team to handle its larger mandate involving the expanded municipality.
“We’re here to build the bench strength and help the town hire a land planner,” Brown said.
She told the council that one of Dillon’s central roles would involve land-use planning and updating the municipal plan to include former local service districts, primarily rural areas.
Brown explained that the town would need a rural development plan with more agricultural land.
She and Mayor Trina Jones agreed a successful development plan would require the input of rural landowners and residents.
“We need feedback from residents,” said Jones. “We need to make sure the public knows what’s happening.”
The mayor asked council members, especially those representing former LSDs, to communicate with the residents in their respective wards.
Brown expressed a similar sentiment, noting the town needs to get the message out to the public and the public involved.
“We can’t do this work if people don’t provide information,” she said.
Brown said planning and local government reform would put land use at the forefront but added the town is working on a tight timeline. It is required to update planning-related bylaws as soon as possible.
She said they hope to complete the consultation process and have a report in council’s hands by the end of March.
“We have a lot of work in a short period of time,” Brown said.
She added the process requires a 30-day public planning process.
Brown and Mayor Jones said the town is already developing a communication strategy, which includes a plan to host an open house on March 1.
Brown said they might hold a second open house if required.
Other communication efforts will include updates on the town’s website, on social media and brochures delivered to each address in the municipality.
“The timeline is fast, but it’s doable,” said Jones. “It depends on community engagement.”
Brown explained that land-use planning for agriculture and forestry areas creates a new dynamic for Woodstock council. Landowners need to make town officials aware of exceptional circumstances and needs.
“Our option is not to steamroll anyone,” she said.
In addition to discussing the expanded land-use planning, Brown detailed her extensive land-use and development planning background and Dillon’s role in helping the town get an entire team in place.
She said Dillon has a complete team of experts to meet the town’s needs.
Brown said she and other Dillon staff members would work in the planning advisory committee (PAC) to help draft and circulate ads.
She said they would support Garnett and other town staff as they take up additional work until Woodstock hires its town planner.
Brown said Dillon staff would also continue working with Garnett to incentivize growth in Woodstock.
Garnett said he and town staff worked closely with Brown and the Dillon team for several years and expects the smooth relationship to continue.
He said they all share a common focus of a “bigger and better Woodstock.”
Jim Dumville is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter for the River Valley Sun.
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