Urgent action needed
BRUCE MACDOUGALL Bruce MacDougall is president of the Federation of P.E.I. Municipalities and a member of Summerside City Council.
The final report from the Land Matters Advisory Committee has been released and, as the umbrella organization representing P.E.I. municipalities, the Federation of P.E.I. Municipalities agrees with the committee, that the time for discussion is over. We need action. Concern over land use has been a recurring topic of discussion for decades. The federation presented to the Land Matters Advisory Committee earlier this year and have been advocating for modern planning to help use land more efficiently, build more resilient communities, and preserve the unique character and charm of P.E.I. The committee’s efforts and recommendations, supported by public consultation, previous reports and policy development work leaves the province well positioned to act now. The reluctance to address outdated provincial land use has contributed to sprawling development across the province which drives up the cost of providing public services for everyone (i.e.: snow clearing, road maintenance, busing children to school and garbage collection). It consumes agricultural land, threatens our groundwater, spoils the picturesque landscape we all enjoy and destroys wildlife habitat and natural areas. With a growing population, this is happening at an accelerated rate. This also means added strain on municipalities and an unfair distribution of the tax burden. We need to direct more development to the serviced areas. Rural citizens have little control over the development happening in their area, which can have a direct impact on their property values and quality of life. A provincewide plan was first recommended almost half a century ago. The provincial government needs to do comprehensive planning to protect the broad interests of the province like groundwater, agricultural and other resource land and sensitive areas, while local planning needs to be done by municipalities. As stated in the Land Matters Report, both the provincial and municipal governments have an important role to play in land use planning. Local planning involves community input and participation in the planning process. Land-use decision-making in the hands of municipalities builds capacity to tackle local challenges, deliver services that matter to citizens, and preserves the character of the communities we’re proud to call home. Only about 10 per cent of our province has land-use planning in place, leaving our Island largely unprotected against development that doesn’t serve our shared best interests. Strategic decisions today around land-use and development will strengthen our service centres — both urban and rural — while protecting our environment and our agricultural and tourism sectors. We need to protect our rural areas and the vital industries they support. We concur with the committee that the provincial government should put provincewide interim regulations in place now to further regulate subdivision and development in areas without an official plan until a province-wide land use planning framework can be adopted. The Land Matters Committee states that there is an urgent need for action on land-related legislation and policy. We agree and are urging the government to begin work on that much needed framework. We can’t afford to continue ignoring the warnings of irreversible impacts. We can address it before it’s too late if we act now.