Long-time Dysart planner reflects on position
Colleagues and developers say Pat Martin will be hard to replace
|By Alex Coop - Staff Writer | October 5, 2017|
Greg Bishop recalls a time when his company was able to perform up to 350 severances per year. Since the early 90s, that number has dwindled to about 70 or 80, he says.
Bishop, owner of Greg Bishop Surveying, says the downloading of additional planning controls and policies from the province to rural municipalities has made his company’s, and many other companies’, life slightly harder over the years.
But it would have been much harder without Pat Martin around.
Dysart’s director of planning and development for the past 25 years is retiring at the end of this year, and Bishop says filling her shoes is not going to be easy.
“She’s helped deliver a high level of consistency within the planning department in Dysart. It’s really made our jobs easier dealing with the planning process through this township, over others,” he says. “She has kept a pulse on the community for a while.”
Maintaining that pulse and listening to public feedback is critical to her position, says Martin.
“It helps us filter out planning policy,” she says. “If you looked at each individual policy in the official plan, you’ll see a lot that are competing. [Public input] helps us prioritize how to come to a decision that best addresses the policy regime.”
Martin points to consistency within the municipality’s staff itself, specifically Reeve Murray Fearrey, who has been in that role during Martin’s entire time with Dysart.
“Having that consistency makes it very easy to provide information to council,” she says. “I have a very educated council that understands the intricacies of our official plan … they understand they work within a hierarchy where there is a policy framework we have to draft our own policies within.”
Prior to hiring an official planner, the municipality was challenged on various decisions, which led to multiple Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearings and back-and-forths with hired consultants, who sometimes didn’t understand the community’s specific needs or challenges, says Fearrey.
Bringing Martin on-board was critical to Dysart’s success in navigating challenging jurisdictional waters and new planning responsibilities handed down by the province.
“She does her homework,” he says, adding she’s never lost an OMB decision with Dysart.
Martin’s leadership in developing an official plan for the municipality, and spearheading the creation of policies around water setbacks and shorelines in the county, well before the province began mandating 30 m setbacks in 2005, are just a few reasons why she excelled as a planner, says Fearrey.
She was also immensely professional, he says.
County planner Charlsey White compliments Martin’s strong communication skills and ability to disseminate information without all the planning jargon.
She also has a great sense of humour, White adds, and it’s helped foster an incredibly positive relationship.
“Her and I have had some very serious belly laughs,” she says. “I joke all the time that I know where you live.”
Martin lives down the street from White.
Applications for a new planner are still circulating.
ALEX COOP is a reporter for The Highlander.