For years Chelsea residents have called for more robust public consultations and it appears that the municipality is listening.
The $23 million 2022 budget Chelsea council adopted in December includes $10,000 to improve public consultations on environment and urbanism.
Mayor Pierre Guénard said that it’s important to find better ways of connecting with Chelsea residents on upcoming projects. He added that residents he spoke with while campaigning for mayor during the November 2021 municipal elections asked for more clear and consistent communication from the municipality and more opportunities for input regarding projects.
With several consultations coming down the pike this year – for the municipal master plan update, dock bylaw revision, zoning bylaw changes, and several actions plans – he said this was necessary to add into the budget during the 11th hour.
“It would be nice to go back to real consultations in person,” Guénard said, adding that it will depend on the COVID-19 pandemic and provincial health restrictions. “[Residents] really miss the in-person consultations because they bring the questions and comments to another level.”
During Chelsea council meetings over the past three years, residents have repeatedly asked for better communication from the municipality on development projects and for more opportunities to provide input on changes.
On average, taxes went up 2.9 per cent in 2022, Guénard said. The new tax rate is $0.7673 per $100 evaluation for residential properties and $1.0841 per $100 for non-residential properties.
When asked where the overall municipal debt stands in 2022, Guénard said that the finance and communications directors are working on a public presentation that will be posted online this year to explain the budget process, expenditures, revenues, and the debt. He didn’t have the overall debt amount nor how much was budgeted to pay off the debt in 2022.
“We will have a presentation on the debt,” Guénard said, but he added that he doesn’t know when that presentation will be ready for the public.
“We feel good,” Guénard said on behalf of the council about the budget passed on Dec 21. “It’s what we call a transition budget because we [were elected] in November.”
Even before being sworn in, the new council began learning about the budget process, he said.
Council budgeted $10,400 for a consultant to draft a new conditional use bylaw that could allow for things like affordable housing, Guénard said.
The bylaw would allow flexibility in how certain zones are used – for example, allowing commercial development in a residential zone or vice versa – in certain cases.
“Right now, when we want to change usage, we have to change the whole zone,” Guénard said.
The new bylaw would allow for the parcel in question to have its particular zoning modified as requested instead of changing the entire zone — as long as certain conditions are met, he said.
Guénard said there will be public consultation on the changes once a bylaw has been drafted.