By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A web-based public engagement survey – part of the process of the possible development of a tree-cutting bylaw for Chatham-Kent – is complete.
According to Chief Administrative Officer Don Shropshire, an online survey designed to gather feedback from property owners and local residents garnered 1,600 individual responses.
All told, 3,500 comments were put forward in the Ethelo platform, which closed July 9, Shropshire told a media conference last week.
Of the respondents, 40 per cent came from property owners who have woodlots.
Complaints that the survey questions were biased were also made, Shropshire said, adding it’s fair to say “expressions of concern” were put forward.
Criticism that people from outside the municipality were filling out the survey was another issue raised, however the CAO said there are people who own property in the municipality who do not live here.
The consulting company operating Ethelo has facilitated other public surveys in the past. The company has a built-in process for data verification and will be able to flag anyone reporting from outside Chatham-Kent.
They are also able to determine if the respondent is a human or a bot.
Shropshire said the online tool is just one piece of information council will use in its decision-making process, adding there are many factors that come into play.
An incentive for woodlots owners to preserve forest cover is part of what’s being examined, he said.
“The directive we’ve received from council is to determine what types of incentives should be considered,” Shropshire noted.
A timeline as to when the final results will be tabulated and delivered to council is still up in the air, Shropshire said, adding a more fulsome response is still a ways off.
However he said council should receive an update on the process next month. The 120-day temporary bylaw expires Aug. 24.
The municipality is also waiting on the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority to complete an aerial analysis of Chatham-Kent that captures an exact picture of how much tree cover currently exists.
But Shropshire said COVID-19 has slowed the process, adding the LTVCA only recently received the software it needs to complete the analysis.
“It will show what type of forest cover there is and if it has gone up or down,” he explained, noting it could take several weeks.
An aerial analysis is carried out every four years.