Every day hundreds of people work behind the scenes to keep Prince Edward County running. We are profiling a few of the people that are ‘here for our community.’
We continue the series by talking with Jaspreet Deol (who has since moved onto another municipality) and Dale Egan who share the job title of Planner 1 within The County’s Planning department. Jaspreet and Dale are often the first point of contact for the public as they work with the department.
How long have you worked with The County and what was your path to get here?
Jaspreet Deol (JD): I studied Planning at University of Waterloo and through that program I had four different co-ops in different areas of planning. I did some environmental planning, a little bit of transportation planning, and one co-op that was focused on public consultation. I graduated in 2020 and started here at The County in September 2020.
Dale Egan (DE): I did a previous degree at Wilfrid Laurier in Geography. I worked for a few years and then I went back to Ryerson for a post-baccalaureate degree and completed an undergrad in Urban and Regional Planning. I worked for the Municipality of Brighton in its GIS department on a short contract and then started working for The County in September 2020.
How would you describe your job?
DE: Our job title is Planner 1, which is an introductory planner. Most municipalities have a tiered system of Planning staff. As you grow as a planner you gain more responsibility and work on bigger files.
JD: There are a few different types of planning files. There are small ones, like minor variances and severances which many people in The County are doing right now, and rezoning. Dale and I take care of most of these files. And then there are larger ones like plans of subdivisions and site plans. The more senior planners would take these on because they involve more technical studies and peer reviews and they are a lot more in-depth.
Our work starts with talking to the public, answering their questions, explaining the process and referring them to the right people when they have a bigger project. Those inquiries take up a good chunk of our day. Then, once a file is assigned to us by the Manager of Planning, we take it from the beginning stages to the end. We make sure the files are going to Planning Committee for a decision in a timely manner.
DE: In addition to everything Jaspreet spoke about, we also do building permit reviews for zoning compliance. We ensure that all of the building permits comply with The County’s zoning by-law before handing them back to the Building department for its approval.
JD: Right now, we’re actually handling a large number of submissions during the transition from the old Official Plan to the new one. There are a lot of files all at once. We work as fast as we can, but there is a process to follow. Even if you have a file ready to go, you have to wait a certain number of days for public consultation, you have to wait a certain number of days to get it on a Planning Committee meeting, and there are only so many files you can take to each meeting.
What do you like most about the job and working for The County?
JD: I really like having exposure to so many different aspects of planning. If I was working in a bigger municipality, I wouldn’t have so many different responsibilities. Here, with a team of just five or six of us, there’s lots of variety in what we get to do. I had the chance to help out the Heritage Advisory Committee – I’m their staff liaison – and that’s been really interesting.
DE: I have to agree with Jaspreet. We get exposure to different things and have our hands in a lot of files. I learn something new every day and I do learn a lot from the senior staff. Jaspreet and I have had opportunities to assist some of the senior planners in their larger files, so we have had exposure to the bigger applications too. We do a lot of different things and interact with the community on a lot of different levels, which is great.
How has COVID-19 impacted your work?
DE: Because of COVID-19 I work a hybrid schedule. I’m in the office two days a week to review the building permit applications in person, but other than that I work from home. Most of the work, to an extent, can be done at home but I do miss being in the office.
JD: When Dale and I first started, everyone was wearing masks all the time. One day, I was sitting in the lunch room, eating with my mask off and one of my colleagues said “Oh, so THAT’s what the rest of your face looks like!” It was so funny. Starting a new job during COVID means not getting to connect with your colleagues in the same way that you would under other circumstances.
From a work perspective, the public Planning Committee meetings have been held entirely online, and it’s more challenging for people to have their voices heard. Before COVID, the meeting would be in a town hall or bigger in-person setting where the act of just being there feels like you are participating. You can agree or disagree with something just by nodding your head. You can express what you feel about a file even if you’re not registered for a five-minute opportunity to speak. It’s been a big learning curve for everyone, and we’re sensitive to that.
What do you enjoy most about The County?
JD: How quiet and peaceful it is. Moving here was a bit of a shock. I grew up in Brampton where there’s a much bigger population. Driving at nighttime was really different than what I was used to, and there were lots of cultural things to get used to. But it is really nice and laid back. In Brampton, not everyone looks at you and says “hi,” but in Picton, anyone you make eye contact with will say “hello.” I think that’s really nice.
DE: I do enjoy the mix of rural and urban in The County. All the urban centres are closely connected to rural areas. When I lived in Waterloo for a while, you could get to a rural area, but it wasn’t anywhere close to the city centre because it had expanded so much. In Picton, you don’t have to go very far to get from town to a rural area. Of course, I enjoy the beaches and parks, and The County is surrounded by water, which is a really neat feature of this place.