Sponsors of a major development proposal in Port Dover have side-stepped the public meeting process in Norfolk.Norfolk council announced Tuesday that the 90-unit Misner Landing apartment project has been referred to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, the successor panel to the former Ontario Municipal Board.The backers were able to do so because Norfolk did not transact their application within the 150-day deadline in effect when the county received it.Council members are unhappy with this turn of events.Mayor Kristal Chopp said senior staff informed her, Port Dover Coun. Amy Martin, and Vittoria Coun. Chris Van Paassen at a municipal conference in Ottawa last month that council would complete the public-meeting process before the deadline expired. That’s not what happened.Chopp said it is unacceptable that the public’s right to comment on the proposal has been “compromised” in this manner. She told planning staff to come up with a system for tracking development applications so this doesn’t happen again.“This can’t happen on a project of this magnitude that impacts an entire community,” Chopp said. “I know Coun. (Amy) Martin is feeling the heat.”Martin confirmed some in Port Dover are unhappy that council will not register a verdict. They are also unhappy that they have been deprived of an opportunity to comment.“Those in the community who are aware this has happened are upset,” Martin said. “Some have said it’s like this project has found a loop hole.”At issue is a 90-unit apartment complex at the site of the former Misner Fertilizer plant on Lynn Street. A public meeting under the Planning Act was scheduled for Tuesday at Governor Simcoe Square but was cancelled now that the matter is in the hands of the LPAT.The county planners on the spot Tuesday were Shannon VanDalen and Alisha Cull. Neither knows where the information shared with Chopp, Martin and Van Paassen in Ottawa two weeks ago came from.The pair say it is unusual for a developer to seek a direct referral to the LPAT because that is a much more expensive, time-consuming process.The Misner Landing project is proposed for the banks of the Lynn River beside Misner Dam and Silver Lake.In an email Wednesday, planning consultant John Ariens of Hamilton said project proponents Heather-Jo Causyn and Jeff Causyn opted for the LPAT last week after council indicated Sept. 3 that a moratorium on new waterfront development in Port Dover was pending.Ariens said that discussion made it clear that council would not approve Misner Landing as presented, leaving the tribunal as the only viable route. As it stands, Ariens says the proposal “is fully compliant with the current official plan.”“The public planning process has not been compromised by their appeal,” Ariens says. “Rather, the decision to move forward with the interim-control bylaw revealed that council was not going to deal with the required zoning and would – in all likelihood – either defer or refuse the application.“As such, the Sept. 10 meeting was rendered unnecessary. The die has been cast for a non-approval situation and hence the LPAT appeal was initiated.” Norfolk council approved the interim-control bylaw — with some exceptions and modifications — at Tuesday’s meeting.While Port Dover and area residents were deprived of Tuesday’s opportunity to provide input, all is not lost.Cull pointed out that many residents provided oral and written submissions on the Misner Landing project at a preliminary public meeting in June. Input from that meeting, Cull said, is fair game and will be shared with LPAT.“The LPAT will see what the public’s concerns are,” Cull said.Chopp raised the possibility of an interim-control bylaw at the Sept. 3 meeting of council. Chopp said Norfolk has to take care now that waterfront property in downtown Port Dover is coming onto the market.If the county doesn’t put a solid waterfront plan in place, Chopp said Port Dover could end up with developments that the town regrets. A major risk involves a waterfront obstructed by tall buildings incompatible with the town’s maritime character.Chopp added that – when it comes to the future of Port Dover — Norfolk has to ask whether it wants “Niagara-on-the-Lake” or “high-rise condos.”As far as the Misner Landing project is concerned, that decision is in the hands of the LPAT. However that turns out, construction in this location and elsewhere is contingent on Norfolk addressing a water-supply deficit in Port Dover.Word of the shortfall this spring prompted council to impose a moratorium on major new developments in Port Dover requiring significant water allocation. Fixing the problem could take two years or longer, depending on the funding available and the solution adopted.