Township Watch - February 2020


The following index should help you in locating an article of particular interest

Bubblers

The following comments were recently made in the Mayor’s newsletter:

“During the coldest days of winter, your bubbler probably only needs to operate 10 to 12 hours a day. In the middle of February or March, you may be able to reduce that time to 6 to 8 hours a day”.

And “I encourage the use of blue bubbler lights. Blue not only is the most penetrating colour in the dark (notice runway lights at an airport), but it is also a colour used for snowplows and emergency vehicles to warn people of danger or caution.”

It is the Muskoka Ratepayers’ opinion that the information provided is inaccurate. As Mayor Harding is aware, the Muskoka Ratepayers have been advocating for the proper use of bubblers for many years, including delegating on this issue to Council. It is the Muskoka Ratepayers opinion that running bubblers for the length of time being suggested is too long and will open water unnecessarily. Articles written by the MRA can be read here.

Furthermore, several months ago a board member from the Muskoka Ratepayers delegated to Council on behalf of the MRA and the MLA asking the Township to formalize the use of a single light on bubblers. Following in-depth research, including communications with the OPP, the two associations requested that the colour of bubbler lights be restricted to amber in the Township Dark Sky By-Law. The Muskoka Ratepayers were surprised to read that Mayor Harding was suggesting bubbler lights be blue.

Staff

The Muskoka Ratepayers were saddened to learn that Treasurer Shannon Johnson is no longer with the Township. It was our experience that Ms. Johnson was always extremely helpful and generous with her time when explaining financial information. We wish Shannon all the best in her future endeavours.

The Township has also said goodbye to By-Law Officer Jon Popple who has moved on to a position in another municipality. All the best Jon.

The Muskoka Ratepayers welcomes Kaitlyn Walker to the Township in her position as planner. Kaitlyn comes to the Township with degrees from the University of Waterloo and Dalhousie University.

Council - Wednesday, February 12th, 2020

Bin Site Transition Plan (Garbage)

Commissioner of Engineering and Public Works, Fred Jahn and Director of Solid Waste, Stephanie Mack from the District presented to Council on the bin site transition plan. Commissioner Jahn explained that the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) has required that all unlicensed bin sites in the District of Muskoka be removed by April 2023. Although District staff and Councillors have been involved in discussions with the MECP for several months, District staff are updating the municipalities on the situation. Director Mack explained to Council that this was a challenging project but important first steps have been taken. Eighty-eight unlicensed bin sites for waste collection exist throughout the District for residents who do not have road-side garbage pick up. The Township of Muskoka Lakes has 21 sites which are used by water access and island residents.

District staff, along with staff from the MECP have visited all bin sites in the District and have deemed 25 of the sites a high priority. It was determined that 12 of the 25 sites could be temporarily relocated on their current property. Of these 12, four are in the Township of Muskoka Lakes at SWS Marina, Parkers Landing, Nine Mile Lake Marina and Walkers Point Marina. Two high priority sites in the Township located on McDonald Road and 4716 Muskoka Road 169 (Hamill’s Point Road) cannot be mitigated and must be removed.

It was explained that for the areas where bins are being removed a potential option is that a portable bin might be brought in on a specific day and time. This would be your “garbage day” and this site would be supervised.

The public will be made aware of these changes through information in their tax bill, signage posted at bin sites, letters to those impacted, as well as on the website EngageMuskoka.ca. The District has a tight deadline of November 2020 to inform the MECP on how they will mitigate/deal with this solid waste problem.

ED Note: It is important to realize that just because your “site” is mitigated/relocated does not mean that the problem has been solved. The bin will eventually be removed permanently.

Procedural By-Law/Council & Committee Structure/Meeting Schedule

As reported in the December 2019 Township Watch - Township Watch - December 2019 - the Township meeting schedule and Committee structure was being reviewed. Staff recommended that no changes be made to the meeting schedule or committee structure until after the Strategic Plan Review and potential Council training session. Councillors were not in agreement with this suggestion stating that they should move forward with changes to the meeting schedule and committee structure. Staff suggested a meeting schedule of Council on Wednesday mornings at 9 AM with the General/Finance Committee meeting at 2PM on Wednesday of Council week.

Mayor Harding, who initially implemented the change in committee structure, said he had concerns with larger committees as “everyone likes to talk” and the meetings will be longer with a potential need for dinner breaks as well as lunch breaks. Councillors remained firm on their view that the committee structure should be changed to allow all Councillors to be on each committee and have a vote.

As meeting schedules are set by policy, a resolution was read to alter the meeting schedule into a two-day cycle. Mayor Harding suggested the following schedule, which carried:

  • Wednesday at 9 AM General/Finance Committee
  • Wednesday at 1 PM Council
  • Thursday at 9 AM Planning Committee

Committee structure can only be amended with a change in the procedural by-law, which will return to Council next month.

Strategic Plan Goal Setting Workshop

CAO, Derrick Hammond, explained to Council that information received at a workshop and through conference calls had been compiled into a draft strategic plan. This was followed by a presentation by a representative from the consulting firm, Strategic Corp Inc who explained that the document was a starting point with input from staff, the community and the corporation and asked for Council’s input. Councillors commented that:

  • there was too much “fill” in the document,
  • “stakeholders” were not defined,
  • environment and economic development must go hand in hand,
  • there should be one vision statement for the entire Township
  • this process should be quick and painless, not incredibly distracting,
  • people want to protect Muskoka and will hang on every word of the Vision Statement,
  • Strategy Corp was hired to be the quarterback on the project,
  • the document is just words on paper, and
  • this is a fundamental starting point.

Council did not endorse the document but referred it back to staff. CAO Hammond is to accept feedback from Councillors and provide it to Strategic Corp before scheduling another meeting.

Sports Courts

Concerns of “sports courts” being located too close to the water was raised at a December meeting. Staff prepared a draft by-law that would restrict sports courts within 200 feet of the high-water mark for Council’s review and comments. Planner, Rian Allen, explained that the Township needs to be clear in what they are trying to regulate and what they are not. For example, are they trying to restrict people playing basketball in their driveways?

Councillors voiced concerns that they felt the by-law was being drafted to address “hard-scapes” which can cause potential damage to the environment. With the way this by-law is drafted it would also limit soccer fields, baseball diamonds, volleyball courts, horseshoe pits. Mr. Allen listened to Council’s comments and stated that staff were directed to draft a by-law which they had done, but now he felt that all Councillors had different perspectives on what should be in the by-law and he needed clear direction on what Council wanted.

The draft by-law was deferred for “word-smithing” and will be returning to the Planning Committee for further review.

Lake Plan

Director of Planning, David Pink informed Council that because of the uniqueness of Muskoka it is virtually impossible to write policy or a by-law for all lakes in the Township. Each lake has special characteristics and is influenced by different things. However, lake plans are helpful to the Township when passing policies on lakes. The Township is the only municipality in the District that does not have lake plans in their Official Plan.

Lake plans are developed when cottagers on a lake get together and determine what they feel is best for their lake. A lake plan includes an inventory of the lake including things such as soils, fish and wildlife.

This item was for information and no resolution was read.

Public Comments

There is a section on each Council agenda that allows for public comment on any item specifically listed on the agenda for a maximum of two minutes. At the past Council meeting a member of the public tried to speak on an item not included on the agenda. Although this person argued that the information he wanted to speak about was important, he was not permitted to do.

It was within Mayor Harding’s purview to deny this request.

ED Note: The Muskoka Ratepayers support Mayor Harding’s stand on not allowing items not on the agenda to be discussed. This is important to keep the meetings efficient and on topic.

General/Finance Committee - Thursday, February 13th, 2020

Brief Review

The General/Finance Committee discussed:

  • waiving fees for events held by the Peninsula Lions at the Peninsula Community Centre,
  • road allowances,
  • revitalization initiatives such as new signs at Township Community Centres, and
  • the Township’s economic development strategy.

It was a fast and efficiently run meeting.

Planning Committee - Friday, February 14th, 2020

Official Plan Review

Director of Planning David Pink presented to Committee Official Plan discussion papers - OP Review - Discussion Paper. This document was compiled by the consultants who added three sections, namely: flooding policies, urban design and economic growth without the input from the Official Plan Working Committee. Councillor Roberts, who is the Chair of the working committee, voiced concern that the document was being considered prior to the working committee discussing the additions and that the document does not reflect information provided by the working committee. Mr. Pink explained that at the meeting the consultant and he took notes, while using the working committee as a sounding board for where the community was “leaning”. Mr. Pink agreed to forward the three additions to the working committee and asked Councillors for their comments.

Committee members then voiced their comments and concerns including:

  • that the wording around “resort policy” may confuse the public,
  • boathouses are an iconic part of Muskoka,
  • that the Township can be as “prescriptive” as they want but the problem will be enforcement,
  • if owners want to put large appliances on the main floor of their boathouses which get damaged or destroyed when water levels rise, that is the owner’s problem, and
  • contractors’ yards should not be located on Muskoka Road 118 and Muskoka Road 169 but be off the main corridors where they will be “less harmful for the environment”.

The resolution, amended to include that the document should be reviewed by the working committee and then received, was read and carried.

Mary Jane Lake

The Mary Jane Lake subdivision application was referred back to Committee at the January Council meeting to re-discuss studies on the habitat of Blanding’s Turtles in the winter and an environmental review of section B17 of the Township’s Official Plan that has been recommended by the Planning Committee in December. Chair Bridgeman explained that the application was in front of Committee for clarification and new information, but the entire presentation was not going to be revisited.

Representatives for the applicant explained that they were before committee to request that the Township submit comments to the District, who are the “approval body” on plans of subdivision. Prior to the original application being heard by Committee the applicants had met with staff to inquire what would be required for the application. The applicant completed necessary studies, agreed to have the studies peer reviewed and then completed further work. A species at risk study was completed and reviewed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) who did not recommend further work be done. The applicant argued that standards had been established for their studies at the outset of the application, which they followed and now those in opposition to their development were asking that different standards be met.

Anthony Usher, representative for those in opposition, requested that the Committee continue to request the two studies and to reconsider a boat impact assessment which was not requested by Committee in December. Mr. Usher emphasized that Mary Jane Lake is a unique lake.

Planner from the District, Sam Soja, reviewed for Committee the process that has taken place to date since the application was deemed to be complete in June 2019. Mr. Soja stated that this was the opportunity for the Township to provide comments to the District if there was anything that the Township wished the District to consider.

Committee then discussed that:

  • the applicant had been given a “road map” of what was required which they followed,
  • Township Council may “overstep our bonds” by asking for greater standards with the studies,
  • Township is not the regulatory body for this,
  • the applicants develop four lots then conduct testing. Develop three more, conduct tests and then develop the remaining three lots,
  • the District could be asked to recommend the testing for Blanding’s Turtle and an environmental review, and
  • that a lake plan be considered.

A resolution was read to make recommendations to the District on the application and carried.

Background on this application can be found here - Township Watch - July 2019 and Township Watch - December 2019.

Site Plan Agreement - Processes and Procedures

Planner, Rian Allen, explained to Committee that this issue was raised in November and staff were requested to review the site plan process. Staff prepared an informal report for discussion. Mr. Allen explained that although staff were not recommending changes, some potential changes might be:

  • site inspections
  • owner reporting of problems
  • security deposits
  • protection of areas and barriers
  • better signage and notification
  • independent reviews were needed
  • tree inventories

Mr. Pink thanked Mr. Allen for his report and informed Committee that it had been a good exercise for staff to sit and discuss potential ideas. As this item was for discussion purposes no resolution was read.

Planning Department Activity 2019

This item was on the agenda for Committee’s information and no discussion occurred.

Planning Department Planning Act Applications numbers can be viewed here, including Official Plan Amendments, Zoning By-Law Amendments, Site Plans, Minor Variances, Consent Applications, Deeming By-Laws, Condominium/Subdivision reviews and Telecommunication Tower/Solar Farm review. The total number of such applications in 2019 were 315 - Planning Department Activity. The report also shows that LPAT appeals in 2019 had decreased and that staff were busy with the Minett Joint Policy Review Steering Committee and the Official Plan Review.

District - Monday, February 18th, 2020

Budget

District Council approved the District’s 2020 tax-supported operating and 2020 capital budget at an increase of $16.26 per $300,000.00 of property assessment.

Graydon Smith, Deputy Chair of the District, was chairing the meeting and congratulated Commissioner Stevens and her team for all their hard work on the budget.

Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce Event

Come welcome Muskoka Lakes’ only practising psychotherapist, Gordon Dalziel, at his grand opening on Thursday, March 12 from 5:30-7:30 PM at the Port Carling Health Hub lower level.

This grand opening and networking event is being hosted by Gordon Dalziel, R.P. and the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce.

Admission is free. Just bring your warm welcoming smiles. Having a psychotherapist in Port Carling is a win for mental health, for the community and for the Health Hub which has been seeking another tenant for some time now.

The board of the Muskoka Ratepayers is working hard
on our 2020 Yearbook.
We invite you to submit pictures for potential use in the Yearbook.

 

According to the Township website the budget meeting schedule has been set.

Monday, March 23rd, 2020 Draft Budget Introduction at 9 AM
Tuesday, March 31st, 2020 Draft Budget Public Input Session at 6:30 PM
Thursday, April 2nd, 2020 Draft Budget Deliberations at 9 AM

 

Upcoming Events - Monthly Calendar

TML - Committe of Adjustment
Apr 14, 2020 9:00am to 12:00pm
TML - General / Finance Committee
Apr 15, 2020 9:00am to 12:00pm
TML - Council
Apr 15, 2020 1:00pm to 5:00pm
TML - Planning Committee
Apr 16, 2020 9:00am to 12:00pm
Ratepayers - Board Meeting
Apr 25, 2020 9:00am to 1:00pm
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