Township Watch - February 2021

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


The Muskoka Ratepayers were surprised to hear that Clerk’s Assistant Teri Guthrie and Planning Assistant Laurie Forbes were leaving their employment with the Township and wish them all the best with their new endeavours. The Muskoka Ratepayers believe both Teri and Laurie were valued employees with the Township and will be missed.

General/Finance Committee - Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

This meeting was cancelled this month.

Council - Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

Resort Village of Minett Joint Policy Review Draft Official Plan Amendment

Director of Development Services and Environmental Sustainability, David Pink, reviewed for committee how the Township had progressed in the Official Plan Amendment (OPA) process. In May of 2018 an interim control by-law was placed on the Resort Village of Minett and staff were directed to undertake planning studies on the area. Council appointed a steering committee who met for close to two years and presented their findings and recommendation in early 2020. Council then appointed a working group to review the recommendation that had been put forward. From there an OPA was presented in August of 2020 and in September Council voted to circulate the OPA for public comments conditional on the District’s OPA being circulated as well. The District did not support residential uses on private communal services and rejected their OPA. Township staff were asked to convene an ad-hoc committee of the previous working group to review and amend the Township’s OPA.

Prior to hearing from presenters Councillor Zavitz raised concerns that Council had not had a chance to review and discuss the OPA before them -Official Plan Official Plan.  Councillor Zavitz was further concerned that if Council voted to circulate the draft OPA, it would give the appearance that Council agreed with the document, and he did not. It was suggested that a Special Planning meeting be held to discuss the draft OPA. Mr. Pink reminded Council that they were not approving the draft OPA but directing staff to circulate the draft OPA for public comments and it was the appropriate time to do so.

Presenters also voiced concerned with the new draft OPA including, but not limited to:

  • density, docks, and residential usage,
  • the uncertainty of “non-mandatory language” being used,
  • the differences between the Steering Committee’s recommendations and those presented in the draft OPA including height restrictions of mid-rise structures allowing 4 to 11 storeys not the 45 feet originally submitted and staff housing being on site and none had been required in the draft, and
  • the draft OPA does not reflect the consensus and is much less restrictive than the steering committees’ recommendations.

Paula Bustard, planner for Clevelands House, The Rock and vacant lands in Minett, explained that it is important to put forward a balanced approach for the proposed development. Ms. Bustard explained that they had agreed to reduce their permitted density by 50%, reduce their gross floor area caps, and that a number of policies in place did not previously exist, including residential policies. The developers felt that although those involved may not agree about everything, the negotiations were moving in the right direction.

Councillors then held a discussion regarding the OPA commenting that:

  • they thought mid-rise structures were to be 4 to 5 storeys not 11,
  • this draft OPA was going to upset a lot of people,
  • permission to circulate should be deferred for a month so Councillors could obtain legal advice,
  • they are not happy with residential development on the waterfront,
  • not all Councillors had been involved with the discussions prior to the OPA being drafted,
  • the working committee ignored the recommendations of the steering committee,
  • compromises were made between the Township and the developer, and
  • not everyone is opposed to the proposed development.

Mr. Pink felt that since the principal stakeholders were involved and are willing to engage with the Township that the process of moving the draft OPA forward should commence and public input should be received. Mayor Harding reminded Council that the Township is currently “exposed” and if the stakeholders were to “walk away” from the discussions and submit an application, the Township would not have control. Pink further reminded Council that the current OP allows for 50% residential development.

Councillors agreed that a Special Planning meeting should be held for further in-depth discussions on the draft OPA. When asked if the proponents agreed to that, Ms. Bustard said that the proponent wants to keep talking but they also wish to proceed with their plans and delays are worrisome to them.

No resolution as read. No date was provided for a further meeting.

Planning Committee - Thursday, February 11th, 2021

District’s Water Quality Program

Rebecca Willison, a watershed planning technician from the District of Muskoka, presented to Committee the 2019 lake system health water quality monitoring program results. Ms. Willison explained that the District implemented its water strategy program in 2003 to protect the watershed, although monitoring through the District began in 1980/1981. The District monitors 194 sites across 164 lakes located within the District. Every May they monitor spring phosphorus levels, as well as 46 other parameters. “Muskoka Love Your Lake Program” was conducted on Kahshe Lake and Bass Lake in Gravenhurst. “The Natural Edge Program”, a shoreline re-naturalization program was done at 17 sites on 6 lakes in 2019 and 24 site visits on 12 lakes were conducted in 2020. The 2020 lake monitoring program was suspended due to COVID-19, however trends from 2019 showed that 75% of lakes samples had a spike in total phosphorus from the last time they were tested. These might be attributed to spring flooding or the ice coming off the lakes later that spring. The entire presentation can be found here -Water Strategy Water Strategy

This item was for information purposes and no resolution was read.

Proposed Cell Tower in Glen Orchard

A planner from CanACRE, representing Bell Mobility, was before committee to present a proposed cell tower at 1044 Young’s Road in Glen Orchard. Bell Mobility is committed to improving network coverage by proposing at 29.9 metre monopine cell tower. According to CanACRE Transport Canada has confirmed that no lighting will be required on the tower. CanACRE requested a letter of concurrence from the Township.

A resolution to provide the letter of concurrence was read and passed unanimously.

Skeleton Lake Cottagers Organization - Concerns re: Cell Tower

President of the Skeleton Lake Cottagers Organization (SLCO), Jeff Crocker, came to the Planning Committee to voice the organization’s concerns regarding a proposed cell tower near the north west shores of Skeleton Lake. According to Mr. Crocker the proposed cell tower is to be 200 feet in height and be located on a bluff that stands 200 feet above the lake. The SLCO has met with Bell Mobility requesting they find a way to use a monopine tower, Bell Mobility felt that a shorter tower would not work on that shoreline. Although the SLCO have been pleading with Bell Mobility to modify their plans as the tower will be in plain sight of all who enjoy the lake, they asked the Township for their help before a request for a letter of concurrence was received by the Township.

Committee members agreed with the concerns put forth by the SLCO. Mr. Pink stated that if an application is submitted for a tower in that location, staff will try to resolve the SLCO concerns as best as possible before the application comes to the Planning Committee. In answer to a question Mr. Pink explained that the Township does have the option of not issuing a letter of concurrence but ultimately the decision lies with the Federal Government.

This item was for information purposes and no resolution was read.

2020 Year End Statistics

Director of Development Services and Environmental Sustainability, David Pink, presented to Committee the 2020 year-end statistics for by-law enforcement and building and planning division of his department.

According to the agenda package in 2020, 1168 building permits in the amount of $139,701,729.12 were issued, which is a decrease in 79 permits from the prior year in the building division. By-law enforcement received 174 formal complaints in 2020 including dog control, noise control, property standards and zoning related complaints. The planning division processed 228 official plan and zoning amendments, site plans, minor variances, consent applications, deeming by-laws, condominium/subdivision, and telecommunication towers/solar farms reviews. This was a decrease of approximately 25% due to meetings being cancelled last spring due to COVID-19. It is anticipated that in 2021 these reviews will return to normal. With the healthy real estate market in Muskoka in 2020, the planning division saw an increase in planning inquires. The planning division was also busy with Local Planning Appeals Tribunal appeals, the Minett Joint Policy Review and the Official Plan review.

Special General Finance Committee Meetings for the Township Budget

The General Finance Committee met on January 15th to hear the 2021 Draft Township Capital Budget and 10 Year Forecast introduction and on February 2nd to hear the Draft Operating Budget introduction.

The proposed levy as presented at the February 2nd meeting was $10.57 per $500,000.00 of assessed property value over the 2020 budget. Following a Special Council meeting on Friday, February 5th to receive public input on the draft budgets, Committee met again on Friday, February 12th to deliberate -Budget with Comments Budget with Comments. Treasurer, Mark Donaldson, explained to committee that amendments had been made to the budget, including minor changes such as removing duplication of software, paving to the health hub parking lot, removal of a snowmobile for the fire department, moving some items from the capital budget, as well as Council compensation in the form of increased health insurance, increased travel insurance to age 75 and reallocating mileage allowance toward internet costs. These amendments changed the budget net year over year increase to 2.64% or $11.55 per every $500,000.00 of assessed property value over that 2020 budget.

Committee members reviewed the budget making the decision to add a mechanic, planner, and by-law officer to the operating budget. While deciding to not include a communication officer, roadside maintenance position, winter lights, a business video and putting monies aside for funding a hospital in future years, these amendments changed the levy to $20.82 per $500,000.00 assessed property value over the 2020 budget.

Staff had originally been asked to present a year over year increase of 2.5% in the 2021 budget, which they had done. The additions above altered the year over year increase to 4.18%. Treasurer Donaldson then presented a list of “potential cost savings” to Committee. Following discussions, the following were removed from the draft budget:

  • fees & conferences from the Clerks department budget
  • education & training from the Human Resources department
  • $10,000.00 from the $20,000.00 heritage & attainable housing budget
  • reduced contract services for cemeteries
  • operational overhead and materials for community centres
  • repairs to arenas
  • the summer swimming programs
  • reduced community grants to $20,000.00 from $40,000.00
  • $20,000.00 for the Chamber of Commerce visitors centre

These changes reduced the levy to $14.36 per $500,000.00 assessed property values or 3.11% net year over year increase. Committee voted to accept the adjusted budget with the above additions and reductions with the stipulation that staff look for “potential reductions” to decrease the year over year increase to 2.5%. These potential changes will be presented to Council prior to budget approval at a Special Council meeting on February 24th, 2021. The resolution passed unanimously.

Ed Note: The Muskoka Ratepayers submitted letters to the Township with comments on the Draft Capital and 10 Year Forecast - Capital Budget Comments and Draft Operating Budget - Operating Budget Comments

District - Tuesday, February 16th, 2021

No Parking Zone on Muskoka Road 169

At the request of Township of Muskoka Lakes and approved by the District’s Engineering and Public Works Committee, District Council ratified a request for a No Parking Zone on Muskoka Road 169 at Hardy Lake Park. A No Parking Zone will be installed on the south side of Muskoka Road 169 from Black Lake Road to Walker’s Point Road.

The Muskoka Ratepayers would like to once again
compliment Township and District staff
on their ability to work
and help the public during the pandemic.

Upcoming Events - Monthly Calendar

Ratepayers - Board Meeting
Jun 26, 2021 10:00am to 1:00pm
TML - Committee of Adjustment
Jul 12, 2021 9:00am to 12:00pm
TML - General / Finance Committee
Jul 14, 2021 9:00am to 12:00pm
TML - Council
Jul 14, 2021 1:00pm to 5:00pm
TML - Planning Committee
Jul 15, 2021 9:00am to 12:00pm
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