Township Watch - June 2020

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

Due to the Provincial Emergency and social distancing requirements, Township and District meetings were again held electronically.

General/Finance Committee - Wednesday, June 10th, 2020

Asset Management Plan

Director of Public Works, Ken Becking gave an informative presentation on the Township’s Asset Management plan. Mr. Becking explained that all municipalities are required to have asset management plans in place by July 2024.  One of the main concerns across all municipalities is infrastructure needs and the limited funds available.  Mr. Becking explained that a good place to start with the plan was a definition of asset management which he stated is how the Township manages its infrastructure, provides services, and minimizes risk.  Essentially, according to Mr. Becking  “it is important to put the right dollars to the right issue at the right time”.  Asset management plans allow municipalities to make sound rational decisions and should be a key tool along with the Township’s Official Plan and Strategic Plan.

The process of an asset management plan is to look at what the Township owns, what condition it is in, what is it’s worth, how it is performing, what needs to be done to it, the cost of the repairs and how it will be paid for.  An asset management plan is not something that can be completed ever as it is a living document which will become part of the normal day to day business.

Each part of the plan will be brought to Council, so they have the chance to see how it is progressing before a final document is presented.  Because of COVID-19, the Township is currently two months behind schedule but still on track to have the necessary phases completed before the required completion dates.

Mr. Becking’s presentation can be found here - Asset Management Asset Management - as well a document on asset management written by some of his colleagues - Asset Management - 101 Asset Management - 101. This item was for information only, and no resolution was read. 

Port Sandfield Bridge Closure

Director of Public Works, Ken Becking, indicated that a letter had been included in the agenda package - Port Sandfield Bridge Port Sandfield Bridge- regarding the rehabilitation of the Port Sandfield bridge.  The correspondence spoke about nightly closures beginning September 12th to November 14th from 9 PM to 5:30 AM.  As well as a full 14-day closure of the bridge between September 12th to November 7th, but the specific dates were not known at this time.

Committee members appeared surprised to have this item on the agenda as this project would normally be done through the District not the Township.  Mayor Harding, who is the Chair of the Engineering and Public Works Committee at the District confirmed that his committee has not discussed this item to date. 

No resolution was read.

Ed Note: We will keep our members informed about this potential closure as more information becomes available.

Littering in the Township

Councillor Hayes asked that this item be included in the agenda as she has received calls regarding littering on municipal lands and road allowances.  It was suggested that littering fines be increased and if caught littering the individual should be required to complete community service by cleaning up affected areas.  Councillor Roberts, who seconded the motion, mentioned that it has come to his attention that people are removing all identification from trailers and leaving them at the Milford Bay Community Centre at which point it becomes the Township’s problem to dispose of them.

A resolution that directed staff to “review and provide Council with recommendations to potentially amend/implement Township By-Laws with respect to littering on municipal lands and road allowances, including set fines and clean-up fees”.  This was read and passed unanimously.

The KEE to Bala

The KEE to Bala submitted a letter to the Township regarding their “contingency plan” for open air events during July to September 2020 due to COVID-19.   The “contingency plan” is for an outdoor amphitheatre where 10 to 15 events will be held between July 24th to September 6th between 8 PM and 12:30 AM.  It would include the closure of Bala Falls Road from the Bala Falls Pub to Walker’s Street, a no parking zone on Bala Falls Road from 4 PM and exemption from the noise by-law from 11 PM to 12:30 AM.  Township Clerk, Cheryl Mortimer explained that an application had been received by the Township and asked Committee if they were willing to entertain the request before staff researched it - Kee to Bala Kee to Bala

Committee members discussed the application, commenting that:

  • Committee must try to help local businesses,
  • events like this have been held in the past,
  • this is different from previous events as it is proposed to have events every weekend,
  • a concert ending at 12:30 AM does not mean the noise ends at 12:30 AM,
  • this could potentially allow for more people outside than allowed inside the KEE,
  • Committee should not consider promoting this during the Provincial Emergency,
  • the public should be given an opportunity for feedback,
  • noise carries over water, and
  • the insulated trailer will push the sound towards the railway tracks and the Moon River.

It was determined that staff should return to the next Council meeting with a staff report for Council’s consideration, which passed unanimously.

Council - Thursday, June 11th, 2020

Termination of Lease - SREL

Swift River Energy Limited has given notice to the Township that they wish to terminate their lease on Township lands at the end of June 2020.  With the termination of the lease comes the obligation to restore leased lands to the Township’s satisfaction and restoration of Portage Park. 

Councillors questioned whether SREL required the Shield Parking Lot while constructing Portage Park?  Mr. Becking felt “that decision would rest with the contractor completing the work”.  It was suggested that the Township not end the lease which would give the Township some control over what is completed.  Mr. Becking explained that $200,000.00 was held in securities and will not be released until the work is completed to the satisfaction of staff.

This item was on the agenda for information only.  It was decided that Mr. Becking should confirm with the Township solicitor if the lease should be terminated before the park is restored and clean-up is completed.  Mr. Becking is to return to a future Council meeting with the above information and a timeline for the park restoration work.

Curbside Pick Up in Port Carling & Bala

Councillors Mazan and Kelley presented to Council their idea of how to support local businesses in a safe manner by having some parking spots dedicated for curbside pick-up in Port Carling and Bala.   As Muskoka Roads 118 & 169 are District roads this proposal would require approval from the District and Councillors Mazan and Kelley wished to get the process started.   Ward A Councillors felt that this would not work in Bala and did not wish to have it considered in their ward.

Council discussed the motion with comments that safe curbside pickups would give restaurants in Port Carling a chance to “survive” as they cannot currently provide service inside and outside areas are limited due to social distancing and weather.  A time limit on parking times was not included in the motion nor how to enforce it.

The motion was defeated in a tie vote of 5 to 5.  Mayor Harding suggested that if specific restaurants have specific requests, they should contact the District.

Resort Village of Minett Joint Official Plan Policy Review

Director of Development Services and Environmental Sustainability, David Pink explained to Council that although the Minett working group has continued to meet and work on the Official Plan Amendment (OPA) the deadline of June 2020 should be extended to August 2020.  With the Provincial Emergency in place the interim control by-law that was placed in Minett is still in effect and will remain in effect for 60 days after the emergency is lifted.  Once a draft OPA is presented to Council the next steps will be to hold a public meeting.

At this time staff at both the District and Township levels are concerned about their ability to undertake a project of this scale and the time involved.  Mr. Pink explained that they would like to hire a consultant to prepare notices of the public meeting, hold the public meeting, reply to submissions that will be received, bring the OPA to Council for adoption and bring it to District for approval.  It is estimated that the cost of a consultant would be $60,000.00 which would be shared evenly with the District.  Mr. Pink explained that when a detailed outline was given to consultants, some said they could not handle the amount of work it would require and suggested that the Township hire Meridian Planning Consultants. 

Councillors who sit on the working committee assured Council that progress is being made and a resolution to hire a consultant was read and carried.

Delegation of Authority for Consent Approvals

Director of Development Services and Environmental Sustainability, David Pink reminded Council that just over a year ago he had suggested that Council delegate authority of consent approvals to staff.  Mr. Pink explained that there is a backlog due to COVID-19 and suggested that consents that do not require a public meeting under the Planning Act be delegated permanently to staff, as they do in neighbouring municipalities.  It was suggested that right-of-ways, lot additions, singular lot creation and title validation be delegated to staff if they are “uncontested”.  If an application were contested it would follow the normal process of being heard before Committee of Adjustment.  If an application required a minor variance or zoning change it would be heard before the Planning Committee or Committee of Adjustment.

CAO, Derrick Hammond explained to Council that the items they were referring to were straight forward applications and minor in terms of intent.  Mr. Hammond felt that this delegation would improve efficiencies.

Several Councillors felt that they could not support the request for delegated authority as it lacked transparency.  Mr. Pink reminded Council that if the requests do not comply with the Official Plan or Zoning By-Law they would have to be heard by Committee of Adjustment.

Councillor Hayes suggested that a level of comfort would be given if Council were kept up to date on which consent applications were being approved by staff.  After a brief discussion, Council defeated the resolution to give authority to the Director of Development Services and Environmental Sustainability for uncontested technical consent.   The recorded vote was Councillors Hayes and Nishikawa and Mayor Harding voting for it, while the seven other Councillors voted against it.

Ed Note: Although the Muskoka Ratepayers agree that transparency is paramount, it is unfortunate that Council did not put their faith in staff who are the experts and professionals in this matter.

Township Staff

Through the passage of by-laws, Township Council officially appointed Mark Donaldson as the new Treasurer and appointed David Pink as Director of Development Services and Environmental Sustainability.  The Muskoka Ratepayers look forward to working with Mr. Donaldson and congratulate Mr. Pink on his new title.

The Township is also saying goodbye to Chief Building Inspector, Neil Donald and Curtis Livingstone in the Building Department.  The Muskoka Ratepayers wish them both the best as you move onto the next chapters of your lives.

District - Monday, June 15th, 2020

Muskoka Airport - Grass Runway Closure

In April, the Board of the Muskoka Airport asked Council to close the grass runway which runs east/west due to safety concerns as required work on it could not be done due to COVID-19.  This item had not been on the agenda and was raised under new business. Several Councillors were against the closure, specifically Mayor Harding who thought public input was required.  Council agreed that the runway would be temporarily closed until July 1st, 2020 to allow the airport board the opportunity to present their concerns and reasons for the closure to Council.

The item was back on the agenda this month with a motion that read that the grass runway should remain closed until April 2021.  Board members presented to Council why they were requesting the closure of the grass runway citing that last year there had been several verbal complaints about the condition of the runway and in the fall a written complaint outlining safety concerns.  In the fall the Airport issued a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) about the state of the runway to provide protection to the airport.

Since the original request to close the runway presented at the April Council meeting, the airport board hired Tulloch Engineering to evaluate the state of the grass runway.  Tulloch reported that the underlining base of the runway was not sufficient and required repair.  This work would cost between $200,000.00 to $300,000.00 and that there would be an annual cost of $40,000.00 to maintain the runway, which is substantially higher than the $30,000.00 the airport had put in their budget.  Most of the work that is required to be done on the runway has to be done in the spring due to ground conditions and would take a year as grass has to be replanted once repairs are completed and needs time to grow.

The airport board asked Council to reconsider its original decision to close the runway until July 1st and instead to keep it closed until April 2021, with it being re-evaluated in the first quarter of 2021.  The closure is what the board felt was fiscally prudent and safest.  The board also pointed out that they were undertaking a Master Plan which would include reviewing the grass runway.

Council discussed options available to the airport including the closure of 700 feet of the runway leaving 1500 feet open.  It was explained that the 700 feet in question was in “rough shape” and that the entire runway was not in compliance.  Overall Councillors had concerns about keeping the runway open, including Councillor Graydon Smith, Mayor of Bracebridge, who explained that Council had hired an airport board and put in place a governance system and that Council should listen to the experts.

The motion to close the grass runway until April 2021, with it being revisited in the first quarter of 2021 was read and carried.

District Staff

According to the District -  Resignation - District Chief Administrative Officer Michael Duben has resigned from this position.  Mr. Duben has taken a position in Oxford County as CAO.

The Board of the Muskoka Ratepayers thank Mr. Duben for all his hard work for the District over the past few years and wish him and his family all the best in their new endeavour.


The Board of the Muskoka Ratepayers wish
our Canadian members Happy Canada Day
and our American members Happy July 4th.

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