Township Watch - June 2021

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


The Muskoka Ratepayers welcomes Kristin Darling to her position as Planner I with the Township.  We look forward to working with you.


In the May Township Watch Councillor Nishikawa’s name was inadvertently spelled incorrectly.  We apologize for this error.

General/Finance Committee - June 16th, 2021

Proposed Updated Traffic By-Law

Director of Public Works, Ken Becking informed committee that the Township Traffic By-Law has not been updated since 1986.  Since that time road conditions around the Township have changed significantly, and the Township has received a number of requests to adjust traffic controls and speed limits.  These precipitated the draft by-law before Committee.  Prior to drafting the by-law Township staff reviewed road conditions across the Township.  The draft by-law focused on: right-of-way at intersections, max speed on roadways, seasonal road restrictions and idling.  Seasonal road restrictions, which are currently regulated in several by-laws, have been reviewed and consolidated into this by-law.  Staff added a section on idling restricting vehicles to idle no more than five minutes.  Committee was asked to review the draft by-law and provide comments to staff by July 22nd, 2021.  Staff will then review the comments and return with a by-law for their final review.  It is anticipated that this project would take two years to implement, beginning in 2021.

Committee members raised several questions and comments, including but not limited to:

  • why is so much signage required,
  • why are right-of-way controls only being looked at regarding Township intersections and not where they meet District Roads,
  • thanked staff for adding no idling,
  • would there be different speed limits where District and Township roads intersect,
  • does posting speed limits help with insurance claims if there is a traffic accident,
  • will there be posting on Township roads that are privately maintained,
  • concerns about over signage/adding more signs to the natural environment,
  • perhaps putting signage up should be done on a request basis, and
  • that the speed limit be reduced on rural roads from 80 km to 50 km across the Township.

Mr. Becking explained that according to the Highway Traffic Act and Public Transportation Highway Improvement Act where intersections from two jurisdictions meet, it is the higher jurisdiction that has responsibility.  The signage in question is mostly for STOP signs.  Mr. Becking further explained that the Highway Traffic Act says that speed limits in a rural area are 80 km per hour unless it is posted differently.  If the Township wishes to lower speed limits on roads, they are required to post speed limits following requirements on where and how many signs must be placed.    In reply to the comment regarding too many signs, Mr. Becking replied that appropriate signage is a good thing, but he did agree that there are many signs that do not serve a useful purpose and perhaps they should be removed. 

Committee agreed that they should review what signage could be removed from Township roads.  Following the discussion, it was decided that this draft by-law should return to Council as the summer season is upon us. 

A resolution was read that recommended that Council give three reading on the proposed by-law.  The vote carried unanimously.

Township Budget - Lessons Learned

Director of Financial Services, Mark Donaldson explained to Committee that he had spoken to Councillors, as well as stakeholders who provided input on the budget to obtain their views on how to improve the budget process. Committee members thanked Mr. Donaldson for his report but questioned if a “budget committee” would be established.  Mr. Donaldson stated that the formation of a “budget committee” had been raised, but Township policy states the budget goes to the General/Finance Committee, and if Councillors wish this to be changed staff would require direction to do so.  It was decided that the topic of a “budget committee” would return to the General/Finance Committee for further discussion next month.

ED Note:  The Muskoka Ratepayers compliment the Township on their willingness to consider re-implementing the “budget committee” as we believe it is a useful and important part of the process.

Licensed Cannabis Retail Locations

This topic was discussed at the General Finance Committee in May - Township Watch - May 2021 - and referred to the Economic Development Committee.  Communication and Economic Development Specialist, Corey Moore informed Committee that the Economic Development Committee had held a “good” discussion on whether the Township should “opt in” to cannabis stores in the Township.  It was determined that there was an economic opportunity for the Township and Council should “opt in” allowing cannabis retail locations in the Township.

Members of the General Finance Committee voted against the recommendation saying:

  • they would not support the resolution as the Township has no power to regulate the locations of these stores,
  • access to cannabis is already available to residents in neighbouring communities,
  • there is a finite number of retail spaces available, and
  • what is the benefit to the taxpayer to allow the retails locations in the Township.

The resolution was defeated.

Torrance Barrens - Prohibiting Outdoor Burning

Councillor Nishikawa explained that although the Provincial portion of the Torrance Barrens is governed by the Ministry of the Environment, Parks and Conservation, individuals are also camping in ditches on Southwood Road.  The Torrance Barrens Committee requested that the Township regulate campfires being lit by these individuals.

A resolution was read recommending that Township staff investigate and report to Council on how to prohibit outdoor burning on Township property in the area due to concerns regarding wildland fires in the Torrance Barrens and the surrounding area.  The resolution carried unanimously.

Council - June 16th, 2021

Temporary Cell Tower - Bala

Matthew Milligan from Bell Mobility was before Council to discuss the placement of a temporary cell tower at their main switching station on Burgess Street in Bala.  Bell Mobility requested permission to install the temporary tower as there is insufficient bandwidth capacity in the area.  Bell wishes to address this immediately and was asking to install the tower for the peak season from June 25th to October 14th, 2021.  The tower will be 27 metres high and attached to a small equipment cabinet that is mounted on a trailer located to the rear of their main switching station.  Bell Mobility’s presentation can be seen here -Bala Cell Tower Bala Cell Tower. Director of Development Services and Environmental Sustainability, David Pink, explained to Committee that it was his understanding that a municipality needs to be informed about a temporary tower, but the tower does not require municipal approval.  Council held a short discussion.  As there was no resolution for this item in the agenda, Council followed the procedural by-law and obtained 2/3 majority to allow a “motion without notice” to be read.  A resolution was read to allow the temporary tower from June 25th to October 21st and carried.

ED Note: The removal date was extended to October 21st in case the Cranberry Festival is able to be held in 2021.

Bala Falls Bridge

Director of Public Works, Ken Becking introduced this item reminding Council that at the May Council meeting staff were directed to return with more information on designs. Emma Wilkinson from Tatham Engineering presented two designs to Council explaining that in the first design they had tried to maintain a similar look to the current bridge using piers and timber railing.  With this design they also included an option of the bridge with a “look-out on the bridge”.  The second design used two of the four piers currently in place with most of the rehabilitation being done to the two centre piers by removing some on the rock upper portion of these piers.  Both designs had pedestrian walkways on both sides of the road.  If wooden timbers are to be used on the railing to maintain the look of the bridge, the Ontario Building Code will require that a vehicle guardrail be installed between the roadway and pedestrian walkways.  Furthermore, to ensure that people do not climb up the timber railing a mesh layer would have to be installed over the railing.  Tatham Engineering designs can be seen here. -Bala Bridge Bala Falls Bridge

Mr. Becking then explained the bridge would be one way from Walker Street to the far side of the CPR bridge with exception of accessing the hydro dam and snowmobile traffic.  Traffic from Muskoka Road 169 to the CPR bridge and traffic from Muskoka Road 169 to Walker Street will remain two-way. 

Members of Council commented that:

  • the public were questioning the steel guardrail at the roadway,
  • a “look-out” is not required as there is little water flow under the bridge,
  • the guardrail is required to meet the Building Code,
  • they would like to see visual images of “nicer” guardrails,
  • a comment was made about there being no water flow under the bridge, which is not correct as the channel is opened during long weekends,
  • one Councillor would like to see the lowest cost option possible keeping the look of the bridge, and
  • they would follow the desires of the Ward A Councillors.

As consensus on the design could not be reached and no resolution was read.  Staff, who had been listening to the comments, were given direction to return to Council and provide visual representation with “some different options” and specific costs on visual drawings on what it is they are proposing the Council “buy”.  Once Council has received this information in July,  it is hopeful that staff can then take the project to the public for comment.

Parking on Juddhaven Road

A resolution was read and carried to prohibit parking on both sides Juddhaven Road in the vicinity of 1660 Juddhaven Road, a waterfront landing.  Four No Parking signs will be erected.

Planning Committee - June 17th, 2021

Regulating Accessory Buildings in the Waterfront Area

Manager of Planning, Bryce Sharpe introduced the report on regulating accessory buildings in the waterfront area in the Township.  A concern was raised that buildings were being marked as storage on  plans submitted to the Township, used to be one room units and are now appearing architecturally designed with multiple rooms, including bathrooms.  The report presented to the Planning Committee offered two solutions to control the number of large accessory buildings that have the potential to be used as habitable space:

  • Currently the maximum number of pump houses, saunas and gazebos is limited to two and additional structure beyond the 66 foot setback could be included in the maximum.
  • A maximum footprint of 1000 square feet could be placed on accessory structures not including boathouses, privies, pump houses, saunas, and gazebos.

Committee held a lengthy and in-depth discussion on the report, commenting that:

  • the report is too aggressive, it is “beyond using a sledgehammer to kill a fly”,
  • they would prefer to lower lot coverage in the first 200 feet,
  • perhaps the second storey of boathouses should be included in the 1000 square feet maximum, and definitely any covered-over boat slip should be included in the maximum lot coverage,
  • that 1000 square feet of coverage is still too high for accessory structures,
  • every time a bed is placed in an accessory building strain is put on the septic system, and
  • regardless, if the space is habitable or not, it should be counted based on septic capacity.

Director of Development Services and Environmental Sustainability, David Pink explained to Committee that if they felt the issue with accessory buildings was “built form” that could be controlled through lot coverage which can be dealt with through the Official Plan Review and then the Comprehensive Zoning By-law.  Mr. Pink further stated that if multiple living spaces was not a concern, then games rooms, bunkies and other accessory building could be dealt with through a policy review, and if that is the case, staff could review the report and return with revisions.  Following the discussion Committee voted to proceed to a public meeting to obtain public input.

A resolution to circulate changes to Comprehensive Zoning By-Law 2014-14 regarding accessory building in the waterfront for a public meeting was read and carried.

ED Note: No date was provided for the public meeting.

By-Law Enforcement

This item was deferred to the next Planning meeting due to the length of the current day meeting.

New Business - Swift River Energy Limited

At the end of the Planning meeting under New Business Mayor Harding brought forward that Swift River Energy Limited (SREL) has approached the Township with a proposal to install two electric car charging stations in the Portage Landing parking lot in Bala.  SREL has stated that they will pay for the costs of the charging stations and the hydro.  CAO Hammond explained that the Planning Committee could provide a statement of support for the project, which would need to return to Council for a license agreement as equipment would be installed on Township property.

A resolution was read to endorse the project in principle subject to approval by Council.  The resolution carried unanimously.

District - Engineering & Public Works Committee - June 21st, 2021

Waste Management Strategy

According to Director Stephanie Mack at the District of Muskoka, Muskoka has a waste diversion rate of 35%.  The top municipalities in Ontario have diversion rates of 70%, while most of the Province has a diversion rate of 60%.  If Muskoka does not reduce its garbage, our landfills will be at capacity by 2036.  District staff recommend that:

  • the limit on garbage bags at both curbside pick-up and transfer station drop-off be reduced,
  • organics drop off at waste facilities be initiated,
  • the curbside organic program be expanded,
  • a land-fill pass system be put in place for transfer stations,
  • all waste depots be supervised,
  • the District support community clean up, and
  • clear garbage bags be used so the content can be monitored.

The Engineering and Public Works Committee voted unanimously to support staff’s recommendations.  If ratified by District Council these changes will begin in 2022.

The Muskoka Ratepayers will be holding an electronic
Annual General Meeting
on Saturday, August 28th, 2021.
Proxy requests will be circulated closer to the meeting date.

Upcoming Events - Monthly Calendar

TML - Committee of Adjustment
Nov 8, 2021 9:00am to 12:00pm
TML - General / Finance Committee
Nov 10, 2021 9:00am to 12:00pm
TML - Council
Nov 10, 2021 1:00pm to 5:00pm
TML - Planning Committee
Nov 11, 2021 9:00am to 12:00pm
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