Township Watch - May 2020


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

In similar fashion to last month, the Township of Muskoka Lakes and District of Muskoka held their Council meetings electronically.

Committee of the Whole - Friday, May 1st, 2020

2020 Budget Deliberations

As reported in the April Township Watch - Township Watch - April 2020 - Committee of the Whole met on April 24th, 2020 to deliberate on the budget. Staff were charged with reviewing the draft budget with a levy of 4.57%, which equated to a tax increase of $19.02 per every $500,000.00 of property assessment, to see where reductions could be made. Committee of the Whole reconvened on May 1st, 2020 to further deliberate the budget - Budget Deliberations Budget Deliberations. Staff put forth some areas where funds could be reduced in the operating budget but were not recommending that these changes be made. Committee made reductions in Council’s wages and benefits, the clerks department, community development, the library, planning department, grants to organizations and corporate human resources. These changes reduced the levy to 2.97% which equates to a tax increase of $9.38 per every $500,000.00 of property assessment.

While some members of Committee felt this to be an acceptable reduction, others did not. Mayor Harding suggested that to further reduce the levy, Committee “short reserves” contributions for this year. Committee was warned by the Commissioner of Finance from the District, Julie Stevens, that the significant reductions that had already been made to the budget would put “pressure” on next year’s budget and that the Township would have a “tough” budget next year. Even with this warning Committee voted to reduce reserve contributions by $100,000.00.

Neither the Capital budget, nor the 10-year Capital forecast were re-discussed at this meeting.

A resolution was read to make the suggested changes and reduce the levy to 2.14%. The resolution carried, but not unanimously.

Special Council Meeting - Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

2020 Operating Budget & 2020 Capital Budget & Forecast

Council was reminded that staff had reviewed the draft 2020 budget and made reductions for the April 24th, 2020 meeting which were presented on May 1st, 2020. Councillors Zavitz, Kelly and Nishikawa voiced that they continue to have concerns with the proposed budget and would not be supporting it. Mayor Harding stated, with the reduction in education taxes, “many people will actually have a reduction in taxes going forward this year”.

A resolution was read to accept the 2020 budget with a levy of 2.14% which equates to an increase of $4.34 for every $500,000.00 of assessed property value. The resolution carried, but not unanimously.

COVID-19 Pandemic Property Taxes

In March 2020, Mayor Harding announced that the Township, as all municipalities in the District did, was waiving late payment penalties and interest on property taxes until May 31st, 2020. CAO Derrick Hammond presented to Council that the Township should extend financial relief measures until July 31st, 2020. As of the end of March 2020 the Township had received 85 to 90% of the interim tax payments, which is on par with past years.

A resolution was read and carried.

Condominium Agreement - Mist Opportunities Inc. (Touchstone Resort)

This application, regarding how long owners could occupy their units, was originally at Committee of the Whole in November of 2016 and Committee had no objection to the draft approval. In August of 2017, the application received draft approval from the District of Muskoka but was appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), which is now called the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). LPAT rendered a decision in October 2019 with conditions. A review of the decision and order was submitted to LPAT and was dismissed on March 2020. As the decision is now final Mist Opportunities applied to the Township for their Condominium Agreement.

Included in the application were conditions, including but not limited to, units must be entered into a mandatory rental pool for eight weeks a year with two weeks being between Victoria Day and September 30th. Also, securities are being held by the Township in the amount of $10,000.00 to ensure that an annual report be submitted to the Township for a minimum of five years documenting each unit’s participation in the rental pool. Additional provisions outlined by the LPAT decision include, but are not limited to, that occupants cannot receive mail at their unit, owners must check in and out when occupying their unit, owners may not hold their own keys to their units, units cannot be altered internally, personal land line telephones are not permitted, owners cannot set rental rates, visitors to owners and their vehicles must register at the front desk and that owners must supply a list of rental dates by October 31st each year for the following year.

Council amended the resolution to a mandatory reporting period of ten years not five. The resolution was read and carried unanimously.

Condominium Agreement Villas of Lake Muskoka Ltd.

Similar to the Mist Opportunities condominium agreement, the application was originally at Committee of the Whole in May of 2017 where Committee had no objections to the draft approval. The application received draft approval from the District subject to conditions. Villas of Lake Muskoka (Villas) submitted a condominium agreement to the Township which was reviewed at three Committee of the Whole meetings between September 2017 to January 2018. No decision was made by Council and the applicant appealed the lack of decision to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), now known as the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). A decision was issued in October 2019 on the amount of time an owner could occupy a unit by the LPAT. A request for the review of the decision and order was filed and dismissed in March 2020. With the final decision in place Villas submitted a condominium agreement to the Township for approval.

As with Mist Opportunities, conditions were included in the decision which include, but are not limited to, units must be for tourist commercial accommodations, units must be placed in rental pools for 12 weeks a year with two of those weeks being between June 15th and September 15th. Also, securities are being held by the Township in the amount of $20,000.00 to ensure that an annual report be submitted to the Township for a minimum of five years documenting each unit’s participation in the rental pool. The additional provisions outlined in the Mist Opportunities report were also included.

Council amended the resolution to a mandatory reporting period of ten years not five. The resolution was read and carried unanimously.

New Director of Financial Services Hired

On May 14th, 2020, the Township announced they have hired a new Director of Financial Service, Mark Donaldson. According to the press release Mr. Donaldson comes to the Township with experience in both the private and public sectors including “the Director of Financial Reporting and Fiscal Support with the Treasury Board Secretariat of the Province of Ontario”.

ED Note: The Muskoka Ratepayers look forward to getting to know Mr. Donaldson and working with him at budget time.

District Council - Tuesday, May 19th, 2020

Health Services Update - COVID-19

Commissioner of Health Service, Norm Barrett presented to Council a high-level overview on the evolving pandemic. Commissioner Barrett outlined that as of May 14th there had been 19 cases of COVID-19 in the District of Muskoka, with one sadly ending in death. The cases are split 42% male, 58% female with those between the ages of 35 to 64 being the most effected. The overview, which can be seen here -Health Services Update Health Services Update - outlined for Council:

  • Provincial and Regional organizations and how they work together,
  • Local organizations and how they are working,
  • How Long-Term Care facilities are being affected,
  • How paramedic services and how they are functioning
  • Emergency planning
  • Community Assessment Centres, and
  • Others

The Pines Long Term Care (The Pines) facility located in Bracebridge is owned and operated by the District of Muskoka and funded by the Ministry of Long-Term Health and Care. The staff at The Pines continue to provide exceptional service to its residents with the support of the District. To ensure that service levels were maintained, additional staff were scheduled to ensure the facility remains virus free. As well, a second meal schedule was put in place to ensure social distancing. Since March, 31 new staff members have been hired, including 10 temporary Resident Care Aides whose job is to support the PSW’s, housekeeping and laundry staff who are focused on keeping residents safe and well. Staff working at The Pines change out of their uniforms before leaving work and the facilities launders their uniforms to avoid staff wearing their uniforms home. Between May 4th to 7th all residents and staff at The Pines were tested for COVID-19 and ALL tests came back negative.

During Council discussion, it was pointed out that residents have being “cut off” from their families during the pandemic. Commissioner Barrett stated that iPads that were not being used in other departments of the District were brought into The Pines so families could have virtual visits, that The Pines allow for “window visits” and that there is a protocol in place for “essential visitors” if a resident's health declines.

ED Note: The Muskoka Ratepayers wish to compliment and thank those working at The Pines and all Long-Term Care facilities in the District of Muskoka for taking care of our most vulnerable citizens. We would also like to congratulate the District of Muskoka for taking precautionary steps early in the pandemic to protect those in their care.

The Board of the Muskoka Ratepayers
regrets to announce that our 2020 Annual General Meeting
on July 18th, 2020 has been CANCELLED due to COVID-19.
 
Our meeting will be held electronically via ZOOM.
PLEASE let us know if you are willing to attend as we
will require a quorum.
 
We also regret to inform members due to “advertising considerations”
our Yearbook cannot be published. We will be publishing an abridged version
electronically.
 

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