Township Watch - January 2017

Committee of the Whole - Thursday, January 12, 2017

2016 Planning Statistics

Director of Planning, David Pink, reported to the committee that activity in the planning department had increased from previous years.  In 2016 the planning department received close to 100 more Official Plan Amendments, Comprehensive Zoning By-Law Amendments, Site Plans, Minor Variances and Consent Applications. Thankfully for municipal staff Ontario Municipal Board Appeals decreased in 2016 from previous years.  It is uncertain whether the increase in applications is a trend or simply an anomaly.  However in the first couple of days of 2017 the planning department received three Comprehensive Zoning By-Law Amendments, three Consent Applications, one Minor Variance, six Municipal Records Searches and one Ontario Municipal Board Appeal.  With the number of applications being received by the Planning Department a backlog has started to form for Committee of Adjustment and Council.  Planning staff will also be undertaking a Housekeeping By-Law, updating the Site Plan and Site Alteration By-Laws in 2017, as well as working with the Heritage Committee.  For a full breakdown of Planning Act Application Activity click here - Planning Planning. This item was on the agenda for informational purposes only.  No vote was taken.

2016 Building Services

Curtis Livingstone, from the Township's Development Services Department, informed the committee that in 2016 there was a large value of construction undertaken in the Township of Muskoka Lakes.  The building permit summary report indicated a total value of construction in the Township was $126,359,337.92 was constructed in 2016.  This was a reflection on the amount of commercial activity in 2016.  A total of 1137 building permits were issued in 2016.  Full permit numbers for single family dwellings, cottages, accessory building, docks or boathouses can be found here - Permits Permits. This item was on the agenda for informational purposes only.  No vote was taken.

Library Update

Chief Librarian of the Muskoka Lakes Public Library, Cathy Duck, provided committee with an update on library activity in the past year.  A video presentation demonstrated to the committee that the library is not just a book lending facility.  The library helps individuals develop new skills, make ideas happen for individuals in a safe environment and enables individuals to continue to learn.  It is a place where individuals can gather to explore, interact with others and imagine.  The library provides arts programs, infant and family programs, LEGO league and social engagements and education.  Books are just the very beginning of the library.

Members of the committee thanked Mrs. Duck, staff and the library board for the great job they are doing and how the library has transformed in the last three years.  When asked about individuals visiting the area, Mrs. Duck explained that visitors could have a library card for a membership fee of $25.00 and be able to sign out ten items at a time.  It was also mentioned that the library is well attended in the shoulder and winter seasons as well. 

This item was on the agenda for informational purposes only.  No vote was taken.

Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce

Chelsey Penrice, a member of the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce (MLCC) board of directors presented an update to the committee on the use of the Duke House as a visitor centre in Port Carling.  Ms Penrice informed the committee that in 2016 staff at the Duke House helped 2,558 individuals find places over a 96-day period.  Individuals who visit the Duke House are asked to put a pin on a map to indicate where they are from and often left very complimentary comments about the staff.  In 2017 the MLCC anticipate an increase in the number of visitors to over 3,000.  In the 2016 season, when a visitor asked to leave a donation, a small box was set up for contributions to the Port Carling Health Hub.  Ms Penrice presented Councillor Edwards with a cheque in the amount of $283.90.

Mayor Furniss thanked the MLCC for reinstalling Wi-Fi on the property at their own cost.  One concern that was raised is that the house is “underutilized” and perhaps signs could be placed at both ends of town to indicate its location.

This item as well was on the agenda for informational purposes only.  No vote was taken.

Draft Economic Development Strategy

The draft economic strategy was introduced by the Township Economic Development intern Corey Moore and reviewed by Catherine Oosterbaan from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).  OMARFA helped develop the strategy.  Ms Oosterbaan explained to the committee that the First Impression Community Exchange program that the Township of Muskoka Lakes took part in last year (Township Watch - December 2015) was a trigger for this report.  This is a five-year strategy to address goals in the Township's strategic plan for 2015 – 2018.  The following goals were presented to the committee:

  1. Improve municipal infrastructure to drive economic and community development.
  2. Improve the operating environment for Township of Muskoka Lakes business with a focus on supporting the service, retail and construction sectors.
  3. Develop and enhance economic development communications and marketing tools.
  4. Expand and enhance Township involvement in the tourism industry to increase visitation from seasonal residents and tourists year round.

Committee discussed that:

  • If an individual travels for more than 80 kms to a destination, then they are considered to be a tourist, therefore making most seasonal residents “tourists”,
  • The committee struggled over the definition of a “tourist” as seasonal residents use restaurants,  landscaping services, construction services, etc.,
  • Tried to include seasonal residents as they are drivers of the economy,
  • Some seasonal residents are “plunker downers”....they arrive at the cottage and “plunk down”  and they do not use local stores or attend local events,
  • Thinking seasonal residents will come to Port Carling in the off season is “ridiculous” as there is no longer even a restaurant in Port Carling in the off season,
  • It was unclear if the report wanted to grow jobs or create new jobs,
  • The report does not identify future growth.  Where will industrial growth be?       

It was explained to the committee that the five-year plan is to grow existing jobs which will also open doors to other jobs.  Furthermore, that tourism is a key driver to other sections of the report and cuts across a number of different sectors.  Following this discussion Mayor Furniss reminded the committee that one of the goals in the strategic plan was economic development and that this report was a continuation of the FICE report which committee had approved.  To view the full report please click here - Economic Development Economic Development. The resolution to recommend to Council to approve the draft economic development strategy was read and carried in a vote of 6 to 2. (Two councillors had sent regrets for the meeting.)

Council - Friday, January 13, 2017

Cranberry Cove Holdings Ltd.

An application was before Council to allow for the main use of the property to become an “Addiction Treatment Centre” and recognize an insufficient side yard setback.  It was explained by the applicant that it was a housekeeping matter as the property currently had a “medical” use and has been functioning as a treatment centre for the last six years.  Although one neighbour objected, his concerns were related to trespass issues by “clients” onto his property.

The resolution was read and carried with none opposed.

Butterfly Lake Resort Inc.

As we reported in the November Township Watch (Township Watch - November 2016) the new owners of Butterfly Lake Resort had previously asked council to be permitted to install “park model” trailers in their tent and trailer park.  The application was deferred at the request of the District of Muskoka, who has since commented that they have no objection to park model trailers being installed.  The Township received a legal opinion as to whether park model units were permitted “as a right” on a tent and trailer park, which they were.  The application was before Council due to reduced setbacks of the current 15 feet where 100 feet were required.  Following a brief presentation from staff and the owner of the property, Council discussed:

  • That the application is complicated by accessories on the park models such as decks, sundecks and a “Canada Room”
  • That if decks or sundecks were changing from their current size and location, building permits would be required,
  • A sundeck that was the length of a trailer and 10 feet wide were excessive
  • That with accessory structures some of these trailers are becoming the size allowed for a home,
  • Are parking requirements being met,
  • Boat traffic and where boats would be parked or stored,     

Twice during the discussions councillors reminded each other that they were to be discussing setbacks for the property.  It was suggested that side yard setbacks for accessory structures be increased to 30 feet, with a front yard setback of 66 feet.

Although first and second reading of the by-law was passed at a vote of 4 to 2, the amendments and 3rd reading carried with none opposed.


It is possible that meetings would run more efficiently if councillors would remain on the topic of the application that is before them.

It is unfortunate that once again councillors need to be reminded to be polite and respectful to those presenting to them.  It is not always necessarily what is said but the tone and volume at which things are said.

Special Committee of the Whole - Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Committee of the Whole met to discuss Version 1 of the 2017 Draft Township Budget - Budget - Draft 1 Budget - Draft 1 .  Treasurer, Shannon Johnson, explained that the Budget Advisory Committee had already met twice to contribute their input and she then introduced the budget in a clear and concise manner.  Ms  Johnson reminded the Committee of the Whole that the Township of Muskoka Lakes retains the smallest portion of the taxes that are collected at 18%.  The District of Muskoka receives 51% and the remaining 31% goes to the school board.

In recent years the Township levy has been insufficient to cover the Township’s maintenance and infrastructure costs.  The reserves have been decreased with the result that the discretionary reserves at 44.8% are well below the provincial average of 49.9%.  Members of the Committee of the Whole agreed to staff’s recommendation that a 5% capital levy be added to the tax levy in order to rebuild the reserves in order to maintain Township assets.

The combined operating and capital levy for the Township portion of the tax bill was 9.84% with a tax rate implication of 8.06% which equates to $8.06 per $100,000.00 of assessment value.  The committee reviewed the budget line by line.  After considerable time, $68,860.00 was removed from the operating budget. This resulted in a change to the above figures with the Township`s portion of the tax bill down to 9.12% with the tax rate implication of 7.36% or $7.85 for every $100 000.00 of property assessment.

It is IMPORTANT to note that committee has been advised and is considering the closure of two community centres and “re-purposing” the Bala arena.  Mayor Furniss stated that prior to doing so, or reducing fire services, public input would be required.

The public budget meeting is being held on Thursday, January 26th, 2017 at 7:00 PM in the Council Chambers of the Township of Muskoka Lakes.  At this time, members of the public are invited to speak to the committee either for or against the proposed budget.

Did You Know that Johnston's Cranberry Marsh have both

snowshoe trails and an ice trail?

Both snowshoe and skate rentals are available.


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