Township Watch - December 2019

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

Council - Wednesday, December 11th, 2019

Council & Committee Structure Review

Township Council received letters from the Muskoka Lakes Association, Friends of Muskoka and the Muskoka Ratepayers regarding the new Committee structure that was passed in March 2019 and put in place in July 2019. When the new system began it was to be reviewed at six months including accepting public input. All three organizations saw flaws in the new system and voiced concerns including:

  • Councillors not having a vote at Committee level unless they are a member of the Committee,
  • Councillors having to vote on an issue at Council without background if they do not attend the Committee meeting,
  • meetings were not shorter or more efficient,
  • having meetings over three days was more onerous,
  • not an efficient use of staff time, and
  • having to call a Special Committee of the Whole meeting so all Councillors could vote on an important Township issue.

Although no staff report was provided, Councillors provided feedback to the Clerk on their views of how the new Committee structure was working ranging from:

  • all Councillors should attend and vote at all meetings,
  • that Planning meetings should be held one day and Council and General/Finance on another,
  • taxpayers voted for Councillors to have a vote on subjects,
  • if a Councillor is not on a Committee, they are not permitted into Closed Session to provide input,
  • did not like “sitting at the kids table”,
  • they were elected to represent everyone and should have an impact on every vote,
  • it is very frustrating to be able to speak on a subject but have no vote, and
  • that the meeting schedule should be amended to be over two days not three.

Mayor Harding, who had initiated the change in Committee structure, pointed out that even if a Councillor did not have a vote they had influence with their input into conversations and reminded everyone that the final vote was at the Council table where all Councillors did have a vote. Although Mayor Harding acknowledged he will respect the “will of Council” he emphasized that the new system was put in place to deliver a better and more efficient level of service to the taxpayers as he feels that under the old system finance and roads issues are “pushed aside at the end of long days” and were not being dealt with.

Following a brief break, Mayor Harding gave all Councillor’s one last chance to speak. There was a consensus of Council to return to a two-day meeting schedule.

Township Clerk, Cheryl Mortimer will return in January or February with a staff report on the meeting structure and schedule. If Council votes to amend the Committee structure, an amendment to the Township Procedural By-Law will be brought to the following Council meeting to be voted on.

This item was on the agenda for feedback, and no resolution was read.

Ed Note: The Ratepayers believe that Mayor Harding’s comment to a delegate that they “do not have a vote” following a presentation was extremely inappropriate but acknowledge that he did apologize for what he said following a break in the meeting.

Minett Steering Committee Recommendations

This item returned to Council for further discussion following the November 2019 Council meeting - Township Watch - November 2019. Council heard concerns/comments from the public including:

  • would an agreement with the developers stand up in court once the Interim Control By-Law expires in May 2020,
  • would an agreement signed between the Township and the developer be enforceable if the property is sold,
  • it would be appropriate to review policies once the developer has provided the Township with his development plans,
  • the Township should proceed with an Official Plan Amendment at this time,
  • it would be important to have any agreement signed by all parties to ensure that it is “iron clad”,
  • it would be wise to request funds “up front” from the developer in case the contract is breached, and
  • it would be appropriate to pass an Official Plan Amendment regarding setbacks, density and height which could be amended at a later date.

This item was not discussed by Council following the presentation but was moved into Closed Session. When Council returned to Open Session the following resolution was read and carried.

"Whereas the Township of Muskoka Lakes and the District of Muskoka initiated a joint review of the site specific Official Plan policies applicable to the Resort Village of Minett;

And Whereas Council wishes to deliberate the Interim, and any future recommendations, of the Minett Joint Policy Review Steering Committee in an open and inclusive process with all affected stakeholders and the broader community;

Now Therefore be it resolved that a special Committee of the Whole meeting be scheduled in January 2020 in order to review the October 11th, 2019 Interim Recommendations of the Minett Joint Review Steering Committee, and any additions thereto, with all interested stakeholders with the goal of advancing mutually agreed upon draft Official Plan policies for further public consultation."

Ed Note: The date of the Special Committee of the Whole meeting will be posted on the Township website once it is determined.

General/Finance Committee - Thursday, December 12th, 2019

Walker’s Point Community Library

Pat Young, Board Chair of the Walker’s Point Community Library gave Committee their annual update. The community library has been in operation for nine years and has signed up 521 library card holders. The library offers a collection of new books, audio books and are continually adding to their compliment of books. Communication is a very important part of the community library. They do so through emails, their website, hard copies of information are posted for people to read and at times are an information centre for people looking for directions. The library runs programs and events such as potluck suppers and summer children programs. In closing, Ms. Young thanked the Township for their continued support by matching funds to those donated to the community library.

This presentation was for information and no resolution was read.

Amendment to Traffic Regulation By-Law

Tim Sopkowe from the Public Works Department explained to Committee that seven new stop signs were required in the Township but could not be erected until the Traffic Regulation By-Law was amended. These new locations were either requested by citizens or “flagged” by staff. A resolution was read and carried to allow stop signs to be erected at:

  • 1059 Big Joe Road at Big Joe Road
  • 1059 McKenzie Road at McKenzie Road
  • 1033 Rossclair Road at Cooper Point Road/Rossclair Road
  • Ashforth Drive at East Bay Road
  • Bear Cave Road at Hekkla Road
  • Marquis Road at Scarcliffe Road
  • Sunset Bay Road at Dudley Road

Grants to Organizations Program

Communications and Economic Development Specialist, Corey Moore provide Committee with an overview of the Township’s grants program. Council allocates funding to community groups and organizations through community grants, events and festival grants and the operating grants stream. Examples of the operating grants stream are the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce and the Muskoka Lakes Museum. In 2019, $20,000.00 was allocated through the budget to community grants and events and festivals grants. The 2020 grants program is to be launched next week with a deadline for applications to be submitted by February 14th, 2020.

Committee questioned if $20,000.00 was adequate or if the amount should be raised to $25,000.00. There was a discussion regarding waiving fees on Community Centres as the Community Centres are there for the use of the public. CAO Hammond explained that when the Township waives a fee the Township’s “bottom line” was affected. Committee discussed separating operating grants and community/festival and events grants. It was decided that the grants policy would be reviewed by the Economic Development and Grants committee before returning to the General/Finance Committee for further discussion.

No resolution was read.

Planning Committee - Friday, December 13th, 2019

Habitat for Humanity

Kimberley Woodcock from Habitat Ontario Gateway North gave a presentation to Committee on how they provide “decent and safe affordable housing”. For a family to qualify for a habitat home they must need housing, be interviewed twice and a determination made that they can afford the monthly mortgage or rent payments. Once selected the family must commit to 500 hours of community service and engage in building their own home. The entire presentation can be viewed here - Habitat for Humanity

Kimberley's presentation to Committee was specifically regarding the build of a semi-detached rental unit in Bala. Her request to the Township to consider:

  • providing funds in the amount of $20,000.00 for attainable housing,
  • waiving development fees, and
  • assembling a Habitat for Humanity Adopt-A-Home Committee.

The Planning Committee discussed the proposal stating that:

  • this is a great opportunity for the Township of Muskoka Lakes as attainable housing is needed,
  • the Township does not have the right by-laws in place to do this,
  • staff should come back with a report in January or February,
  • money will need to be put in the 2020 budget for this as development fees cannot be waved, and
  • it would be helpful if the memorandum of understanding could be circulated to Councillors so they would know what was required regarding sitting on an Adopt-A-Home Committee.

This presentation was to see if the Township had any interest in the proposed project and no resolution was read.

Mary Jane Lake

This application was originally heard and deferred in July 2019 - Township Watch - July 2019 - and returned to the Planning Committee under Unfinished Business to provide input to the District of Muskoka regarding the proposed plan of subdivision. The applicant reduced the number of proposed lots from 14 to 10 and provided a revised layout. Several letters of objection were received again on this proposed development. The Planning Committee heard presentations from those in support of the development outlining:

  • that the proposed lot standards are higher than required with lot coverage at 5 %, docks limited to 20 feet and no boathouses allowed,
  • the applicant conducted necessary studies, their studies were peer reviewed and they did not believe that they should be required to do more studies,
  • that the owners of the land around Mary Jane Lake signed up for the District’s water quality monitoring program this past summer,
  • that buyers on Mary Jane Lake will know that the lake will be used for water-skiing training purposes,
  • that Mary Jane Lake does not touch the wetlands at Bruce Lake but are separated by Carlingford Road, and
  • the water-ski boat will not be circling the lake but going down a course, will drop the skier, stop and return to pick up the water-skier to go back down the course.

Those in opposition to the application raised the following concerns:

  • that special conditions should be developed for undeveloped lakes,
  • that this development should be reviewed against the Township’s undeveloped lake policies,
  • research on the winter habitat for “Blanding turtles” should be undertaken,
  • the Official Plan requires a boat impact assessment.
  • that all discussions have been on land use and not water quality,
  • that concerns regarding water quality are being “shot down”,
  • that boats being brought to the area may bring invasive species and bilge water concerns, and
  • Committee should wait for necessary studies to be completed and then consider the number of lots.

Following these presentation Planning Committee members, and non-voting Council members held an in-depth discussion regarding:

  • Mary Jane Lake not being privately owned, the water belongs to everyone,
  • this lake should not be compared to the three big lakes in Muskoka,
  • that both sides hire planners to provide information as to why, or why not the development is appropriate,
  • that no evidence has been produced to say that 10 lots is not appropriate,
  • the use of the lake for competitive water-skiing vs recreational water-skiing, and
  • that the property owners have the right to build on their property.

Chair Bridgeman asked Committee to provide input as to whether they would like the following studies completed:

  1. A boating impact study, which was defeated.
  2. A study regarding “Blanding turtles” winter habitat, which carried, and
  3. Complete a study to review the proposal against natural components, which carried as well.

Chair Bridgeman confirmed that Committee wished these studies completed before the Committee provided input to the District of Muskoka. This item was then deferred.

Official Plan Review Discussion Paper

Director of Planning, David Pink explained to the Planning Committee that a steering committee and working committee have been established regarding the Official Plan review. Interest has been shown from the Planning Committee to be involved in the process and Mr. Pink suggested that a joint meeting/workshop be held with the Planning Committee and the working Committee in March 2020. Mr. Pink informed the Planning Committee that decisions will be made at the workshop before planning staff “put pen to paper”. Councillor Roberts, Chair of the Steering Committee, encouraged his fellow Councillors to review in depth the discussion papers so that they will fully understand the work that has taken place to date.

As not all Councillors sit on all Committees a concern was raised about members of the Finance/General Committee not being included in the discussion and having a vote. It was suggested that a Special Committee of the Whole be called so that Councillors who are not members of the Planning Committee would be there and could provide input.

This item was for information purposes and not resolution was read.

Inflatables on the Waterfront

Director of Planning, David Pink explained to Committee that Councillor Nishikawa had requested that this item be put on the agenda for discussion. There has been an increase in rafts, trampolines etc. on the lakes in Muskoka. Councillor Nishikawa informed Committee that this past summer she had visited two properties where “inflatables” were in the water, and at one property over the projected property lines into the lake. Councillor Nishikawa hoped that the Township could do something to regulate how and where these devices are being used. Mr. Pink stated that he would be happy to review the use of “inflatables” on the lakes and obtain a legal opinion, but he did not believe there was anything the Township could do. These “inflatables” would follow the same regulations as watercraft and are regulated by Transport Canada. Mayor Harding stated that “just like floating docks these “inflatables” are illegal unless a permit is obtained as the lakebed is governed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry”.

Following a brief discussion, it was decided that the Township would start out by adding the use of “inflatables” to the Code of Conduct, asking neighbours to be respectful of each others’ areas.

2020 Budget Meeting Schedule

The budget meeting schedule that we reported in the November 2019 Township Watch has been cancelled.Once the new schedule is determined we will let you know.

The Board of Directors of the Muskoka Ratepayers
wish everyone a very festive and safe
holiday season.

Upcoming Events - Monthly Calendar

TML - General / Finance Committee
Jul 15, 2020 9:00am to 12:00pm
TML - Council
Jul 15, 2020 1:00pm to 5:00pm
TML - Planning Committee
Jul 16, 2020 9:00am to 12:00pm
Ratepayers - Virtual AGM 2020
Jul 18, 2020 10:00am to 10:45am
TML - Committe of Adjustment
Jul 21, 2020 9:00am to 12:00pm
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