Township Watch - December 2015


The MRA welcomes Bryce Sharpe to his new position of  Development Planner with the Township's Planning Department.  Mr. Sharpe joins the Township from the Niagara Escarpment Commission,  an agency of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

Special Council Meeting - Thursday, December 10th, 2015

First Impressions Community Exchange (FICE)

The FICE program was an exchange of “secret shoppers/visitors” between the Township of Muskoka Lakes and the Municipality of Hastings Highlands.  Representatives from each municipality visited the other to see what their first impressions of the other municipality were.  At a Special Council meeting Jane Templeton from the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce explained that our Township, who had representatives visit Hastings Highlands in July and August, had previously presented their impressions to the Hastings Highlands council.   Catherine Oosterbaan, Agricultural & Rural Economic Development Advisor from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs explained that the FICE program allows for “fresh eyes” to see a municipality.

The team that visited the Township of Muskoka Lakes as “secret shoppers/visitors” from Hasting Highlands was composed of individuals from ages 27 to late 60's.  They visited Port Carling, Bala and Minett at different times.  Their presentation outlined their combined first impressions of this Township on the following topics:

  • Housing & residential
  • Education
  • Health care
  • Emergency services
  • Local economy
  • Retail in Port Carling & Bala
  • Community services
  • Tourism
  • Recreation
  • Public infrastructure
  • Culture & heritage
  • Environmental sustainability

They stated that they felt:

  • The "best parts” of the Township were the natural beauty, how welcoming it is to visitors, the heritage & cultural aspects, availability of water sport rentals and events & attractions,
  • The “challenges” included health care, growth opportunities, demographics (lifestyle adaptation), seasonality and competitions from larger centres, and
  • The “opportunities” were to “capitalize on the presence of wealthy seasonal residents”, expand culture, expand on opportunities with natural assets, expand partnership opportunities and expand on winter assets.

The presenter stated that they were overly impressed that even though the Township is spread out it does not feel isolated and that all areas are treated equally.  It was suggested that the two Municipalities reconnect again in five years.

Council - Friday, December 11th, 2015

Business Arising from the Minutes

Prior to the public portion of Council meetings commencing, Action Items from the last cycle must always be enacted.  In the November 2015 Township Watch, (Township Watch) it was reported that Option 3 of the “Application for Alteration of Property Designated under the Heritage Act” carried at Planning Committee of the Whole and had to be ratified at Council in December.  This item was pulled from the minutes and discussed separately as some councillors still had concerns that:

  • Council does not usually give a third reading to items until they have received a detailed plan,
  • The length of the “agreement” was unknown,
  • What exactly Swift River Energy Limited is allowed to do on the Township Lands known as Portage Landing, and that
  • The Township is moving towards a lease with SREL but has not reviewed the plans.

It was clarified for council that Option 3 was one of the options brought forth by SREL who would be responsible for the work and costs.  It was further clarified that the plan would need to be reviewed by the Bala Falls working committee with input by the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario.  And finally, that if a lease is not reached with SREL the entire resolution is moot.

After a lengthy discussion the resolution was read, and again, passed at a vote of seven to three.

Zoning Amendments & By-Laws

As was recommended by the Committee of the Whole in November a by-law was passed to hire an Integrity Commissioner for a three year term.

New Business

A resolution was read and carried regarding the closure of the TD Bank in MacTier.  The resolution asked that if the bank does close that a “practical alternative”, i.e. - a bank machine, be installed in MacTier.

Parks & Trails Committee

The Parks & Trails committee was amended to add Trevor Noonan, a private citizen, as well as replace Councillor McTaggart with Councillor Harding.

District of Muskoka Council - Monday, December 14th, 2015

At the Township Council meeting on Friday, December 11th, 2015 Mayor Furniss informed council that at the District Council meeting he would be asking that the lock fees in Port Carling be eliminated for recreational and pleasure boats.  Mayor Furniss felt it would be a way to “give back to people who spend a lot of money and taxes in the Township”.   The deficit for these usage fees would have to be absorbed at the District level but residents of Bracebridge and Gravenhurst would also benefit from no user fees at the locks.   At the District meeting Mayor Furniss asked that this amendment be added to the usage fee by-law.  The resolution was defeated in a vote of ten to nine with Ward C District Councillor Harding and Ward A District Councillor Nishikawa voting against it.  As a result, lock fees  for recreational and pleasure boats will continue in 2016 at a charge of $9.00 one way passage and $15.00 return trip.

Planning Committee of the Whole - Monday, December 14th, 2015

The Planning Meeting was brief with only three businesses asking for return of securities.  All three requests were granted.

Committee of the Whole - Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

Update and Policing Status Report

Inspector Ed Medved from the OPP gave an extensive talk on OPP policing in the District of Muskoka and the Township of Muskoka Lakes.  Policing activities have decreased in some areas.  However, remaining issues among the highest are drugs, domestic violence and distracted driving.  Inspector Medved went on to report mental health issues and 911 “pocket dials” are on the increase.  Unfortunately, there is also an increase in property and cyber bullying crimes.

Walker's Point Community Library

Representatives from the community library in Walker's Point came before the committee to provide an update on their ongoing activities and success.  This community library is run by 20 volunteers and has a membership of 380.  The library provides internet for its members, as well as access to community services including ping pong and trails.

Process

The flagrant use of cell phones for texting and emailing at the council and committee tables should be stopped.  The public expects full uninterrupted attention by our elected representatives to the matters at hand.

Councillors should not need to be reminded to show respect towards staff.  The constant questioning of staff's abilities is not only unnecessary and disrespectful, it contravenes the Townships Code of Conduct.  Section 15.2 of the Code of Conduct states “ Members shall at all times treat other Members, Township staff and members of the public with respect, civility and decorum at all meetings and shall not act in a manner that will bring the process into disrepute”.

The MRA wishes everyone a safe and happy holiday season!!

 

Upcoming Events - Monthly Calendar

MRA - Board Meeting
Nov 25, 2017 9:00am to 1:00pm
TML - Committee of Adjustment
Dec 13, 2017 9:00am to 12:00pm
TML - Committee of the Whole
Dec 14, 2017 9:00am to 12:00pm
TML - Council
Dec 15, 2017 9:00am to 12:00pm
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