Township Watch - March 2015

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The Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association would like to welcome Shannon Johnson to the position of Treasurer at the Township of Muskoka Lakes. Shannon is joining the township from the private sector with over 20 years of experience.

2015 Budget

The budget committee was appointed last month and with the hiring of a new treasurer will start to meet in the spring. Work has been started on both the capital and working budget.

Committee Appointments

At Council on Friday March 13th resolutions were put forth to appoint Mayor Furniss, Deputy Mayor Baranik, Clerk Cheryl Mortimer and district CAO Michael Duben to the Chief Administrative Officer hiring committee. This passed at a vote of five to three. A hiring committee was also established for the position of Director of Public Works and is composed of Mayor Furniss, Councillors Ledger and Barrick-Spearn and the Interim CAO Clayton Harris. This vote passed six to two.

Flag Raising

The Township received a request from Muskoka Autism Group to acknowledge World Autism Day on April 2, 2015. As council accepted a flag pole in 2014, which is now attached to the municipal building, it was decided to grant the request for flying the flag but in accordance with Township Council Policy deny the request for a proclamation.

Strategic Plan

Following the public meetings, the consultants met with staff for their input into the strategic plan. Molly Ross, the consultant from Bloom Strategic Solutions and Consulting Inc., was pleased to report at the Committee of the Whole that over 900 surveys had been completed and returned. The majority of the input received on the survey was from individuals 55 years plus. The breakdown of priority areas by ward are:

  • Ward A - economic development, environment and heritage, health, recreation and community services, infrastructure, township communication and township governance/oversight.
  • Ward B - economic development, health recreation and community services, environment and heritage, township governance/oversight, infrastructure and township communications.
  • Ward C - economic development, environment and heritage, health, recreation and community, infrastructure, celebrate our people/youth, township communications and township governance/oversight.
  • GTA - environment and heritage, township governance/oversight, economic development, infrastructure, township communications, stop Bala hydro plant, health, recreation and community services and tax rate too high.

(Note there were additional categories presented in Ward C and the GTA from public input)

Data obtained through the meetings and the surveys formed the basis for this draft report. The status report can be viewed here - 1503 - TW - COW - 8.c.1.pdf Overview  and the full report at - 1503 - TW - COW - 8.c.1 - Details.pdfDraft Report

Another strategic planning meeting is scheduled to be held on Tuesday April 7th, 2015. The public is welcome to attend and observe at this Special Committee of the Whole meeting.

Rooming House Licensing By-law

In 2014 a rooming house by-law was passed and a licensing by-law was required. The necessary by-law was brought to the planning committee on Thursday, March 12, 2015. The onus to obtain a license will be on the property owner and not the renters. As with other by-laws this will be complaint driven and planning staff cautioned committee that enforcement is going to be a problem. The objective of the licensing by-law was to give it “teeth” to be able to enforce the rooming house by-law. Committee voted five to three to recommend the by-law to council.

Septic Setbacks

During comprehensive zoning by-law (2014-14) meetings it was suggested that, as an amendment to 2014-14, the setback for septic systems be increased to 100 feet from the water. On Thursday March 12th, Director of Planning, David Pink, presented to the committee his report on this issue. Mr. Pink emphasized that although water quality in Muskoka is of utmost importance administration of 100 foot setbacks is difficult as there are many small and steep lots in Muskoka. Currently the building department and applicants work closely together to find the most acceptable placement of septic systems. If this amendment is passed property owners with septic systems within 100 feet of the water would automatically become legal non-complying. It was suggested again that a public consultation meeting should be held prior to this amendment being put in place. A meeting date has not yet been scheduled.

North Bala Falls Small Hydro Project

The proposed hydro project by Swift River Energy Limited (SREL) was on the agenda again on Thursday March 12th and Friday March 13th. On Thursday March 12th the working committee’s, as established in February - Township Watch - February 2015 minutes were presented to the Committee of the Whole - 1503 - TW - COW - 6.c.1.pdf Working Group Minutes

The working committee was tasked to look at the project to see how the community’s concerns could be mitigated, not to decide whether or not the project would proceed. Included in the minutes was a resolution that COW recommends to council “that they advise the District of Muskoka that the road widening is a better option than obstructing Muskoka Road 169 for a period of time”. Prior to the resolution being read there were delegations by:

  • Mitchell Shnier from Save The Bala Falls who spoke about the road widening, guardrails and how the proponent is trying to “control the information” that is being made available to the public -1503 - TW - COW - 6.a.3.1.pdf SaveTheBalaFalls
  • Deborah Ylanko from the Moon River Property Owner’s Association asked why there was a rush to widen the highway shoulder, what was the real impact from the traffic and what will happen to the lands that have been designated as heritage lands - 1503 - TW - COW - 6.a.3.2.pdf MRPOA
  • Chief Franks from the Wahta Mohawk who spoke about the historical lands in Bala and the duty to consult with First Nations -1503 - TW - COW - 6.a.3.3.pdfWahta. When asked about the use of the portage at Portage Landing Chief Franks stated that the portage is not as well used as it had been.
  • A letter from Toronto law firm of Aird & Berlis was read by Cassandra Ford a private citizen -1503 - TW - COW - 6.a.3.4..pdf Aird & Berlis
  • Frank Belerique from SREL who explained that the hydro project can proceed regardless of the committee's decision regarding the road widening however it will cause traffic issues and SREL is looking at it from a safety perspective.

During committee discussions concerns such as sidewalk use, trees, the land lease for Margaret Burgess Park, entrance permits, the coffer dam and use of crown lands were raised. Following a report by Interim CAO Clayton Harris, three councillors raised concerns regarding how questions from a previous resolution have gone unanswered. They felt that the Township is rushing this process and that public concerns were not being brought forth.

Councillor Currie, a member of the working committee from Ward A, stated that he felt that the minutes from the meeting were not complete or truthful. He went on to say that he withheld his approval of the minutes of the March meetings as he believes the minutes had been “censored” by staff or SREL.  Councillor Currie also took the opportunity to circulate to the committee, and members of the public, copies of emails between himself and the independent chair of the working committee. These emails contained the PRIVATE email address of the independent chair which Councillor Currie did not have permission to circulate to the public.

A resolution to accept the minutes of the working committee was passed at a vote of five to three. The working committee’s resolution was carried in a recorded vote of five to three.

Mitchell Shnier of Save The Bala Falls and Chief Franks were back in front of council on Friday March 13th. Prior to starting his delegation Mr. Shnier was informed that some comments in his presentation were disrespectful and it was hoped they could be mitigated during the presentation.

Mr. Shnier was present to comment on the working committee and he wondered where the community input was coming from. As SREL has representatives on the working committee Mr. Shnier referred to the committee as a “Kangaroo Court” as the developers had votes. The presentation became disrespectful to councillors and Mr. Shnier’s five minute time allotment expired -1503 - TW - Council - 5.a.1.pdfSaveTheBalaFalls - 2 

Chief Franks once again spoke about the consultation process -1503 - TW - Council - 5.a.3.pdfWahta - 2

When the working committee was discussed, Councillor Currie requested that the composition of the committee be changed to add a member of the Wahta Mohawk, a member from Save The Bala Falls as well as representatives from the MLA and MRPOA.

Council passed a resolution to send a letter to the Provincial government asking for a copy of the land lease between the crown and SREL regarding Margaret Burgess Park asking for specifics on the length of the lease and what trees may have to be removed.

It was suggested that due to the amount of misinformation that is circulating perhaps another public meeting should be held regarding this project. No decision was made regarding this.


As there were changes made to both the municipal and district meeting schedules this month, the district council and committee meetings have not been held to date. If there is any information to report from those meetings a separate publication will be circulated.

The MRA thanks our membership for their ongoing support


Upcoming Events - Monthly Calendar

TML - Committee of the Whole
Apr 11, 2019 9:00am to 12:00pm
TML - Council
Apr 12, 2019 9:00am to 12:00pm
MRA - Board Meeting
Apr 27, 2019 9:00am to 1:00pm
MRA - AGM 2019
Jul 20, 2019 10:00am to 12:00pm
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