Township Watch - April 2014


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North Bala Falls Small Hydro Project

The April 17th council meeting began with a presentation by the Bala United Church asking council to allow Swift River Energy Limited (SREL) to lease both the shield parking lot and the township land adjacent to the project during construction of the hydro project. SREL would then not require the use Margaret Burgess Park. This presentation was followed by the Moon River Property Owners’ Association (MRPOA) asking that council not lease these lands.  As well, MRPOA requested that the MNR and SREL demonstrate that the Moon River township dock not be put in great peril from changed water flows.  Mr. Shnier of Save the Bala Falls delegated next regarding safety issues at the falls.    Karen McGhee, project manager for SREL, then delegated with what she said could be a “win-win-win” situation for everyone.  On behalf of SREL, Ms McGhee, requested that the township agree to lease the noted lands to SREL confirming that they would not then need to use Margaret Burgess Park.  Ms McGhee stated that she had been authorized to offer the township $100,000.00 for this lease.

Blasting and Road Load By-Laws

With well over 50 vocally opposed contractors in attendance, the road load restriction that was proposed to run from January 1st to December 31st each year was removed from council’s agenda on Thursday April 17th.  One contractor questioned “why would you debate it anyway?”  A representative from Reiger Construction read a letter saying the by-law must be a mistake because if passed, it would greatly affect the number one employer of the residents of the Township of Muskoka Lakes…the contracting industry. 

Arnie Coulson from Coulson Bros. Scow Service delegated on behalf of contractors throughout Muskoka on the blasting by-law.  Mr. Coulson expanded on the need to blast for economic development, to resolve drainage issues, to allow structures to sit lower on lots, to increase value of properties which would in turn increase the tax base.  Mr Coulson further questioned why this by-law was being put forward? Who put it forward?  Have there been any complaints?  If so, how many complaints?

No date was given for these items to return to committee or council.

Dark Sky By-law

The by-law was passed by council on Thursday April 17th providing a compliance date of January 1, 2024 for all lights that are not already dark sky compliant.  Generally the MRA supports this long overdue bylaw. 

A footnote we wish to point out however: Although originally having a requirement that bubbler warning lights should be an amber colour, this restriction was removed.  The by-law now reads that bubbler warning lights can be any solid colour except red. Having no consistent warning colour sends a confusing and perhaps, fatal  message.

Port Sandfield Rogers Cell Tower

Michelle Vivar from Rogers Communication reassured concerned members of the public  they have halted construction on the cell tower that is being constructed too close to the road.  Ms Vivar explained that they are looking into moving the site either within the property or to another property.

Bala Heritage Conservation District Study

This item was on the Planning Committee agenda for information purposes only.  A Heritage Conservation District Study had been commenced under Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act.  According to a notice that was sent to property owners in the area “the study area for the potential Heritage Conservation District consists of an area in the community of Bala between Lake Muskoka and the Moon River, containing the north and south falls, part of Burgess Island, part of Portage Island and Margaret Burgess Park.”  For those who are interested there will be a public meeting on Friday, May 16th at the Bala Community Centre from 4 to 8 pm with a formal presentation from 5 pm to 7 pm.

Blasting By-Law

After Thursday’s delegation the blasting by-law was discussed at the Committee of the Whole on Tuesday, April 22nd.  Councillor Kruckel stated that she wants to have discussions with blasters that were present on Thursday and obtain their input, as well as hear from Muskoka Home Builders.    Councillor Brent, as Chair of Public Works, questioned why the committee was even at this juncture, stating that the first time he heard there was a problem was when it was brought to the table.  As Mr. Coulson’s questions had not been answered on Thursday, Councillor Brent asked them again, the questions again went unanswered.   It was suggested that a town hall meeting was a better format to obtain the public’s comments and concerns.

Process 

It is general practice that councillors have an opportunity to ask questions and make comments following delegations.  This was denied on Thursday, April 17th following eight delegations.  The delegates were not thanked for their presentations nor was it suggested that there would be discussions at a later date.  

In exasperation Councillor Furniss left the committee table on Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 after requesting again that the Code of Conduct be placed on the agenda.  Mayor Murphy denied the request stating that committee had a full agenda.  A Council Code of Conduct was first discussed late last fall and staff was to present a report in February 2014.  This did not occur, nor has “the Code” returned to the table for discussion.  Councillor Furniss explained that he is fed up with the council and committee agendas being frequently altered.

 

Spring is finally in the air in Muskoka!

 

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