Township Watch - February 2014


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Budget

Prior to the adoption of the 2014 budget on February 14th, 2014 council heard final appeals from the South Muskoka Hospital Foundation (SMHF) and the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce.  SMHF had originally asked council to commit to a $90,000.00 donation over five years. ($18,000.00/year).  Bracebridge and Gravenhurst councils’ requests to SMHF that their substantially higher donations be extended over a seven year period, was granted.  Although Mr. Miller from the SMHF acknowledged that municipalities feel they should not be in the business of healthcare, he explained that the provincial government funds hospital operating costs, but not the purchase of new medical equipment.  When asked how much the “hospital family” itself would be donating, Mr. Miller replied upwards of $600,000.00.  During the budget deliberations council agreed to add $9,000.00 to the budget for SMHF.  Council stipulated that this budget item would only be received by the SMHF if the community became involved.  The Township of Muskoka Lakes has agreed to meet donations dollar for dollar up to $9,000.00 and provide a tax receipt for all contributions.

The Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce appealed that their grant be raised from $15,000.00 in version 7 of the budget to the original $18,000.00.  Ms Jane Templeton, General Manager, outlined many of the initiatives that the chamber does which benefit the township.  The chamber board requested that this council not decrease their township grant a second time.  When the present council took office the chamber had been receiving $20,000.00.  Their request was granted.

With upcoming repairs to the township infrastructure, council decided to add $10,000.00 to the reserves.  Although this was done, one councillor voiced that hundreds of thousands are going to be required.

As of February 14th the tax levy was set at 2.75%.

Comprehensive Zoning By-Law

The ongoing review of the comprehensive zoning by-law continued on Tuesday, February 18th at the Planning meeting.  As the discussion began, Director of Planning David Pink reminded the planning committee that the by-law had been drafted by a consultant hired by the Township and that both the public and comprehensive zoning by-law committee had provided input.  The by-law was reviewed for two hours with an exorbitant amount of questions being posed by two members of council who had sat on the by-law committee.  With several lakes throughout Muskoka having their categories changed, property rezoning changes are occurring as well.  There continues to be a concern that privately owned properties are being rezoned without the knowledge of the property owners.  The MRA again advises that you visit the township web site (Zoning By-law - 2014-14) to ensure your rights are protected.

One issue that was noticed is that the zoning by-law is written in metric form.  Although there is an imperial conversion chart attached to the by-law it is not all inclusive.  There was a suggestion that perhaps the comprehensive zoning by-law could include both metric and imperial measures.  If you feel this is important please contact Mr. Pink at dpink@muskokalakes.ca.

Process

As the MRA has always been extremely concerned about process and good governance we feel it is time to review how, in our opinion, certain members of council do not follow process, ie: how the township’s procedural by-laws and Robert’s Rules are not being followed.

  • The number of questions and supplemental questions asked by each councillor are not limited.
  • The Mayor continually takes part in the discussion when she should be facilitating it.
  • Proper decorum and professional conduct are not being followed.
  • Applicants are not always asked for their name and address.
  • Inappropriate use of computers, cell phones and tweeting during meetings.

MRA representatives that attend meetings try very hard to provide unbiased reports, which admittedly is difficult at times.  This month we feel it is necessary to inform our membership of how a staff member was treated during a public committee of the whole meeting.  Two councillors took it upon themselves to publicly berate this individual regarding the Township of Muskoka Lakes job fair.  In our opinion, if councillors are not behaving courteously and politely, other members of the committee should rely on Robert’s Rules, state “Point of Order” and request that the inappropriate behaviour cease.

 

We want to thank our readers for their comments.

 

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