Township Watch - November 2019

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

Council - Wednesday, November 13th, 2019

Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC)

Chief Executive Officer, Natalie Bubela presented the hospital’s strategic plan to Council including quality care and safety, partnerships & collaboration, sustainable future, people and innovation and technology. The full strategy plan can be read here -MAHC MAHC.  Ms. Bubela explained that MAHC has been accredited with “exemplary standing” the highest performance of excellence that can be awarded. Banners hang in both hospitals showing this standard as it demonstrates the type of supports MAHC receives from the community in donations. Funds from donations recently allowed both sites to renovate their emergency departments and install two “secure rooms” in each facility.

Chief Financial Officer, Terry Shields continued the presentation with information on funding for MAHC. Hospitals are required to have a balanced budget but this year MAHC will have a deficit of $4.5 million. Fortunately, part of this deficit has been covered by $3.2 million received from the Ministry of Health. Capital needs for MAHC are $9 million in equipment and technology and $40 million infrastructure costs. Two hospital sites have been approved for Muskoka. A new hospital in Huntsville located on the same site and a new hospital in Bracebridge on a new site. The total cost to MAHC will be $560,872,200.00 with funding from other sources leaving a balance of $74 million to be raised by the area.

It was questioned if this was a similar funding model across Ontario; Ms. Bubela confirmed that it is. Mayor Harding explained that there is consideration of support for these projects at the District of Muskoka, but he had concern that municipalities would be double billed as they already pay a portion of their levy to the District.

The presentation was for information only and; no resolution was read.

Ed Note: The Muskoka Ratepayers agree that Muskoka is better served having two hospital sites.

Water Quality Matters

Christy Doyle, Director of Environmental and Watershed Programs for the District of Muskoka, spoke to Council about the district’s recreational water quality monitoring program. Ms. Doyle explained that there is a relationship between water quality and climate change. The watershed in the District of Muskoka is so large that it goes through mini climatic changes as water works its way through the watershed. With the changing climate what used to be an odd occurrence is now the new norm. In the District of Muskoka, you cannot stand and be more than one kilometre from a lake. It is important to protect the water as people choose to live or come to visit Muskoka for the environment and the economy.

The District of Muskoka looks at water quality health and have been doing so for 40 years, the longest study in North America. Their monitoring is done in conjunction with the Province and the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. Samples are taken from lakes across the watershed. District looks at clarity and tests for close to 50 chemical parameters including phosphorous. In 2019 they tested for chemicals at 93 sites on 76 lakes, completed benthic testing at 23 sites on 22 lakes and 1 river, completed 750 shoreline assessments with the “Love Your Lake” program and 5 shoreline re-naturalization’s which is very important for water quality. Currently, there is an increased concern with algae blooms and public health issues.

Christina Wieder, Safe Water Program Manager from the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) spoke to Council about their beach water quality testing program. The SMDHU is mandated to provide services including to prevent and reduce the burden of water born illness and injuries related to recreational use. This is accomplished by testing public beaches for e-coli on a weekly or by-weekly basis. Once a test is taken it takes 24 hours for results to be obtained. If the water test indicates a problem and a swim advisory is required, the SMDHU will contact the municipality where the beach is located before a public statement is made. It is important to note that water testing can be impacted by heavy rains, the presence of geese, shallow water depths and sand. Although a swim advisory does not close a beach, it is advised that if you do swim not to put your head under water and not to drink the water.

The occurrences of blue green algae blooms is on the increase and contact with the bloom may make you sick. The SMDHU report potential blooms to the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks who do water sampling. It takes two days before the SMDHU is given confirmation of an algae bloom and what type of bacteria is involved. The SMDHU then reviews the information they have been provided with and informs the necessary municipality. It then takes two weeks to get the results from the Ministry’s lab.

Sandy Bos, Township septic inspector then spoke to Council regarding septic system re-inspections. Township septic inspectors evaluate septic systems to see if there are any glaring issues with a system and provide property owners with septic “do’s and don’ts” and provide information on best practices. If there is a major problem Mr. Bos will follow up with the property owner. Since 2000 the building department has carried out 7600 septic inspections identifying 200 leaking systems, 500 systems in need of repairs and 1000 systems that were unmaintained with vegetation growing on the septic beds. The Township inspects 300 systems per year, with re-inspection of systems on sensitive lakes every five years. Mr. Bos explained to Council that if a compliant is filed regarding a septic system the Township will inspect several in the area so not isolate a single individual.

Council listened to these three presentations intently and thanked everyone for attending.

Bala Falls Hydro Project

Mitchell Shnier, from was before Council with concerns about the operation of the hydro plant, public safety and access to the Township docks. In follow up to Mr. Shnier’s presentation to Council last month - Township Watch - October - he returned to Council to voice concerns regarding safety while boating, how access to the Township docks will be obstructed by the 11 safety markers and the financial impact to Purk’s Place in Bala. Mr. Shnier again asked that Council send a letter to the Province and Transport Canada voicing their concerns.

Kelly Purkis, representing her father, the owner of Purk’s Place then addressed Council. Ms. Purkis explained that the family business has been servicing Muskoka for over 100 years and is the only business like it on the lakes. The family is concerned for the safety of their customers, public safety, the business and the Town of Bala. Purk’s Place provides the community with a multitude of products including fishing and hunting licenses, boat sales and rentals, live bait, marine supplies, water and beach toys. Ms. Purkis stated that she and her mother had met with Swift River Energy Limited regarding their concerns which they understood were addressed, but SREL’s website is showing different information. Ms. Purkis asked Council to protect the Town of Bala and stop the power plant from working during the summer months.

Mayor Harding explained that as a Council they are listening to their concerns. As the safety plan that was put forth was drastically different than the plan that had been agreed upon and as water levels are paramount in Muskoka, Council put a resolution forward to send to the Province -Resolution Resolution.

The resolution carried unanimously.

Minett Joint Policy Review Steering Committee Recommendations

Following the October Planning meeting and subsequently, a Special Committee of the Whole meeting to discuss the 28 recommendations outlined in the Minett Joint Review Steering Committee interim report, staff were asked to return with their comments. Prior to staff comments being heard, presentations were given, voicing:

  • support for the direction of the committee,
  • comments that the committee results will set the tone for development in Minett,
  • support for repealing the by-law that would allow for a 582-foot dock in Wallace Bay,
  • encouragement of Council to have a process for an Official Plan Amendment (OPA) in place for Minett before the Interim Control By-Law expires in May 2020,
  • that the Township needs to embrace policy and get the wording right in an OPA,
  • that protection and enhancement of the environment should be considered over development,
  • that development must be designed to mitigate climate change, and
  • conflicting views whether septic systems should be private services or communal services.

Before proceeding Vice President of Development for SmartCentres, Paula Bustard was given the opportunity to speak. Ms. Bustard explained that the new owners of the property desire to work with the Township and the community and do not have any firm redevelopment plans yet. Ms. Bustard requested that the Township take a “pause” on policy changes now and offered to enter into a legal agreement stating that they would not rush to submit any planning applications if the OPA was not rushed through. Although she understood Council’s reasoning to pass the OPA she pointed out that if policy was “shrink wrapped” the Township would be limiting the creativity of how the lands could be redeveloped.

Council members commented that it would be wonderful to work together with the developer but suggested that it would be appropriate to also start the OPA. Following a brief discussion Mayor Harding stated that the general policies were in place and a “pause” was put in place but none of the proposed changes to the area have included the developer.

The floor was then opened to the public who commented that:

  • it was disappointing that the Minett Steering Committee submitted recommendations before studies were completed and they could be vetted,
  • there will be implications to the J.W. Marriott which was built to be on municipal services that were to be built in the area,
  • the J.W. Marriott was willing to have discussions with Council if they were “reasonable” and would be willing to enter into a “reasonable” agreement,
  • the Minett Steering Committee have been meeting twice monthly and are on pace to provide firm recommendations by the beginning of January,
  • the environment must be protected,
  • residents on Royal Muskoka Island were not against the redevelopment of Clevelands House if it was used as a resort,
  • those who reside in Minett work together and support each other, and
  • it was hard to get people to work in Muskoka as there is no staff housing.

Director of Planning, David Pink explained that staff had concerns about bringing recommendations prior to having the final results from the Minett Steering Committee. Mr. Pink stated he would bring a preliminary report to the January Council meeting, but this was not typical process as a public meeting would normally be held during the summer. It was then clarified that a building permit had already been issued for the 582-foot dock in Wallace Bay.

With this new information Council decided against repealing the by-law for the dock as was requested by the Minett Steering Committee and discussed that:

  • a legal agreement and starting the process for the OPA should run in parallel,
  • they should find a consensus to work with the property owner,
  • there is no sense of exposure if the OPA is deferred,
  • the staff report should be endorsed,
  • if the Township draft policies, they may come out with a predetermined outcome prior to hearing the public's voice,
  • there are conflicted interests between speakers wanting private services vs communal services,
  • the Township should work with the developers in the area,
  • if Council charges down the road without the developers onside, the decision will be appealed to the LPAT, and
  • these discussions with the new developer are a whole “new ballgame” and may be a “win, win” situation.

With a show of nodding heads of it was agreed to put a 30-day “pause” in place to see if a legal agreement could be reached with the stakeholders. If no decision is made within 30-days, Council will need to debate the steering committee recommendations and debate policy so the planning department can initiate an OPA.

Ed Note: The Muskoka Ratepayers commend planning staff and members of the Minett Steering Committee on all their work on this issue.

General/Finance Committee - Thursday, November 14th, 2019

Safe Quiet Lakes Municipal Update

Greg Wilkinson, Chair of Advocacy and Research for Safe Quiet Lakes, presented to Committee on behalf of the association. Mr. Wilkinson explained that the association is a group of volunteers who are working to make Muskoka safer and quieter. As the association likes to be driven by facts, they have undertaken two surveys in recent years which indicated that only one-third of participants felt “very safe” on their lakes. The top three safety concerns were identified as:

  • power boats not following the “rules of the road”,
  • boats traveling at high speed, and
  • large wakes that can endanger others.

The association feels that safety and noise are the two strongest drivers on lakes. As they believe education is one of the most important tools, they developed a “Boater’s Code” which are available across the municipality, as well as “Code Signs” which are placed at 125 marina’s and boat launches in Ontario. To learn more about how Safe Quiet Lakes is working to regulate boating in Canada, opportunities for municipalities, things you can do or just about the association itself please click here -Safe Quiet Lakes Safe Quiet Lakes.

Committee members than posed questions to Mr. Wilkinson regarding:

  • what concerns have been raised about Mirror Lake?
  • what the association is doing regarding decibel level legislation.
  • how some boaters overload boat capacity.
  • nighttime navigation.
  • how good boating practice is a matter of respect.

This item was for information only and no resolution was read.

Annual Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce Update

Executive Director, Norah Fountain provided Committee with a break down of events that the Chamber has done over the past year including being the smallest Chamber to host the Ontario Chamber of Commerce Convention which they did in Minett May 2019. The Chamber works tirelessly to promote Muskoka with radio and social media presence, producing 15,000 Muskoka Lakes Directories, their mobile tourism booth, the new information centre in Port Carling, Mid-Day Madness in August to name a few. The Chamber office in Bala also provides services such as faxing and aid in obtaining permanent resident cards. The Chamber calculated that each person who visits them spends $165.00 in the Township of Muskoka Lakes. If that number is multiplied by the number of visitors to the Port Carling visitors centre in 2019 (1647 individuals), visitors spent $271,755.00 in our Township.

The Chamber’s power point presentation can be found here -Chamber of Commerce Chamber of Commerce.

Committee members thanked Ms. Fountain for her presentation stating:

  • Ms. Fountain’s style and approach was world class,
  • the Chamber is making a difference with businesses in the Township,
  • the Chamber is doing a great job,
  • they really appreciate the work that the Chamber does, and
  • that the Chamber works hard.

Ms. Fountain asked the Committee to help spread the message about what the Chamber does and to help tell the Chamber’s story.

This item was for information purposes and no resolution was read.

Ed Note: The Muskoka Ratepayers often have the pleasure of working with Ms. Fountain and we echo the comments above. We should all be very proud of the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce and what they do for the Township of Muskoka Lakes.

2019 Council Remuneration

Human Resources Specialist Sarah Lehman explained to Committee that she had compiled remuneration statistics from other lower tier municipalities and compared benefits for Committee’s review. Benefit numbers can be seen here -Remuneration Remuneration. Committee then discussed:

  • that a Health Care Spending Account of $2,000.00 is not very much if one has a family,
  • reimbursing Councillors for mileage when they attend Community Centre meetings, and
  • that mileage can be claimed through one’s income tax return.

Township Clerk Cheryl Mortimer reminded Committee members that they volunteered to run for Council and are compensated for their mileage when attending Township meetings if they are a voting member of the Committee.

Ms. Lehman was asked to return next month with remuneration of comparable municipalities, as well as options for increasing benefits. This item was also for information purposes and no resolution was read.

Planning Committee - Friday, November 15th, 2019

Site Plan

Following the discussion at the October Planning meeting, Director of Planning David Pink informed Committee that this month he had attached examples of both residential -Residential Residential and commercial -Commercial Commercial site plans as well as some random site plan drawing -Sample Site Plan Sample Site Plan ( to the agenda package for Committee to examine. Committee members held a discussion on site plans including:

  • that the diagrams do not show the terrain or features on properties,
  • that the Township of Muskoka Lakes is light years ahead of other municipalities regarding what is required and protection of the environment,
  • once a site is altered it cannot be put back to its natural state,
  • before demolition takes places on a property staff should visit the property and inspect what other structures are already in place,
  • many landowners think the fines for site alteration are laughable, and
  • it is Council’s job to educate the public on property owners rights.

Mr. Pink explained that the site plan process was in place to ensure the protection of water quality and the environment. Unfortunately, when there is a large development with large structures tree removal and site alteration will occur and is permitted. The site plan agreement ensures that the site is rehabilitated to the satisfaction of the Township. Mr. Pink agreed that fines for doing unnecessary tree cutting/site alteration or building without permits do not necessarily have an impact on property owners, but time does. If something is done out of compliance and development/redevelopment is made lengthier by having to obtain a site plan to rehabilitate the site property, owners take notice.

All finished site plans are public documents and are available to the public in the Township planning department. It is important to note that site plans indicate what the final product should be, not a property under construction.

Although staff were given direction to return with further information on this subject, this item was for information purposes and no resolution was read.

District Council - Monday, November 18th, 2019

Acknowledgement of Service

District Chair John Klinck opened the District Council meeting by telling those in attendance that last week he had been invited to Ottawa to see Scott Aitchison, former Mayor of Huntsville and newly elected Member of Parliament for Muskoka Parry Sound, sworn in. After a quarter century of service to Muskoka, Chair Klinck said it is always nice to see a friend excel and move on to bigger things.

Vice Chair, Mayor Graydon Smith of the Town of Bracebridge commended Mr. Aitchison on what a fantastic job he had done over the years. Stating that “Mr. Aitchison had worked hard at the District Council table trying to bring all of Muskoka together”. Mr. Smith congratulated Mr. Aitchison on his victory.

Prior to speaking, Mr. Aitchison was asked to come forward to receive a gift of appreciation for his years of service and have a picture taken with District Council. Mr. Aitchison said he was honoured by the gift and kind comments. Although Mr. Aitchison said he will miss the District Council Chambers and the relationships he built over the years, he looks forward to proudly serving Muskoka in a greater capacity.

Ed Note: The Muskoka Ratepayers congratulate Scott Aitchison on his win in the Federal Election and look forward to working with him in the coming years.

2020 Township Budget Meeting Schedule

  • Wednesday, December 11th, 2019 at 9 AM Council meeting - budget introduction.
  • Wednesday, January 15th, 2020 at 7 PM a Special Council meeting in the Council Chambers to receive public input.
  • Tuesday, January 28th, 2020 at 9 AM a Committee of the Whole meeting for budget deliberation.
  • Monday, February 3rd, 2020 at 9 AM a Committee of the Whole in the Port Carling Community Centre to further deliberate the budget if required.
The Muskoka Ratepayers congratulates Township of Muskoka Lakes
septic inspector Sandy Bos for his very informative presentation at
FOCA’s fall seminar this month.
It has been a busy month for awards in Muskoka.
Do you know who won:
An Ontario Business Achievement Award at the Ontario Economic Summit this month?
The RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award in the Start-up category?
The Bracebridge Examiner/Gravenhurst Banner 2019 Readers Choice Awards?
All that can be found here, courtesy of the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce.

Muskoka Chamber

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