Township Watch - October 2019


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

Council - Wednesday, October 16th, 2019

Minett Joint Policy Review Steering Committee Update

Jim Lewis, chair of the Minett Joint Policy Review Steering Committee, presented the Committee’s interim report to Council.  Mr. Lewis informed Council that the Committee of 11 had prepared 28 recommendations to be added to the Official Plan - Minett Update Minett Update These recommendations may require some revisions once the results of the boat impact study and the Muskoka waterfront economy impact study, are received by the Committee.  Mr. Lewis told Council that the Committee had voted unanimously to ask Council to reverse the by-law which allows for the construction of a 582-foot dock in Wallace Bay, as boat traffic in Wallace Bay is overcrowded already.  The dock was to be this length to allow the Seqwun to park on one side, with private docks on the other.  According to Muskoka Steamships they do not require this dock, nor have they ever asked for it.  

The main thrust of the report is to preserve and enhance Minett looking at projected growth for tourist facilities, while limiting living accommodation except for staff housing.  Mr. Lewis explained that the steering committee has met with the new owner of Clevelands House in Minett and while the owner is working with planners, he has no concrete plans to date but his views do align with the Committee’s vision.

Council members discussed:

  • that the dock in Wallace Bay could not be built until a 9 km speed limit was in place for Wallace Bay,
  • whether there would be implications or liability to the Township for repealing the dock by-law,
  • that the new owner of the commercial property in Minett bought the property with development rights,
  • that the new owner bought the lands in Minett to protect Muskoka, and
  • that Mr. Lewis had two “asks”.  Firstly, to repeal the dock by-law and secondly, recommendations for an Official Plan Amendment.

As this item was also included in the Planning Committee agenda no further discussion took place and no resolution was read.  More below.

 Public Safety at the New Bala Generating Station

Mitchell Shnier presented to Council regarding the safety measures plan for the Bala generating station.  Mr. Shnier had a power point presentation - STBF STBF - where he outlined that it is his belief that the safety plan put forth by Swift River Energy Limited (SREL) does not provide or address dangers associated with the hydro plant.  Although the safety booms and floating signs that will be installed upstream from the hydro station will not interfere with navigation, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), they have not been approved by a neutral third party.   According to Mr. Shnier the MNRF do not have the expertise on public safety, and therefore the Township should be asking the Province to indemnify the Township against any legal actions if an accident occurs.  Mr. Shnier stated that the upstream safety booms are just “warning booms” and if a canoe was stuck upstream from the hydro plant and the occupant fell out of the vessel, he/she would be held under water at the intake within 45 seconds.

Mayor Harding invited SREL, the MNRF and representatives from the Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to attend the meeting and answer questions.  Representatives from OPG were present at the meeting, while SREL and the MNRF declined to attend.  An OPG representative explained:

  • that the upstream safety boom is angled for self rescue with the force of the water and the angle of the boom forcing someone towards shore, and
  • the water coming out of the hydro station is not on the surface but underwater.

Council members voiced concerns regarding:

  • that this safety plan would not be acceptable to the residents of Bala,
  • the location of public docks upstream from the hydro plant,
  • a regatta is held in Bala Bay every year,
  • Council should tell the Province that they are liable if a tragedy occurs,
  • if the Township believes there is a serious risk, they should do everything to protect themselves by telling the Province there is a high risk in this area and that the Township wishes to be indemnified,
  • that the Township needs to consider the consequences of making demands on the Province and perhaps the booms would be moved farther out into the bay, and
  • the Township was told this hydro plant would not affect tourism or economic development in Bala.

CAO, Derrick Hammond recommended that the Township sit down with SREL and the MNRF to better understand the safety plan.  As well, the Township should reach out to their insurers and obtain legal advice.   It was decided that no decision would be made on this topic, but it would return to Council next month.

General/Finance Committee - Thursday, October 17th, 2019

Muskoka Earth Festival

Judy Brouse spoke to Committee about the Muskoka Earth Festival which will be held on May 30th, 2020 at the Bracebridge Fair Grounds.  The purpose of the festival will be to move from “talking to action” regarding the top four carbon producers ~ transportation, agriculture, building and industrial.  There will be guest speakers and vendors present at the event.  Ms. Brouse stated that they want the Township of Muskoka Lakes to be present at the event with a display explaining how the Township is reducing their carbon footprint and that they would work with the Township to promote the event.

No resolution was read.

Bala Falls Road Bridge

Director of Public Works Ken Becking, informed Committee that the bridge on Bala Falls Road was over 100 years old and needs significant repairs which will require it to be replaced or closed.  Mr. Becking asked Committee’s permission to initiate a request for proposal for a Class Environmental Assessment which would determine if the bridge was to be:

  • repaired for vehicular traffic at a cost of $2 million dollars and should last 25 more years,
  • rebuilt as a single span bridge at a cost of $3 million which should last 100 years, or
  • became a pedestrian crossing where the structure would still need to be rehabilitated at a cost of $750,000.00 to $1 million dollars, with a potential life span of 15 years.  

If the bridge were to be closed Mr. Becking feels that traffic lights would be required at the opposite end of Bala Falls Road at Muskoka Road 169.  Regardless of the decision the project must comply with the Environmental Assessment Act.

A resolution was read and carried to allow staff to initiate an RFP for the required work on the Bala Falls Road bridge.

Burgess 1 Dam

Director of Public Works Ken Becking explained to Committee that this hydro dam was built by descendants of the founder of Bala in 1917 and provided power to Bala, MacTier and Port Carling.  The plant was sold to Ontario Hydro Electric Commission in 1929 and ran until 1957 when it was abandoned.  It is unsure when, but somewhere between 1957 and the 1970’s the Township became the owners of the dam.

Currently the dam is in poor condition and is now a liability to the Township.  Mr. Becking asked Committee permission to initiate a request for proposal for a Class Environmental Assessment and the preparation of design and contract documents for the repair or replacement of the dam.  A resolution was read and carried to allow the request with the wording “and/or removal” of the dam included.

Proposed Portage Landing Park

Director of Public Works Ken Becking asked Committee where they felt the “Bala Boulder”, that was found during construction of the hydro plant, should be located.  Mayor Harding suggested that the boulder be placed at the entrance of the park.  Following a discussion on other aspects of the park, it was questioned if the design of the park had been agreed to.  CAO Derrick Hammond informed Committee that the plan had been agreed to by a committee of Council.  Mayor Harding explained that there had been a citizen committee that worked on the plan with Swift River Energy Limited (SREL) and Councillors on the plan and it was included in the land lease that SREL would provide a park.  Mayor Harding stated that this Council could “go back and open it up” and overturn the previous Council’s decisions but suggested that if that were to occur the Township may get a bill from SREL for doing so.

It was the consensus of Committee to accept the report from the Director of Public Works but have the item return in November with a formal request for SREL to attend the meeting.

Ed. Note: Point of interest the location of the "Bala Boulder", or as it is known officially, the "Graffiti Stone", had been previously determined.  According to the minutes of the August 21st, 2018 Heritage Advisory Committee meeting, “Committee held a lengthy discussion and agreed the “Graffiti Stone” should be included as part of the Commemorative Plan, located as close as possible to the top of the portage route and sidewalk/ road. Committee also noted the “Graffiti Stone” should remain in its natural excavated form. The iron bar(s) should be cut off of the stone and any jagged edges be smoothed to eliminate any safety hazards. The stone should be located on stable ground to prevent any movement over time”.  These minutes were including in the October 11th, 2018 Committee of the Whole agenda package for information purposes, and subsequently adopted by Council on November 16th, 2018.

Swim Program Overview

Director of Public Works Ken Becking was looking to Committee for direction on how to run the 2020 Township swimming lesson program.   Mr. Becking explained that staff were recommending that the fees be raised from $55.00 per two-week session to $70.00 per two-week session It was mentioned that the Township does not offer many programs and should continue to make the program affordable.  Mr. Becking explained that the increase in fees was based on what Bracebridge and Huntsville charge for their swimming programs.  Committee further discussed if the swimming program returning to Windermere had been a success and decided that a judgment could not be made on a trial of one year.

A resolution was read and carried to increase the enrolment fee to $60.00 per two-week session and to continue with swimming lessons at Hanna Park, Jaspen Park and Windermere Park.  During session B swimming lessons will be held at Windermere Park in the morning and Jaspen Park in the afternoon.  In order to run the program a head instructor and four swimming instructors will be hired.

Planning Committee ~ Friday, October 18th, 2019

Bubbler Presentations

Jim Boyd, a Director of the Muskoka Ratepayers gave a joint Muskoka Lakes Association and Muskoka Ratepayers presentation to Committee on the colour of bubbler lights.  Mr. Boyd explained that there is confusion out on the ice with so many different colours of lights.  The associations were jointly asking that the Township Dark Sky By-Law be amended to include the colour amber for bubbler lights, as amber is an indicator of caution.  In the past it has been suggested that the colour blue is better suited for bubbler lights, but research indicates that blue lights are for highway snowplows, trucks working on highways and the OPP.

Mayor Harding, who enjoys snowmobiling in the winter, explained that an amber light can be confused with an interior light, while a blue light is extremely visible through all weather conditions.  Committee agreed that the by-law should indicate the colour of the bubbler light.  They did not come to a decision on what colour light should be used.

Ed. Note: We thank Jim for speaking on behalf of both associations at the meeting and will continue to work with the MLA on this issue.

OP Working Committee Chair Appointment

Chair Bridgeman explained that she had requested that this item be added to the agenda as she felt that since the Council had been “elected on the environment” it was important that a Councillor be the chair of the working committee.  As Councillor Roberts has a background in Program Management, Chair Bridgeman felt he would be a good candidate for the position of chair.  This suggestion was supported by Committee and a resolution was read and carried.

Ed. Note: The Ratepayers congratulate Councillor Roberts on his appointment.

Sports Courts and Active Recreational Activity Areas

With the increasing popularity of private sports courts (tennis, basketball, pickleball, etc.) in the Township, planning staff are receiving more inquires regarding their construction.  In building these courts the environment is being affected as trees must be removed, blasting is taking place and issues are being raised with stormwater management.  There are currently specific setbacks in place 66 feet from the waterfront and 15 feet from side lot lines, but these courts are not included in lot coverage.  

Director of Planning David Pink explained that this needs to be reviewed with the Official Plan (OP) and recommended that the front yard setback be 200 feet.  Mr. Pink suggested that the Township could limit the size of sports courts by including them in lot coverage.  Mr. Pink suggested a comprehensive review to determine how much a property can be altered for these sport courts be undertaken now, and not wait until the new OP is finished.

A resolution was read and carried to recommend to Council that sports courts be further regulated.

Minett Joint Policy Review Steering Committee

Due to the importance of this issue it was determined that a Special Committee of the Whole meeting should be called so that all Councillors could voice their views and opinions on the recommendations.

This meeting was called for Monday, October 28th where Councillors brought forth some concerns, but no decisions were made.  A resolution was read directing staff to review and evaluate the Minett Steering Committee Interim recommendations and report back at the Council meeting in November.

Process

During the Planning Meeting questions were asked regarding site plans including the tree cutting by-law, removal of topsoil, tree preservation, how much land can be disrupted.   While the Muskoka Ratepayers respect the desire to fully understand the process, it is our view that these questions should be asked of staff directly and not at the Committee table.   There was also a request to defer the application so that committee members could review the site plan.   The Muskoka Ratepayers question why this request would be made, as staff are the professionals when it comes to site plans not Councillors.  Furthermore, site plans are regulated by the Planning Act and must be approved within 30 days.

These questions and requests caused a planning application to take over an hour in length as Committee was not focusing on the application in front of them.  Several times Mayor Harding attempted to bring the conservation back to the “matter at hand” which was the addition of a single storey boathouse.  Mayor Harding stated he was more than happy to have staff review the site plan process, but Committee should not hold up the natural course of business by “co-mingling” the site plan process with an application for a boathouse.

Ed. Note: The Ratepayers fully agree with Mayor Harding that “co-mingling” the discussions to hold up the natural course of business is not appropriate.

District Council ~ Monday, October 22nd, 2019

Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit

Dr. Gardnier, Medical Officer of Health and the Chair of the Board presented to Council the reasons why the Board of Directors of the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) felt that Simcoe and Muskoka should remain as one health unit.  Following the presentation and a lengthy discussion on the wording of the resolution, District Council voted to inform the Province that they agree with the Board of Directors that the SMDHU should remain intact.  This decision did not say whether the health unit would merge with York Region or go north to a newly established health unit.

If you are going to be in Muskoka on Saturday, November 16th, 2019
mark you calendars....
the Bala Santa Claus Parade is at 1 PM
and
the Port Carling Santa Claus Parade is at 6:30 PM

 

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