Township Watch - September 2021

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


The Muskoka Ratepayers congratulates Cheryl Hollows on her new position as Deputy Clerk with the Township.

Special Planning Meeting - Wednesday, September 1st, 2021

Official Plan (OP) Review

Although this item was deferred at the August Planning meeting prior to Committee discussions, the following points were raised by members of the public:

  • concerns still exist regarding lot coverage, grandfathering rights, site alteration and resorts,
  • aggregate operations should be within two kilometres of a highway and not “close proximity” as worded in the draft OP, and
  • concerns that Township staff will review public feedback and not the Planning Committee.

Marg Walton, representing Our Muskoka a group comprised of employers in the Township, business owners, locals, and waterfront property owners, spoke on September 1st, 2021 stating that the draft OP was a long, complicated, and hard to interpret document which may cause confusion.  Many new controls are listed in the draft OP, but it does not say if and how they will be implemented.  Ms. Walton voiced that this was the time for progress, and effective policies for all in the Township of Muskoka Lakes.

Prior to the consultants, Nick McDonald and Jim Dyment reviewing the changes, the Director of Development Services and Environmental Sustainability, David Pink, reviewed for Committee what was before them was Draft 2 Version 2 of the OP.  A resolution was before Committee asking them to endorse the draft for public circulation where an on-line survey and digital Open House will be held.

Mr. McDonald then reviewed the changes that had been made to the draft explaining he had provided Committee with “track” changes from Draft 1 to Draft 2 and where appropriate had strengthened the language changing “may” to “shall” and “should” to “shall”.  Mr. McDonald stated that the more restrictive the OP is made the more “rigid” it will be.

Committee then provided comments on:

  • water access properties saying it agreed that the Township does not provide parking for islanders,
  • resorts that wording under this section should state that amenities should be on resort properties and not “shared and in close proximity”,
  • language should be clear that commercial resorts are not to be someone’s primary or secondary residence,
  • Bala and Port Carling being the Township’s urban centres,
  • the use of boathouses for boats and marine storage and not for couches, TV, etc.  It was decided that this issue could be dealt with in the zoning by-law,
  • recreational carrying capacity being a “tool in the toolbox” but not the only tool, and
  • the objectives listed in the OP should be removed but Mr. McDonald explained that these objectives help when interpreting policies in the OP.

The changes discussed by Committee will be made in Draft 2 Version 2 prior to the Township seeking public input on the draft OP through an on-line survey on Engage Muskoka and digital Open House.  Following input being received from the public, staff will return to Committee with a report for Draft 3.  It was requested that Committee members be sent the survey results and all written submissions.

A resolution was read to allow the Planning Committee to be the approval body of the OP until the time of final approval, to authorize staff to solicit public and agency comments on Draft 2, and lastly, that staff provide the Planning Committee with a staff report regarding public comments on Draft 2 and make recommendations for Draft 3.  The resolution carried.

General / Finance -- Wednesday, September 15th, 2021

Space Optimization Study

At direction of Council, staff obtained a space optimization study to address the space challenges in the Township office and to accommodate staff.  The results came at a significant cost of $2 million to $3 million for a five-to-ten-year solution.  Senior staff reviewed the results and were recommending a more minimalist approach.  It was suggested that modification be made to the Port Carling Fire Station to accommodate administrative fire department staff there.  Once this change has been made the Planning Department would relocate to the Public Works and Fire Department offices, with Public Works relocating to the old Planning Department.  These changes can be made with minor modifications to the current Township building.

Committee held a brief discussion and voted on a resolution to retrofit the Port Carling fire station, move departments within the Township office and hire +VG Architects to prepare designs and documents regarding space optimization with estimated costs for the 2022 budget.  This vote carried.

Parking By-Law Enforcement on Beaumaris Road

Director of Public Works, Ken Becking, explained to Committee that when Council adopted a new parking by-law, restrictions on Beaumaris Road were inadvertently omitted.  As such the Township has no legal authority to enforce parking restrictions on Beaumaris Road.  Tickets that were being contested have been withdrawn, those who received tickets but have not paid the fines should not do so and those who have paid can apply for a refund.

Committee heard a presentation from the President of Fairhaven Island who requested that:

  • the Township not follow up on the parking issue and remove the No Parking signs,
  • make studies into situations like Beaumaris Road more transparent by placing them on the Township website with a portal for public feedback, and
  • ratepayers and tourist access be viewed differently.

It was emphasized that the No Parking signs will remain in place and individuals should continue to not park there.  The only change is that at the moment the Township will not be issuing tickets.

Mr. Becking explained that staff would be returning to Committee with a full staff report on the issue in October.  This item was for information and no resolution was read.

Council - Wednesday, September 15th, 2021

Bala Falls Bridge

As previously reported Bala Falls Bridge has needed rehabilitation.  Following extensive discussion at Council - Township Watch - June  and  July - it was decided to obtain public input on which design would be most desirable. 70 replies were received on the Engage Muskoka site and five emails were received.  Results indicated that the public preferred a five span base option with an open railing design.   

Council voted on a resolution to accept design 2, finalize Municipal Class Environmental Assessment based on this design and to authorize tender documents for the project.  The resolution carried.

Portage Landing Parkette

Director of Public Works, Ken Becking, informed Council that the rehabilitation of Portage Landing has been completed and Swift River Energy Limited (SREL) was asking that the Township accept receipt of the parkette and return their securities as per their contract with the Township.  Mr. Becking explained that the contract with SREL included lands known as the Portage Parking Lot, the Shield Parking Lot, and Portage Landing.  The following issues were raised in discussion:

  • there are other parcels of land that still have not been rehabilitated,
  • could securities, or a portion of securities, be held back until such time as all areas are rehabilitated,
  • that securities should be held back to ensure that a warranty is honoured on the parkette property, and
  • could the parkette be accepted without returning securities?

Mr. Becking agreed to do further research on the contract with SREL and return later in the meeting.   Prior to adjourning the meeting, Mr. Becking reported that the contract with SREL referred to the three specifically named properties and that was all.  A resolution was read that the Township formally accept the lands back and that securities be returned to SREL.  The vote carried.

Community Improvement Plan

As reported in the August Township Watch the Township has initiated a Community Improvement Plan for Bala and Port Carling - TW - August..  This item was on the Council agenda to be ratified.  A resolution was read to obtain public and agency comments at an Open House, followed by a public meeting.  The resolution carried.

ED Note:  The Muskoka Ratepayers note that the community improvement plan shows vital parking spots being removed from both Bala and Port Carling.

Planning - Thursday, September 16th, 2021

Legal Non-Complying Lot Provisions & Accessory Building Provisions ZBA-36/21

As directed by Council, staff returned to the Planning Committee with a draft by-law to

“amend existing provisions pertaining to legal non-complying lots, buildings and structures, and to amend and add provisions to assist in regulating the use of accessory buildings in the Waterfront Designation”. 

The staff report - Report Report - and draft by-law - Draft By-law Draft By-law - can be found here.  Staff explained to those in attendance the process that had taken place to date and that the Township had received 64 submissions which opposed the by-law, voiced concerns regarding the by-law, or supported the by-law.  Staff summarized the submissions for Committee outlining opposition / concerns that included but were not limited to:

  • loss of property rights
  • a lack of rationale behind the draft by-law
  • loss of old Muskoka
  • the Township needs to increase enforcement and not add more by-laws
  • questioning why this was being done prior to the Official Plan being passed
  • the draft by-law was unfair and punishing
  • restrictions should only be put on habitable space
  • people need storage areas, and
  • the meeting was being held on Yom Kippur.

This was followed by 20 delegations voicing concerns including but not limited to:

  • this by-law being an attack on middle class properties and property owners
  • property rights are being attacked
  • current by-laws should be enforced
  • everyone should be allowed to enjoy Muskoka
  • why does the Township think they should control how property owners use their property?
  • abuse of existing by-laws is an enforcement issue
  • the Township was taking advantage of the middle class
  • limiting structures is restrictive and the Township should do so according to lot coverage
  • adding by-laws will not solve infractions as people do not know the by-laws
  • people who follow the rules are being penalized because other people “cross the line”
  • the Township is trying to solve compliancy issues with more by-laws and constraints

Members of the Planning Committee appeared to listen carefully to concerns that were being submitted both in writing and verbally.  Members then discussed that they were there to protect property rights in the Township.  As such the Township should define and decide what they want to allow or not allow.   It was commented that Council had discussed that living space should be limited with the zoning by-law but the draft by-law that was presented included sheds, garages, utility buildings and they should be separated.  It was further commented that the draft was a “one size fits all” by-law.  Councillors acknowledged that “holes had been punched” in the draft by-law.

Prior to this item being completed, staff were asked to review the process going forward so that those in attendance will be fully informed and can participate in the next steps.  Chair Bridgeman and Director of Development Services and Environmental Sustainability, David Pink, explained that comments and concerns with the draft by-law will now be reviewed by Planning staff who will return with further recommendations.  The draft by-law will return to a regular Planning Committee meeting as a discussion item.  This would not typically be a meeting where public comments are further received, but it may be possible to suspend the rules of procedure and accept comments from those not on the agenda.  Mr. Pink anticipates “fairly significant changes” to the draft by-law and Committee will then discuss if a further public meeting is warranted.  Mr. Pink feels it likely will warrant a second public meeting as this is a work in progress and not a “done deal” at this time.  Staff many establish a separate Engage Muskoka page for this item as well.

A resolution was read to recommend to Council that public comments be received and reviewed and that further recommendations return to the Planning Committee.  The resolution carried.

ED Note:  The Muskoka Ratepayers submission to Council regarding the draft by-law can be read here - Letter to Council Letter to Council

2021 Septic System Re-Inspection Program Annual Report

Chief Building Official, Nick Snyder’s report in the agenda package - Septic Re-inspection Septic Re-inspection- informed Committee that the Township conducted 423 septic re-inspections in 2021.  Issues were observed with 149 re-inspection, 51 of which have already been addressed.

While answering a question, Mr. Snyder explained that the “no records” section on his pie charts referred to systems that had no information attached to them and no records were transferred when they transitioned from the MOE to the municipality.  Several Phase 2 inspections have been requested on these specific systems to obtain the necessary information on them.

This item was on the agenda for information and no resolution was read.

Fireworks By-Law Update

After hearing concerns regarding fireworks at the August Council meeting - TW - August, staff were asked to update the fireworks by-law.  By-Law Officer Rachel Miners informed Committee that a draft by-law had been written restricting the use of fireworks in the Township to Victoria Day, Canada Day, New Years Eve and New Years Day. 

Ms. Miners stated that fireworks are generally set off when by-law officers are not on duty, therefore enforcement of this will be a challenge.

A brief discussion was held by Committee, and it was agreed that Labour Day should be added to the by-law.

A resolution was read, and carried, to prohibit the use of fireworks in the Township except on the five specified days and to obtain public input on the draft by-law.  Ms. Miners believed that the by-law will be added to the Township’s Engage Muskoka website with a short survey.

ED Note:  Although the Muskoka Ratepayers agree with reviewing the fireworks by-law, we believe that education is the key to obtaining compliance with this and other by-laws.

The Muskoka Ratepayers
wish our Canadian members a safe and enjoyable

Upcoming Events - Monthly Calendar

TML - Committee of Adjustment
Dec 13, 2021 9:00am to 12:00pm
TML - General / Finance Committee
Dec 15, 2021 9:00am to 12:00pm
TML - Council
Dec 15, 2021 1:00pm to 5:00pm
TML - Planning Committee
Dec 16, 2021 9:00am to 12:00pm
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