Members of the committee discussed the Muskoka Official Plan (MOP) at the September Committee of the Whole meeting and comments were forwarded to the District of Muskoka. A second draft of the MOP - District Official Plan - was released on October 5th, 2017 and was presented to the committee for discussion this month. Although the second draft of the MOP addressed comments/recommendations made by the Township in their September submission to the District, it did not address the removal of any reference of 50% residential usage at commercial resorts, or growth target figures.
Under the current Township Official Plan, resort properties within the Township are considered to be “employment lands”. This designation makes it extremely difficult to “downzone” commercial lands, essentially freezing them with their current zoning. The District's suggestion that 50% of commercial resort properties have a permitted use of residential was met with such distress from the public, that the District has indicated that further review of the suggestion is required. As per the Planning Act, the Township is required to amend their Official Plan to conform to the upper tier within one year of the District's Official Plan being approved.
The committee discussed that “employment lands” as a term for resorts does not really apply anymore. As well as stating that individuals who rent properties in Muskoka go out and enjoy the area, by frequenting restaurants, sightseeing, golf, shop, among other things, cottagers/owners do not. Owners typically enjoy their properties, invite guests up but do not usually partake in tourist activities.
(Editorial Note: The MRA is not in agreement with the statement that cottagers/owners do not frequent restaurants, stores, etc...)
CanACRE Limited approached the Township on behalf of Bell Mobility regarding the placement of a cell tower at 1067 Scarcliffe Road. Although abutting property owners were provided notification of the application, as per Township policy, cell towers that are less than 30 metres (100 feet) in height and are not lit, do not require public consultation. The tower before the committee was to be 29.9 metres in height with a 625-square metre enclosed area at its base and will be setback approximately 500 metres from Lake Muskoka, 360 metres from the closest neighbouring dwelling and 8.8 metres from the closest neighbouring property. The application was approved by committee and will be ratified by Council in January. CanACRE's full submission can be found here - Bell Cell Tower
The Township of Muskoka Lakes is currently reviewing their out-dated sign by-law. Director of the MRA, Mike Webb, presented to the committee concerns regarding light-emitting diode (LED) signs evidenced in other areas of Muskoka. Our Township is unique in many ways, and signage on our roads should reflect smaller town/villages values. These values would be compromised by the intensity of light that these LED lights emit. light projected from this new LED sign technology is extremely invasive to the eye and the brain. LED signs tend to dominate one's eyes during the day and become very invasive at night. MRA voiced our concerns regarding this type of signage as an LED sign has already been installed at the Milford Bay Community Centre (MBCC). This sign, in our opinion, which does not conform to the draft sign by-law that is being reviewed because of the following conditions: an “Electronic Message Board” designation, that only the Township can use, cannot have a variety of colours, cannot vary in intensity, may not display animation and cannot be flashing. None of these conditions are being met. Although the by-law is moving in the right direction, it is a wide-ranging by-law and could be improved with more definitions in the by-law and better enforcement once finalized. Signs contribute to visual pollution rather than enhancing our natural environment. MRA sincerely hopes that this new sign by-law for the Township will address many issues.
The presentation was for information only and no resolution was read.
The Township received a request from the Scarcliffe Road Association to extend year-round road maintenance approximately 400 metres further along Scarcliffe Road for safety reasons. Public Works staff reviewed the request and informed the committee that they had no objection. Committee voted to approve the request on a one-year trial basis.
Following the 2014 municipal election, the current council undertook a strategic plan review. Four public meetings were held, as well as an online survey. CAO, Steve McDonald, informed the committee in a 2017 Report Card on the Strategic Plan that goals and objectives were being met. Many of the goals and objectives have been completed, with several more anticipated to be completed prior to the end of the year. A complete list of the goals, objectives and their status on Infrastructure, Environment and Heritage, Community Development, Economic Development, Township Governance and Communications can be found here - TML Report Card. This item was on the agenda for information purposes and no resolution was read.
(Editorial Note: The MRA is pleased to see that the Township is achieving its goals and objectives that they set out in their strategic plan.)
Representatives from the Muskoka Community Health Hubs were before the committee to request “a letter of support from Council to the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (MOHLTC) for continuance of Health Hubs on a permanent basis”. If agreed to, the letter from Council would be forwarded to the MOHLTC with the Health Hubs “final evaluation and sustainability plan” in early January. Committee voted in favour of providing the letter. A subsequent discussion took place at Council the following day, and it was agreed that Mayor Furniss's letter to the MOHLTC will include a request for additional service levels and unfunded costs.
It was a well run Council meeting comprised of planning applications and planning matters, which the MRA do not regularly report on.
Following closed session, Council returned to the council chambers and in a unanimous recorded vote carried the following resolution - “Be it resolved that the Corporation of the Township of Muskoka Lakes requests party status to the OMB appeal made by Villas of Lake Muskoka Ltd in regards to condominium application C2017-2”. As previously reported, The Villas of Lake Muskoka had been before the committee in September (Township Watch - September 2017) and November (Township Watch - November 2017) regarding the condominium agreement between the developers and the Township, which was deferred both times.
(Editorial Note: Councillor Ledger declared a conflict of interest and did not vote on this resolution.)
District Council heard a presentation from Jonathan Nehmetallah, legal counsel for SaveTheBalaFalls, regarding the process that must be followed for the issuance of a licence of occupation for a “dewatering pipe” located under the Moon River Bridge in Bala. Mr. Nehmetallah stated that he was present to speak about procedural concerns and was giving “warning” that the meeting was to deny procedural concerns. He further stated that the only reason his client was aware that the licence of occupation had not been obtained was “an email” (it was later clarified this was a letter, not an email) from district staff that was “leaked” to the public. It was emphasized that it is important to ensure that process is adhered to, and Mr. Nehmetallah did not feel that was the case. Mr. Nehmetallah stated that his client asked council not to vote on the licence of occupation, but have it sent back to the Engineering and Public Works committee. In response to a question, Mr. Nehmetallah stated that it was not their intention to stop the project with this request, but just to ensure that all applicants' are treated the same.
Commissioner of Engineering and Public Works, Fred Jahn, then explained to Council that the pipe in question was in no way connected to the district bridge. A review by the District's solicitors determined that since the District owns the lake bed and the bridge, they also own the “airspace” in between them, therefore a licence of occupation is required. Staff were aware of the urgency to obtain the required permit, and brought the application directly to Council.
Councillors then had an in-depth discussion regarding the process of obtaining the licence of occupation permit. Some councillors questioned/felt:
Although the chair of the Engineering and Public Works committee could not recall a discussion that the licence would not be returning to the committee level, other members of the committee did.
District CAO, Michael Duben, explained that licences of occupation are issued to protect district assets and SREL had met all required conditions. Mr. Duben further stated that there have been many times an application was moved directly to council, as council had delegated that ability to staff.
A motion put forth by Councillors Nishikawa and Harding to have the licence deferred by council and sent back to the committee level was defeated.
The resolution to issue the licence of occupation for airspace under the bridge in Bala was read and carried in a recorded vote of 17 to 5.
The Board of the MRA wishes all of our members a very safe and
enjoyable holiday season.
All the best in 2018.
To Renew your Membership or to Join the Muskoka Ratepayers' Association
MRA - Board Meeting
Feb 24, 2018 9:00am to 1:00pm
TML - Committe of Adjustment
Mar 14, 2018 9:00am to 12:00pm
TML - Committee of the Whole
Mar 15, 2018 9:00am to 12:00pm
TML - Council
Mar 16, 2018 9:00am to 12:00pm