Township Watch - December 2021


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General/Finance Committee - Wednesday, December 15th, 2021

Issues Facing Skeleton Lake Water Access Property Owners

Skeleton Lake property owner Murray Dixon spoke to Committee on behalf of 30 Skeleton Lake property owners who, as of next spring will not have access to their island properties following an announcement last August that Muskoka Village Harbour marina will be closing.  Although there is another marina on Skeleton Lake it is currently at capacity and has a waiting list.  Since the original announcement, Muskoka Village Harbour has said they will re-open in the spring of 2022 but with a greatly reduced capacity.

Mr. Dixon asked Committee to help them with an interim solution to their parking problems by:

  • the Township supporting the expansion of Skeleton Lake Marina once the application is submitted,
  • establishing a working group with Township staff and Skeleton Lake property owners,
  • installing and/or upgrading docks,
  • allowing parking at four public access sites on Skeleton Lake including, and
  • establishing a parking permit system at these sites.

The proposed sites include:

  • Bert Simms Road, Simolean Bay where installing a dock there could permit parking for two boats and two cars,
  • Skeleton Lake Road 5, Simolean Bay, whereby installing a dock there would enable parking for four boats and four to six cars,
  • Skeleton Lake Road 3 where, at a pre-existing dock, there could be parking for eight cars and “some boats”, and
  • Skeleton Lake Road 2 where there is a pre-existing public dock and, by installing two finger docks, boats could be parked.  Island property owners are also exploring potential car parking on Skeleton Lake Road 2.

Following a brief discussion, CAO Hammond reminded Committee that they had received a staff report on “this issue” as it applies across the Township.  Discussions had been held regarding updating the Official Plan regarding waterfront landings, as well as establishing a Transportation Master Plan.  Mr. Hammond appreciated that Mr. Dixon was suggesting solutions for his area but stated that solutions really need to be thought of more broadly across the Township.  As this was the first time Mr. Hammond had heard of the parking situation on Skeleton Lake, he suggested that a meeting take place with Director Becking from Public Works, Mr. Dixon and either Director Pink from Development Services or Mr. Sharpe and then return to Committee with a better understanding of the situation. 

No resolution was read.

2022 Budget

Prior to discussing the 2022 Budget, Director of Financial Services, Mark Donaldson informed Committee that the Township had received $324,017.00 in Ontario Community Infrastructure Funding (OCIF) from the Provincial Government. 

Mr. Donaldson then reviewed for Committee the concerns that were raised at the public budget meeting on Tuesday, November 30th, 2021, regarding reserves, service enhancements and the tax increase.  Mr. Donaldson presented an in-depth review of the Township reserves for Committee -Budget Presentation Budget Presentation  Although Committee members were pleased to receive this information, they felt there was far too much new information being provided to recommend to Council that the draft budget be approved in January 2022 and commented that:

  • in order to make a proper decision they need to review the numbers provided in Mr. Donaldson’s verbal report,
  • reducing the levy to less than 3.5% by adding the OCIF funds to reserves would be irresponsible,
  • it was hard to vote on a document when the numbers had changed,
  • they required a fulsome report on the information provided at the meeting prior to the January Council meeting where the budget was scheduled to be adopted, and
  • nothing was being held up by deferring the resolution as there was new information involved.

As a result of Committee members’ concerns a Special General/Finance Committee meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 11th, 2022, at 11 AM for further discussions.

Council - Wednesday, December 15th, 2021

Community Improvement Plans

As reported in the November Township Watch - Township Watch - November 2021, the Township has prepared a Community Improvement Plan for Bala and Port Carling.  Last month the Planning Committee recommended to Council that the Community Improvement Plan be accepted by Council and forwarded to the District for approval.

Communication Specialist Corey Moore explained to Council that they wish to proceed with some of the “short term implementations” including pedestrian crosswalks.  In order to do so, the District has said that a resolution from the Township is necessary.

A resolution was read giving the Community Improvement Plan three readings, that it be forwarded to the District for approval and that the Township request that the District consider installing crosswalks in Bala and Port Carling as outlined in the plan.  The resolution carried.

Vaccination Policy

Manager of Human Resources for the Township, Sarah Lehman, presented a vaccination policy -Vaccination Vaccination Policy - to Council for their review.  Ms. Lehman explained that the Township has been following public health guidelines including daily screening, masks, social distancing, remote working, limiting number of individuals per vehicle, etc...  Also according to a survey 90% of Township staff are currently vaccinated.  The vaccination policy before Council states that staff are encouraged to get vaccinated, and if they do not do so they will be offered education on the vaccination.  If a staff member continues to opt to remain unvaccinated, they will undergo mandatory testing three times a week. 

Councillors discussed the policy stating that:

  • the policy does not include contract employees,
  • they were disappointed that this policy has taken so long to be put in place,
  • the Township should not have to pay for COVID tests for unvaccinated staff members,
  • staff should be tested three times a week until they are fully vaccinated, and not to stop after the first dose is received,
  • those who are unvaccinated should not be allowed in the Municipal Office, and
  • the date on the policy of March 31st, 2022, was concerning.

CAO Hammond explained that once the COVID-19 tests are no longer free, an unvaccinated employee will have to pay for the cost of the test.  Furthermore, as of the date of the meeting the Province has not made it mandatory for those visiting a municipal office to provide proof of vaccination.  Ms. Lehman explained that the Township was taking a “balanced approach” with the policy, and that even with the date of March 31st, 2022, for proof of receipt of one’s second dose, the policy goes into place the day it is passed.  Time will be required however to collect the necessary data fully.

A resolution to adopt the policy was read and carried in a recorded vote of 8 to 1 (with one Councillor absent from the meeting).

New Building Inspectors Appointed

Through the passage of two by-laws the Township of Muskoka Lakes appointed Barbara Mocny and Gerald Moore as Building Inspectors for the Township.

Adoption of Official Plan Amendment No. 56 Minett

As reported in previous Township Watches, including August 2021 - Township Watch - August 2021 and November 2021 -OP 56 Township Watch - November 2021  - the Township has been working on an Official Plan Amendment -2112 - OPA 56 - X.pdf 2112 - OPA 56 -  the Resort Village of Minett.  Following years of work, including establishing the Minett Joint Policy Review Steering Committee and the Minett Working Group, in November the Planning Committee voted to recommend adoption of OPA 56 to Council.

At the Council meeting this month a resolution to adopt OPA 56 and make an application to the District of its approval was read.  The resolution carried with no discussion.

Planning Committee - Thursday, December 16th, 2021

Site Alteration By-Law Update

Chief Municipal By-Law Officer, Rob Kennedy, presented a draft Site Alteration By-Law to Committee - Site Alteration Site Alteration . Mr. Kennedy explained that the changes to the by-law were mostly “technical” and would allow by-law staff to enforce the by-laws and set fines more easily.  The most significant change is penalties were increased from a maximum $10,000.00 to $100,000.00 for both individuals and corporations.  These are the maximum fines permitted under the Municipal Act.

At the request of Chair Bridgeman, Mr. Kennedy explained to Committee that site alteration was something which may occur outside of what is permitted in a building permit or site plan agreement.  Since the original site alteration by-law was adopted in 2008, less than 10 site alteration permits have been applied for.

Committee members provided comment on the draft by-law including:

  • that people further away from a site, than is required by building permits, should be informed when blasting will take place,
  • questioning if there was a requirement to obtain public input on the draft by-law,
  • that several submissions were received on the draft by-law and asked if Mr. Kennedy would be reviewing them,
  • that comments should be considered/reviewed, and the draft by-law should return to Committee before recommending adoption,
  • that licensing contractors is not a popular idea with contractors, but perhaps only specialists who work on the waterfront should be licensed,
  • that lands affected by the draft by-law in communities has been increased from 25 feet of a navigable waterway to 200 feet.  How will the Township be informing the public about this?
  • that trees, rocks and rivers should be included in the by-law, and
  • that public input should be obtained.

Mr. Kennedy agreed with Director of Development Services and Environmental Sustainability, David Pink, who suggested that prior to publishing the draft by-law on the Engage Muskoka page for public input, the tree preservation by-law should be drafted and public opinion be obtained on both at the same time.  Mr. Kennedy stated that combining the site alteration and tree preservation by-laws staff would assume the subject lands and orders/penalties would be the same,  with the biggest difference being the “prohibition areas”.

Staff were directed to establish an Engage Muskoka page with a number of questions to obtain public input prior to returning to Committee.  The survey will be posted on the Township website in January.   No resolution was read.

Algonquin International Corporation

Algonquin International Corporation’s planning application to build a Race Boat Museum and Events Centre on Muskoka Road 118 West returned to the Planning Committee this month.  As reported in the May Township Watch - Township Watch - May 2021 - and August Township Watch - Township Watch - August 2021 - this application had been deferred by Committee twice.  In August the applicants were asked to address concerns raised by the public, reduce the scale of the proposal, and update the traffic impact study.  These requests were completed to the satisfaction of the Township with the lot coverage being reduced from 8.1 % to 6%, occupancy being reduced from 150 to 125, parking spots being reduced from 100 to 75, the outdoor covered porch being removed and an addendum letter for the traffic study.

Following a presentation by the applicant’s agent, where it was outlined that the driveway would be gravel, there would be no impact on water quality in Boyd’s Bay on Lake Muskoka and the applicant’s willingness to continue to work with the Township to obtain approval.  Members of the public spoke voicing concerns that included:

  • that although the applicant did reach out to those concerned, it was on his timeline and convenience,
  • the traffic study does not take into account the busy summer season,
  • the proposed restaurant and event centre at Spirit Bay Harbour were not taken into account,
  • that the responsibility of stormwater management will be on the developer, and
  • an Events Centre is not compatible with the area.

Members of Committee then held a lengthy discussion on the application commenting that:

  • the area has historically been rural farmland,
  • there were two event centres within two kilometres of the property in the Township of Muskoka Lakes,
  • this application will celebrate Muskoka’s culture,
  • the application was first heard eight months prior and has since been scaled back,
  • the applicant has property rights, and
  • the Event Centre will not complement the area,

When it was commented that part of considering a planning application is the character of the area, Director of Development Services and Environmental Sustainability, David Pink, explained that character is subjective, and there is already a commercial node in the area with the resort directly across the road from the proposed development.

A resolution was read to allow the development of the property with a Race Boat Museum as the main use and a Special Event Centre as an accessory use and to reduce the lot coverage to 6% on an updated site plan.  The resolution carried in a recorded vote 6 to 4.

The Muskoka Ratepayers wish everyone
a Happy New Year.
 

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