Township Watch - February 2019

In this issue of Township Watch, we are introducing an "index" that will take you immediately to the section to the article that might interest you. Just click on any of the links immediately below.

Committee of the Whole - Thursday, February 14th, 2019

Council - Friday, February 15th, 2019

District of Muskoka - Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

AnchorCommittee of the Whole - Thursday, February 14th, 2019

AnchorTownship Hires Interim Fire Chief

The MRA welcomes Brad Bigrigg to his position as Interim Fire Chief in the Township of Muskoka Lakes. Mr. Bigrigg is a member of the Ontario Association of Fire Chief's and comes to the Township with 37 years of experience in emergency service. Chief Bigrigg began his three month placement with the Township on Tuesday, February 19th, 2019. As with past Fire Chiefs, Chief Bigrigg has also been appointed as an interim By-Law Enforcement Officer.

AnchorRequest For Proposal for Consultant for Official Plan Review

Director of Planning, David Pink presented to Committee a draft request for proposal (RFP) to be circulated to planning consultants for the Official Plan Review. The document, which is lengthy - RFP for Consultant -outlined the purpose and objectives of the Official Plan Review, the work plan, public consultation and meeting requirements, the necessary budget requirements, what the consultant will be required to deliver, as well as submission requirements. Although the goal for the Official Plan Review is two years, it will more than likely take closer to four years. Mr. Pink chose the slogan “Enhancing Muskoka, One Policy At A Time” for the document. Mr. Pink asked that one member of Council sit on the Official Plan Review Steering Committee, and Councillor Roberts offered to do so. A representative from Friends of Muskoka spoke about changes they wished to see made to the RFP, including changing the slogan to “Protecting Muskoka, One Policy At A Time”.

Committee discussed the RFP and questioned if:

  • there was an opportunity to have two residents on waterfront properties? It was explained that although the Province did pass legislation regarding secondary dwellings on properties, municipalities were to decide where such development could take place. The Township of Muskoka Lakes chose that such development should not be allowed on waterfront properties.
  • the Township could consider “down zoning” commercial properties? Mr. Pink stated that the Provincial Policy Statement says that resort properties are employment areas and cannot be “down zoned”.
  • Councillors will have an opportunity to provide input into the document? There will be ample opportunity for input.

As the resolution was for the RFP the discussion was terminated and the resolution was voted on and carried.

ED Note: The Muskoka Ratepayers' congratulates Mr. Pink and Planning staff on a well drafted RFP and for all the hard work that went into the document.

AnchorNew Committee Structure and Meeting Schedule

As promised in his inaugural address Mayor Harding has asked staff to form two new committees, General/Finance Committee and Planning Committee to replace the existing Committee of the Whole. Director of Planning, David Pink reviewed for committee members changes that would be made in processing applications. Straight forward applications could be dealt with at a staff level if there were no concerns or neighbour comments. The drawback to this approach would be if partway through the process a neighbour voices concerns, the application would then have to start over again for the Planning Committee and that staff would be making recommendations without public input. Changes will also be made to which applications go to Committee of Adjustment and to the Planning Committee. Mr. Pink voiced concerns that taking all Planning matters from Council and some from Committee of Adjustment will make for lengthy Planning meetings. These changes may cause strong pressure for applications to be “re-hashed” at Council meetings, and Mr. Pink suggested that the Township Procedural By-Law be altered to say that the public only has one opportunity to speak. Mayor Harding feels the new process will allow the public more time to engage with Councillors on applications and that a better level of service will be provided to the public. Councillor Edwards, who is Chair of the Committee of Adjustment, was not in favour of delegating applications to staff as the public has a right to a public meeting and it was a matter of transparency. The make up of the committees was reported in the January Township Watch - Township Watch - January 2019. The Township has obtained a legal opinion that Council members who do not sit on a Standing Committee may attend the meeting but are not permitted to vote on items.

Although staff recommended that meetings be held on consecutive days, Committee voted for the following schedule which will be adopted once passed at Council:

  • Monday at 9 AM Committee of Adjustment,
  • Wednesday at 9 AM Council,
  • Thursday at 9 AM General/Finance Committee, and
  • Friday at 9 AM Planning Committee.

Once enacted by Council in March, staff will begin to advertise in the newspaper and via social media for members for the following Advisory Committees. Terms of reference for the committees can be seen here - Advisory Committees

  • Economic Development and Grants
  • Heritage and Attainable Housing
  • Parks and Trails

A resolution, that needs to be ratified at Council next month, was read recommending that Council adopt:

  • the standing and advisory committees' term of reference,
  • that Committee of Adjustment/Zoning By-Law Amendment be revised,
  • that the meeting schedule be revised, and
  • that Council consent agenda format be approved.
  • Staff update the Township and Committee of Adjustment Procedure By-Laws and related Council policy, and
  • Staff post notices for the Advisory Committees.

Ed Note: The Muskoka Ratepayers' is disappointed that Committee did not follow staff's recommendation for the proposed new meeting schedule but voted on the second option. Furthermore, the Muskoka Ratepayers' awaits to see if planning applications are not re-discussed/debated once they are before Council.

AnchorTorrance Barrens

Mike Silver, a former Director of the Muskoka Ratepayers' and dark sky enthusiast, spoke to Committee regarding the use of the Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Reserve. The Torrance Barrens is a very unique piece of property but must be protected from humans for the community and our children. It has come to the forefront that there is a huge management issue at the Torrance Barrens. It has become known as a place that people can camp and light camp fires, and leave or dump garbage. Several members of the public have established a committee, “Guardians of the Torrance Barrens and Muskoka's Dark Sky.” Mr. Silver was pleased to say Councillor Hayes and Nishikawa volunteer on the committee, as well as two councillors from Gravenhurst but asked if anyone else would like to volunteer.

It is the view of the Guardians of the Torrance Barrens and Muskoka's Dark Sky that no fires should be allowed in the Torrance Barrens for safety reasons “full stop”! Mr. Silver stated the Torrance Barrens should be a place people like to frequent but should not remain there. The Guardians of the Torrance Barrens and Muskoka's Dark Sky suggested a pilot project with garbage containers being available for those visiting the Barrens, with garbage collection from Victoria Day to Cranberry Festival Weekend. Enforcement in the reserve is difficult as it is crown land.

Mayor Harding questioned if a resolution from Council to restrict camping and fires in the Torrance Barrens would be helpful to the Guardians of the Torrance Barrens and Muskoka Dark Sky in the request to the Province. A resolution will be brought forward at a later date.

Anchor2018 Planning Activity Report

Director of Planning, David Pink, explained to Committee that the planning department had processed 309 planning applications in 2018. Mr. Pink explained that although appeals to the OMB/LPAT decreased by half from 2017, three of the appeals are for the Camel Lake Subdivision, the Leonard Lake severance and zoning application and Legacy Cottages, all of which are significant matters. Mr. Pink stated that he hoped to start a review of the Township Site Plan By-Law in the coming year. A list of Planning Act Application Activity can be found here - Planning Activity . This item was on the agenda for information purposes and no resolution was read.

AnchorParking Restrictions on Muskoka Road 169 and Muskoka Road 13, Southwood Road

Director of Public Works, Ken Becking presented to committee a recommendation to limit parking at the corner of Muskoka Road 169 and Muskoka Road 13, Southwood Road. Parking restrictions were requested to address road side parking due to recent commercial development at the corner. A map of the area where parking is to be banned can be seen here - Parking Restrictions

Resolutions to request the restrictions at District and to Council were read and carried. They will be ratified at the March Council meeting.

AnchorCouncil - Friday, February 15th, 2019

AnchorBala Bay Inn/Zoning Application

An application to rezone the former Bala Bay Inn/Hostel property to permit staff quarters in the main structure and six modular units as the main use of the property was before Council. Staff explained that 81 submissions, totaling over 200 pages, had been received regarding the application with 73 being in opposition. The main points of the letters were that resorts should house their staff on their own property, concerns regarding the loss of the Bala Bay Inn, care of the property and that the owners are not adhering to Township By-Laws.

The owners of the property, a numbered company 2253100 Ontario Inc, explained that the use would not be limited to staff of the JW Marriott but could be used by other resorts for staff housing and contractors in the area. An argument was made that the Bala Bay Inn was struggling, and this use would allow it to continue with on site management. Several individuals from the JW Marriott spoke in support of the application including a staff member who said that affordable housing is a challenge but staying at the Bala Bay Hostel allows him to send money home to provide for his family.

The council chambers were full of individuals in opposition to the application, eleven of whom addressed Council with concerns including but not limited to:

  • the drive from Bala to the JW Marriott was putting a strain on Peninsula Road
  • those who reside at the Hostel are not part of the community
  • the owners expect the zoning to be changed for their benefit, but residents want Township by-laws enforced
  • the site is brightly lit and garbage bins are in the front yard
  • the owners bought the property knowing its zoning and are pushing the envelope
  • there is no economic spin off for the Town of Bala as those staying in the hostel do not make enough money to frequent stores, etc.
  • an approval of this application would be precedent setting
  • the property owners show a lack of respect to Bala residents

Council debated the application including raising the point that the modular units were placed on the property without permission and that the owners were told that the use of the Bala Bay Hostel as staff housing was to cease which did not occur. Enforcement of the infractions has commenced, and litigation proceedings have begun.

In a recorded vote the resolution was defeated unanimously.

Anchor2019 Township of Muskoka Lakes Budget

Following a brief introduction by Treasurer, Shannon Johnson, Council passed the 2019 budget at the Council meeting. The final levy for the Township portion of your tax bill is 5.96%, which equates to $2.58/$100,000.00 of assessed property value.

Ed Note: The Muskoka Ratepayers' are impressed by all the hard work put into the budget by Ms. Johnson and senior staff. We thank you all for your dedication.

Ed Note: The Muskoka Ratepayers' is disappointed that the aerial fire truck and fire boat for Foot's Bay were not put back into the 10-Year Capital Forecast. Removing essential equipment from the 10-Year Forecast is short sighted, as the equipment will need to be purchased at one point but are no longer being budgeted for.

AnchorDistrict of Muskoka Council - Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

AnchorIntegrity Commissioner

District Council voted to appoint Suzanne Craig for a four-year term as the Integrity Commissioner for the District of Muskoka. This appointment is a legislative requirement.

Anchor2019 District Budget

The District passed its 2019 budget on Tuesday, Feb 19th, 2019. As stated in a media release “residents will see an overall 1.54 per cent tax increase on the District portion of their municipal property taxes in 2019, which translates into an impact of approximately $13.30 for a property valued at $300,000 in Muskoka.”

Ed Note: The Muskoka Ratepayers' also congratulates Commissioner Stevens and District staff for their hard work in producing the District of Muskoka's budget.


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Upcoming Events - Monthly Calendar

Ratepayers - Board Meeting
Jun 20, 2020 10:00am to 12:00pm
TML - Planning Committee
Jul 10, 2020 9:00am to 12:00pm
TML - General / Finance Committee
Jul 15, 2020 9:00am to 12:00pm
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Jul 15, 2020 1:00pm to 5:00pm
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Jul 18, 2020 10:00am to 12:00pm
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