Township Watch - January 2021

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

Township Staff

The Muskoka Ratepayers welcome new staff members Sam Soya to the Planning Department in his role as Planner II and Marilyn Jeffery to the position of Deputy Treasurer at the Township.

General/Finance Committee - Wednesday, January 13th, 2021

Library Update

Chair of the Library Board, Valerie Duke, gave an informative presentation to Committee on the activities of the Port Carling library in 2020.  Ms. Duke spoke very highly of the library staff and how they have continued to provide services to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.  When the library had to close their doors in March CEO/Chief Librarian Cathy Duck and her excellent staff did not “miss a beat”.  By the end of March, they had established a YouTube channel and were issuing online library cards so the community could continue to enjoy the library.  In May 2020, the library began accepting phone and online orders for books and movies which were then available for outdoor pick-up.  They initiated outdoor interactive story walks at the Bala Sports Plex and Hanna Park, then in August held an online auction.  The library was re-opened to the public on November 3rd, 2020. 

During the first closure the Library took the opportunity to revise its Strategic Plan and released two surveys.  The first survey was an internal survey where Councillors also participated, and the second was a community needs survey.  Both surveys yielded important and helpful results with many commenting on how nice and helpful library staff are.

With the new Provincial restrictions, the Library is once again offering outdoor pick-up, as well as offering craft kits for people to take home and are getting ready to launch a preschool book time.  Mrs. Duck and library staff even sent out personalized Christmas cards to individuals that they felt might benefit from some communication.

The full library presentations can be seen here -Library Library.

Ed Note: The Muskoka Ratepayers compliment Mrs. Duck, the library staff, and the library board for all they do for our community.

Asset Management Progress Report

Director of Public Works, Ken Becking, presented to Committee what the asset management plan had accomplished in 2020 and their goals for 2021.  Mr. Becking explained that they had established a GIS database as it is important to understand what assets the Township has, where they are located and what state they are currently in.  To date 70% to 80% of data has been collected and “solid” information has been obtained on community centre infrastructure.  In 2021 the Public Works Department will complete data collection, deploy a CityWorks Software (an asset management/work management system), and complete a core asset management plan.

The entire Asset Management Plan with more details can be read here -Asset Management Plan Asset Management Plan.  This item was for information purposes and no resolution was read.

Council - Wednesday, January 13th, 2021

Member of Parliament Scott Aitchison

Scott Aitchison, Member of Parliament for Muskoka-Parry Sound and formerly the Mayor of Huntsville, was present at the Council meeting to give a brief update on issues he is working on in Ottawa. 

  • rural internet access
  • support for small businesses during the pandemic, and
  • housing, an especially important issue.

Mr. Aitchinson said he wanted to reach out to the Township and suggested that they can meet annually so he can hear directly from Councillors in the Township of Muskoka Lakes.  He explained that his background in municipal politics has served him well in Ottawa and he is working on building relationships across party lines.

Township Strategic Plan

Chief Administrative Officer, Derrick Hammond, presented the final draft of the Township’s Strategic Plan -Strategic Plan Strategic Plan - to Council.  Mr. Hammond explained that the Strategic Plan reflects a significant amount of hard work by staff, Council, and the community.  The strategic plan outlines a number of initiatives and a series of actions on how to complete the initiative.  When questioned on how to implement these initiatives, consultant Chris Loreto explained that they should be integrated into all the work that Council and Committees do and not be a separate “work stream”.

A resolution was read to approve the Strategic Plan and Implementation Plan and carried.

Port Carling Health Hub

Council voted to rent the remaining portion of the lower level of the Port Carling Health Hub to a dentist for a five-year term.  The lease has an option to extend the lease for five more years.

Planning Committee - Thursday, January 14th, 2021

Our Muskoka Stakeholders Association

Margaret Walton from Planscape introduced the Planning Committee to Our Muskoka Stakeholders Association, a group of business owners and Township of Muskoka Lakes residents who have been monitoring the Official Plan (OP) process.  As concerns in the OP review arose this group formed a united voice representing business owners, their employees, local residents, shoreline property owners, among others who wanted to be represented in the review process and provide a balanced approach.  Ms. Walton explained that the group had concerns regarding:

  • removal of property rights and increased limitation being placed on properties that had “grandfathered rights” as this will impact many property owners,
  • ongoing references to water quality problems as water quality in Muskoka is actually improving,
  • rigid controls being put in place are limiting creative design,
  • that recreational carrying capacity on the smaller lakes, and bays on the larger lakes is simply a way to try to control peoples’ behaviour, and
  • there is too much focus on shorelines and a lack of focus of local issues such as attainable housing, year-round economy, healthy communities, and alternate forms of development.

Ms. Walton informed Committee that Our Muskoka had launched their website at 9 AM that morning.  Further saying they would be reaching out to other groups to share their ideas.

This presentation was for information purposes and no resolution was read.

Leonard Lake - Lake Plan

Mark Scarrow from the Leonard Lake Stakeholders Association presented to Committee their lake plan.  Leonard Lake did their original lake plan in 2006 – 2008 and at a request received at a recent Annual General Meeting have renewed it.  A survey was compiled and sent to all property owners around Leonard Lake with results being posted on their website.  The three main suggestions received were regarding development, water quality and septic systems.  Upon completion of the lake plan, it was circulated through an e-blast, six ZOOM meetings and one phone call, one-on-one emails, and personalized letters.  They had approximately 50% participation, with 93% of those agreeing with the suggestions.  The lake plan outlines policies that they agreed upon and can be read here -Lake Plan Lake Plan.

A resolution was read to forward the lake plan onto the Official Plan Review consultants for consideration and inclusion in the Official Plan was passed unanimously.

Minett Official Plan Amendment Update on Servicing

Director of Development Services and Environmental Sustainability, David Pink, explained to Committee in December, District Council voted to support the November decision of the joint Engineering & Public Works/Community and Planning Services committees to not support residential development in Minett on private communal services - Township Watch - November 2020.  The Township’s Official Plan Amendment (OPA) that Council approved for circulation included private communal services or public municipal services and therefore needs to be amended.  Mr. Pink informed Committee that he had a discussion with the principal stakeholder’s planning consultant, and they are “generally supportive” of the use of municipal services in Minett if other changes were also made to the OPA by the Township and the District.    Two principal areas of concern are that the limit on residential uses be increased from 25% to 35% and that the limit on the amount of “all uses in the village core area” reduces the number of units they agreed to by 50%.  Other concerns outlined in an email included: docks and restriction of dock usage, definitions of the travelling public and unit owners, owners use provisions and modification and alteration to existing structures.  Mr. Pink said that staff were looking for direction on how to proceed with the OPA, suggesting changes could come directly to Council in February.

Committee members voiced concerns regarding, but not limited to:

  • that the developers now wanted municipal services with mixed use,
  • residential uses should not be on the waterfront,
  • residential development should be in serviced areas of Port Carling and Bala,
  • that more time was needed for discussion before a decision was made,
  • if residential units are allowed on the waterfront, they should be 200-foot lots,
  • property rights are currently 50% residential in the waterfront area,
  • that this should be discussed with the Minett Working Group before coming back to Council, and
  • that ultimately the decision will have to be made by Council.

Mr. Pink clarified for Committee that the draft OPA included residential uses up to 25% and that the developer has been very clear that residential uses are extremely important to the redevelopment of the property due to costs.  Mr. Pink further informed Committee that the Minett Working Group was disbanded when the draft OPA was written.  It was decided that an ad hoc group could be convened to discuss changes to the OPA to hear from community stakeholders and some clarification is needed in a small group as to why the developer made changes to the OPA.

This item was for information and no resolution was read.  No decision was made regarding whether the matter would return to the Planning Committee or go directly to Council.

ED Note: As stated by Mr. Pink during the meeting, current policies allow for approximately 4000 units with 50% of them being residential which could be built at the beginning of the development.

Proposed Camel Lake Road Bell Mobility Cell Tower

Maria Wood, a planner representing Bell Mobility, presented to Committee a proposed cell tower to be located on the south side of Camel Lake Road.  The proposed cell tower is to be a “steel self supported tower” standing 52.1 metres or 171 feet high and will provide cell and wireless internet service to the area.  A monopine tower would not work in this location as they are generally only 30 metres or 100 feet in height which would not provide the necessary range to provide service to the area Bell wishes to reach.   Transport Canada has advised Bell Mobility that regardless of the height of the tower it will not require any lighting.  A public meeting was held electronically to discuss the proposal with local residents in November 2020.

After a brief discussion Committee voted unanimously to provide a letter of concurrence to support the application.

The introduction of the Draft Operating Budget meeting
has been rescheduled to 9AM on Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021.
The Special Council meeting to receive public input has been rescheduled to
February 5th at 2 PM.
Written submissions can be sent to
To sign up for a verbal presentation please
contact the Township directly. 

Upcoming Events - Monthly Calendar

TML - General / Finance Committee
May 12, 2021 9:00am to 12:00pm
TML - Council
May 12, 2021 1:00pm to 5:00pm
TML - Planning Committee
May 13, 2021 9:00am to 12:00pm
Ratepayers - Board Meeting
May 22, 2021 10:00am to 1:00pm
TML - Committee of Adjustment
Jun 14, 2021 9:00am to 12:00pm
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