Township Watch - July 2020

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

Due to the Provincial Emergency and social distancing requirements, Township and District meetings were again held electronically.

General/Finance Committee - Wednesday, July 15th, 2020

Currie Street Parking

Director of Public Works, Ken Becking, reminded Committee that last year staff were directed to widen the road shoulder to alleviate parking congestion on Currie Street in Bala.  Since then staff have met resistance from local property owners and “paused” the project to find alternate solutions.  Residents on Currie Street do not want more street parking, while island residents desire more parking.  Mr. Becking suggested two solutions, to complete the original project as directed late last summer, or to sit down with stakeholders and work out an acceptable solution.

A resolution was read directing Ward A Councillors and staff to revisit a range of parking solutions with the residents of Bala Park Island and Currie Street.  The resolution carried.

COVID-19 Pandemic Property Tax Assistance

Director of Financial Services, Mark Donaldson, reviewed the initial deferral of late fees for 60 days on the interim tax bills this spring.  This deferral was extended until July 31 st, 2020.  On the day of the committee meeting the District of Muskoka was in Stage 2 of the re-opening plan and entering Stage 3 in the near future.  As such Mr. Donaldson recommended to committee that the late fee deferrals not be extended a second time.

At the time of the meeting the cost incurred by the Township with the deferral late payments on taxes was approximately $150,000.00.  Mr. Donaldson explained that final costs would be reported at the August meeting.

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

Emergency Services Annual Activity Report 2019

Fire Chief, Ryan Murrell, gave a high level review of his written report - Emergency Services Emergency Services Chief Murrell reviewed that the Township has 10 fire stations operating in 7 districts.  Although the authorized strength of the department is 155 members, the Township currently has 119 fire fighters.  The Township’s fleet is composed of 24 pieces of heavy fire apparatus, 14 support vehicles, 3 administrative vehicles, 6 off road vehicles and 4 marine units.  Chief Murrell stated that they “continue to plan for apparatus replacement to ensure that we are maintaining our accreditation with tanker shuttle accreditation, as well as fire underwriters” and that based on the age of the fleet that represents a purchase of one vehicle per annum.  The Fire Department met all legislative requirements in 2019.

According to Chief Murrell in 2019 the Fire Department:

  • attended 18 public education events,
  • completed 65 fire inspections,
  • experience one-third of calls to be false alarms which is a decrease from recent years,
  • had $5.7 million in fire losses, but saved $8.3 million in property,
  • has an average response time of 15 minutes and 16 seconds which gets skewed by water base responses,
  • responded to 125 medical calls which was the highest in the District,
  • hired 21 new recruits, and
  • responded to a mutual aid call in Bracebridge where 8 of the 16 apparatus and 25 of the 48 fire fighters were from the Township of Muskoka Lakes, while at the same time not depleting the fire force in our Township.

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

AnchorAnchorCouncil - Wednesday, July 15th, 2020

Resort Commercial Applications

* By way of introduction, explanation and background of plan of condominium and subsequent agreements, regardless of municipality of origin, the District of Muskoka is the approval body for those applications. *

Councillor Bridgeman explained that resort development is a highly emotional and visible issue in the Township of Muskoka Lakes specifically in her ward, Ward C.  As such, Councillor Bridgeman put forth a draft resolution to forward to the District Council which proposes: all amendments and extensions for existing Resort Commercial condominium descriptions located in the Township of Muskoka Lakes be sent to the Community and Planning Services Committee at the District and not delegated to District staff.  The purpose was to provide transparency, as Council felt an application heard at the Committee level is discussed in an open meeting where the public has the opportunity to provide comment,  and elected officials are making the decisions and not staff.  Council included all existing Resort Commercial condominium descriptions referred to LPAT/OMB or similar appeal body, go to the Community and Planning Committee at the District level.

Township staff explained that “final approval” on applications is insuring all conditions of approval have been met.  In the event Council requested additional studies be completed prior to final approval, a change in conditions would be required and final approval could not be granted until those conditions were satisfied.

The Township resolution moved by Councillor Bridgeman and seconded by Councillor Roberts to recommend to District Council to amend their resolution passed last month by the Community and Planning Services Committee to remove delegated authority from planning staff for resort commercial descriptions include “Despite this, the approval of applications, amendments and extensions of all existing resort commercial condominium descriptions relating to lands located in the Township of Muskoka Lakes will be referred to the Community and Planning Services Committee.  This requirement shall include all resort commercial condominium applications which have been referred to LPAT, OMB or similar appeal bodies”.  The resolution carried.

Continued below under District Council.

Ed Note: Although the Muskoka Ratepayers fully agree that transparency is of the utmost importance, we are surprised that Committee members feel that this should be taken away from staff.  Staff are the professionals who have the education and expertise on how to handle applications, not elected officials.

Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit - Mandatory Face Coverings Indoors

Council discussed passing a resolution for the use of face coverings in indoor public settings to support the mandate passed by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU).  While all Councillors agree that the wearing of face coverings is necessary, the resolution did not pass unanimously.  Some Councillors felt that the Township passing such a resolution would cause confusion.  They did not want the Township to have to “police” the wearing of masks and that the mandate had already been passed by the SMDHU who did not need lower levels of government chiming in.

A resolution to support the SMDHU mask mandate was read and carried.

Strategic Plan Review

CAO, Derrick Hammond, reported to Council that staff had approached Strategy Corp. Inc regarding the Township’s strategic plan review.  The consultant had agreed to four ZOOM sessions to continue discussing the strategic plan.  Once a consensus has been reached about the plan, the consultant will begin drafting the plan which will include a public meeting.  With the Province of Ontario increasing its limit of indoor gatherings to 50 people a public meeting could be held but not in the Council Chamber due to physical distancing issues.   Although the same number of people who usually watch the Township meetings webcast could be accommodated in the Port Carling Community Centre, the ability to webcast from the Community Centre does not exist.  Mr. Hammond stated that staff felt the meetings should take place electronically.

A resolution was read and carried.

Township Re-Opening Planning

As the Province of Ontario re-opens the Township of Muskoka Lakes is looking at re-opening plans.  As with all that has occurred with the pandemic, re-opening is a moving target with the goal of protecting and keeping staff safe.  As it is not possible for Councillors to physically distance in the Council Chambers, the Township needs to look at other alternatives.  Although the Port Carling Community Centre may be large enough to allow for physical distancing the Township is unable to webcast meetings that are held there.  Township Clerk, Cheryl Mortimer, explained that they are looking into internet access in the Community Centre but a trench would need to be cut across the parking lot and costs could be $25,000.00 to $30,000.00.  For the time being, staff were recommending that the current status be maintained.

According to Mayor Harding, the Township is determined to protect the staff and the public.

The KEE to Bala

As reported in the June Township Watch - Township Watch - June 2020, the KEE to Bala approached the Township regarding contingency plans for outdoor events.  The Township received a revised plan from The KEE with the number of events reduced to four.  Staff had concerns that the events did not comply with Provincial restrictions and public health safety.

According to the procedural by-law an item that is defeated cannot return for consideration for three cycles.  As such Council deferred the application so that the application could be reviewed as the Province continues to open up.

Planning Committee - Thursday, July 16th, 2020

Commenting on Tourist Resort Condominium Applications

This item was introduced by Chair Bridgeman, who explained that when the District has asked for comments on condominium applications in the past Council has stated that they wished to see the “agreement”.  Chair Bridgeman proposed that going forward Council should ask that all conditions  outlined in the Mist Opportunities and Villas of Lake Muskoka LPAT decisions be included in condominium agreements.  This was suggested so that voters “know which direction Council is taking moving forward”.

Director of Development Services and Environmental Sustainability, David Pink, cautioned Chair Bridgeman that the Township would have no flexibility with the agreements if this occurred.  Mr. Pink advised Committee that the Township should see applications before commenting on them as each are different.  Committee may wish to have fewer restrictions or may wish to impose more restrictions on future applications.  Following a brief discussion, Mayor Harding suggested that Mr. Pink return with a staff report suggesting some conditions that the Planning Committee could recommend.

Official Plan Review Meetings

Special Planning Committee meetings were held on three separate occasions, Thursday, July 10th, Friday, July 11th and Monday, July 20th to review 26 policy directions that were put forth by the Official Plan Review Committee -OPR Review OPR Review.  Members of the review committee were also present at the meetings to provide input as well as consultants from Meridian Planning.  Although each item was reviewed, the committee will reconvene on Thursday, August 6th, 2020 for further discussion.

Prior to the meeting adjourning Councillor Jaglowitz raised the topic of adding resort commercial development policies into the review process.  It was explained that Council voted last winter to omit resort policies from the Official Plan review, to be dealt with at a later date independently.  Committee members felt this was no longer the appropriate process and have asked that this extremely large and cumbersome item be added to the review.

Staff cautioned that the Township Official Plan must be in compliance with the District Official Plan.  The District is not slated to review their resort policies until at least the coming year.  Planning Committee members were further cautioned that adding resort policies to the review will detract from the 26 policy directions that have already been reviewed in depth and presented to the Planning Committee.

Committee agreed that adding the review of resort commercial development to the Official Plan review process will be re-discussed and voted on at the August Council meeting.

Township Staff

It is unfortunate that the Township of Muskoka Lakes has lost further staff members.  The Deputy Treasurer and Manager of Taxation have resigned their positions since the last cycle of meetings.  Deputy Fire Chief Harry Baranik, after serving eight years with the Township, has also tendered his resignation.

Ed Note: The Muskoka Ratepayers feel it is unfortunate that Council does not take a moment and publicly thank departing staff members for their service to the Township.

The Board of the Muskoka Ratepayers wish all three staff members the best in their future endeavours.

District Council - Monday, July 20th, 2020

A written request was submitted to the District by Councillors Harding and Jaglowitz from the Township of Muskoka Lakes to amend the resolution passed by the Community and Planning Services Committee in June regarding staff relinquishing delegated authority on resort commercial descriptions.  Councillor Harding explained to District Council that the Township Council had voted unanimously for an amendment to the resolution as in recent years resort and condominium applications have caused “angst and lawsuits” in the Township.  Township Council was asking that “the approvals of applications, amendments and extensions of all resort commercial descriptions located in the Township of Muskoka Lakes be referred to the Community and Planning Services Committee”, not be delegated to staff.  It further included “all resort commercial condominium applications which have been referred to LPAT/OMB or similar appeal bodies”. The request was being made to allow the Township Councillor who sits on the committee a chance to “chime” in.

Commissioner of Planning, Samantha Hastings, provided clarification that in order for staff to exercise delegated authority they must meet certain criteria, including the area municipality providing “clearance of the draft conditions”.   If an area municipality does not sign off, staff are required to take the application to the Community and Planning Services Committee but Commissioner Hastings did not recall that ever occurring.  It was also emphasized that staff cannot give final approval without the area municipality providing “a clearance letter”.  Commissioner Hastings did voice concern that one municipality having a different process “could cause confusion” for staff and applicants.

Councillor Jaglowitz explained that if authority is delegated to staff then the process is not public and the public do not have the opportunity to comment.  Councillor Jaglowitz further voiced concerns that LPAT appeals are dealt with at the staff level and are not heard by the Community and Planning Services Committee.  Councillor Jaglowitz wanted assurances that two applications, which he did not name, would be seen at the committee level.

CAO, Michael Duben, voiced concern that the Township was asking that all applications be sent to Committee and not just new ones.  This may cause applications that have already started the process to get “caught” and cause assurances that have already been given to developers to be withdrawn.  Mr. Duben clearly explained that if draft approvals have already been given to developers, the draft approval will not be withdrawn as that is “not the way to go” and would not be good for the District’s reputation.

After further discussion, including a request that the motion be withdrawn until next month following further discussion with staff, a resolution was read that amendments and extensions to resort commercials applications in the Township be sent to the Community and Planning Services Committee.  “And that the CAO and District Solicitor be directed to seek direction from District Council prior to representing the District at the Local Planning Tribunal, Ontario Municipal Board or similar appeal body for any resort condominium application in the Township of Muskoka Lakes.”  The motion carried.

The Board of the Muskoka Ratepayers
thank those who attended our
Annual General Meeting last month.
We hope everyone is enjoying
their COVID-19 summer and staying safe
regardless of where you are this year.

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