Township Watch - October 2020


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

Planning Committee - September 2020

First Storey Boathouse Usage

As we reported in September the live video feed of the Planning Committee meeting stopped working and we were not able to report on this item. Since the meeting, the taped version of the meeting has been uploaded.

It was briefly explained to committee that this item was being brought back to Committee for direction to staff as the Township is receiving applications that show habitable space in the first storey of boathouses; such as “fish cleaning stations” and “dry slips”. Staff explained that the Township Official Plan and Zoning By-law do not allow for habitable space on the first storey of a boathouse and that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry says that the first storey of boathouses are for boat storage. Committee members discussed this saying:

  • perhaps one-third of the first storey of boathouses should be permitted as habitable space to allow people to sit indoors out of the sun but still be near the water.
  • it is the couches, televisions and full kitchens that are being installed that are the problem.
  • perhaps two storey boathouses should be banned in the Township of Muskoka Lakes, and
  • that habitable space is currently not allowed on the first storey of boathouses, but it is going on.

As an overall change in dock and boathouse size, and even removing two storey boathouses were suggested, the Director of Development Services and Environmental Sustainability said this will be reviewed in the Official Plan review process and then proceed to a zoning by-law if needed. Consensus was that public comments should be received on this issue.

General/Finance Committee - Wednesday, October 14th, 2020

Staff Recognition

The meeting began with Chair Zavitz asking committee members to publicly acknowledge staff. Over the past three months 16 Special Council and/or Committee meetings were held for which staff work hard behind the scenes. Chair Zavitz thanked Township Clerk Cheryl Mortimer and her team for ensuring that all policies and procedures are followed, with public transparency being at the forefront. Chair Zavitz further remarked that all senior management, full and part time staff have all gone above and beyond to accommodate for extra meetings during the worldwide pandemic.

Ed Note:  The Muskoka Ratepayers commend Chair Zavitz on his recognition of staff.

Draft Parks Use By-Law

Director of Public Works, Ken Becking, explained that the use of Township parks is currently regulated by two separate by-laws and he was presenting a single draft by-law which combined them both. The draft by-law -Parks Use By-Law Parks Use By-Law -  outlines hours of operation, permitted and prohibited uses, restrictions in winter, permitted commercial uses, a Code of Conduct and authority to close parks for special events.

Committee members offered Mr. Becking comments about the draft by-law including:

  • large outdoor areas at the Milford Bay and Walker’s Point Community Centres should be added,
  • trails should be closed a half hour before sunset,
  • no overnight parking at trails and parks,
  • Township docks should be added to the by-law,
  • where the by-law speaks about smoking, vaping should be added as well, and
  • that “small tweaks” were required.

Mr. Becking explained that some of the points that were raised are already “covered” elsewhere and that by being too specific in the by-law you remove the generality from it.

This item was deferred for a month.

Council Meeting - Wednesday, October 14th, 2020

Budget Guiding Principles Policy

Director of Finance, Mark Donaldson, presented the budget guiding principles policy to Council saying it reflected the changes that had been requested last month. The new policy better defines that staff have the ability to make amendments in the operating budget up to $25,000.00 from the previous amount of $5,000.00 and in the capital budget make amendments up to 10% of the cost of a project or $25,000.00. This policy does not alter service levels or allow for addition or deletion of capital projects but allows staff to re-allocate funds.

A resolution was read to accept the policy and carried unanimously.

2021 Budget Guidelines

Director of Finance, Mark Donaldson, then presented the proposed budget guidelines for 2021. It was explained that in 2021 a three-year operating budget would be presented with a levy no greater than 5%. Mr. Donaldson arrived at 5% levy by reviewing historical increases, factoring in increased insurance costs and a long-term strategy to fund reserves while maintaining current levels of service. In response to questions Mr. Donaldson explained to Council that the 5% is a place holder/target, which based on a slight increase over the 2020 budget seemed reasonable. A further analysis is going to be required in regard to funding reserves.

Council discussed the proposed level of increase and advised Mr. Donaldson that:

  • the 5% levy increase should be reduced to 2 or 3%,
  • that the Township should aim for a 0% levy increase,
  • if you tell departments they can have a 5% increase they will find a way to spend it,
  • that the municipality is not in a position to be looking at a large tax increase, and
  • some taxpayers wish to have services increased and are willing to pay for that in their taxes,

Mayor Harding reminded Council that the Township has contractual obligations with unions and staff should be rewarded for their hard work. Furthermore, the cost of living and supplies has also increased. This was echoed by Mr. Donaldson who explained that last year insurance increased by $200,000.00 which is one-third of the 5% levy increase and that there are costs outside of the Township’s control, such as fuel and lumber, but the Township can look at things that are within their control. Mr. Donaldson stated that a 0% increase would be extremely difficult, if not impossible without decreasing levels of service.

A resolution was read to establish a tax levy at 2.5% for the 2021 Operating Budget and staff to return with a staff report on how to fund Township reserves. This carried, but not unanimously.

Ed Note: According to the staff report the budget timeline is as follows:

Draft budget being presented in December 2020
An updated draft will be presented in January 2021 to the General/Finance Committee
Public consultation in February 2021
Post consultation deliberations at the General/Finance Committee in February2021
Council approval in February 2021

 

Ed Note: The Muskoka Ratepayers have always felt that it is important for the Township to build their reserves and hopes that Council follows staff advice on this topic.

Legacy Cottages Condominium Agreement

Director of Development Services and Environmental Sustainability, David Pink, informed Council that the Township has been in negotiations with the developers of Legacy Cottages since the draft condominium agreement was presented in September. Township staff had hoped to have an agreement in place by the October Council meeting, but negotiations continue.

Council went into Closed Session to discuss the matter further.

Community Centres Re-Opening Planning

The staff report in the Council agenda package and reopening plan as presented in September -Re-Opening Planning Re-Opening Planning- outlined that Community Centres in Bala, Milford Bay, Minett, Port Carling and Ullswater would be reopened approximately November 2nd, 2020. Regulations have been established and must be followed by those using the centres.

No discussion took place on this item and the resolution to open the five community centres passed unanimously.

Planning Committee - Thursday, October 15th, 2020

Official Plan Review Policy Directions

Director of Development Services and Environmental Sustainability, David Pink, provided the Planning Committee with an update on the September 26th, 2020 Official Plan (OP) Review meeting. Mr. Pink explained that the consultants provided a brief background on the OP policy directions and then those in attendance broke into three discussion groups. At the highest point there were 111 participants at the meeting who provided feedback. Mr. Pink also informed committee that the Township’s survey on the OP has been completed and 365 responses were received. The consultants are compiling the feedback from the meeting and it will be discussed at Special Planning Meetings on October 28th and October 30th.

By-Law Enforcement Functional Review

Director of Development Services and Environmental Sustainability, David Pink, reviewed by-law enforcement functions of the Township. Mr. Pink explained that the position of By-Law Enforcement at the Township started four years ago and their job is primarily to educate and obtain compliance to by-laws not ticket offenders. There is a misconception with the public that the Township does not enforce their by-laws, they do, but according to Mr. Pink illegal activity continues to occur.

Mr. Pink then began his presentation -By-Law Enforcement By-Law Enforcement - explaining that he would like to hold discussions on Township by-laws to be updated, gaps in the by-laws, enforcement proactive vs reactive and levels of service. Beginning with by-laws that may require updating, Mr. Pink asked Committee members to provide him with suggestions. Committee wished to see the following by-laws updated - fireworks, ATV, noise control, site alteration, site plan control, tree preservation, short term rentals, docks & wharves, dark sky, garbage & littering. Following these suggestions Mr. Pink explained to committee that by-laws can only be passed as permitted by the Municipal Act.

Committee held a thorough discussion on by-laws, but it did not remain on topic with Mr. Pink’s presentation. Committee members voiced concerns or commented that:

  • the Township’s compliant process sets neighbour against neighbour and invites public silence,
  • the public needs some education that when work is being done a property may look awful but once the work is complete with trees etc. the site is improved,
  • some members of the public have simply given up complaining as they do not see any changes being made,
  • clear by-laws and expectations need to be laid out for the public,
  • the Township needs to communicate with the public and then enforce if their behaviour does not comply with the by-laws, and
  • they wished to see proactive by-law enforcement for development infractions but not all by-law issues.

Mr. Pink then asked Committee about the level of by-law enforcement they wished to see. Prior to opening the topic for discussion, he reminded the Committee that costs for more by-law enforcement is not simply salary and wages but also include a computer, uniforms, vehicles etc. Committee then provided comments that:

  • there needs to be an ability to respond to weekend calls from May to October,
  • the Township should not be nervous about the cost of enforcement,
  • there is no need to write by-laws if they were not going to enforce them,
  • that the by-law officer should take their vacation time outside of the summer months, and
  • a business case should be written to demonstrate why more by-law officers are needed.

Mr. Pink thanked Committee members for their input but reminded them that he did not believe the intent was to have by-law enforcement 24/7 as it is not safe to send someone to a party for a noise complaint at 2 AM. Pink informed Committee that he liked the idea of being proactive during the “off season” for development issues.

A resolution was read and carried to allow staff to begin a phased review of Township by-laws and by-law enforcement.

Minett Official Plan Amendment Update

Under new business the Director of Development Services and Environmental Sustainability, David Pink, was asked to provide an update on the Minett Official Plan Amendment (OPA). Mr. Pink informed Committee although the Township approved the OPA for circulation to the public, it was tied to the District. The OPA was presented to the District Community and Planning Services Committee in September and staff felt that a report should be brought to Council on the servicing issues. It was hoped the report would be presented at the October District Council meeting, but staff required more time to complete the report and it is hopefully to be presented at the November District Council meeting. If District Council agrees on allowing private communal services in Minett a public meeting will be held, no date has been established for this yet. If District does not want to proceed with private communal services, the OPA will return to the Township for modification.

Special Planning & Official Plan Review Working Committee Meetings

The Planning Committee and the Official Plan Working Committee met with consultants on Wednesday, October 28th and Friday, October 30th to determine if policy directions -Official Plan Review Official Plan Review Policy Directions - needed to be amended following public input from the Saturday, September 26th, 2020 meeting. The consultants reminded committee members that policy directions are not policies but guiding principles to set direction for how policy will be written later and that committee will have to opportunity to review and discuss this language at later meetings.

Input was provided for the consultants which will allow them to begin to write a draft of the Official Plan which will return in a few months.

The Board of the Muskoka Ratepayers
wish the District Municipality of Muskoka
an incredibly happy 50th birthday.
The District turned 50 on Monday, October 19th, 2020.
 
 

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