Township Watch - March 2021

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

Special Council - Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

2021 Township Budget

A Special Council meeting was held on February 24th, 2021 to approve the 2021 Township Budget. Council approved a levy of 2.43% increase on the 2020 budget which equates to $10.30 per $500,000.00 of assessed property value.

Special Planning Committee - Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

Official Plan Amendment - Minett

A Special Planning Committee meeting was held on Wednesday, February 24th, 2021 for Committee to hold an in-depth discussion regarding the Official Plan Amendment (OPA) for Minett prior to obtaining public input on the OPA, which can be read here - OPA Amendment - Minett. Paula Bustard, Planner for the owner of Clevelands House, the Rock and vacant lands in Minett urged Committee to release the OPA to the public as the proponent feels they have entered “into a spin cycle with no decision”.

Committee did not hold any discussion in Open Session before going into Closed Session to obtain privileged legal advice. Once returning to Open Session, Director of Development Services and Environmental Sustainability, David Pink explained that this item had been discussed at February 10th Council meeting where members requested more time to review it and ask questions of staff and legal counsel. Mr. Pink clarified that this is the start of the planning process where the Township will send out a notice, circulate to area property owners and hold a public meeting to obtain public input. Chair Bridgeman clarified that the Township was in an “information gathering stage” for the OPA to obtain public input and hear what individuals have to say. Chair Bridgeman further explained that once the Township hears from the public, staff will review information they receive and then the Planning Committee will really start to look at the OPA and determine what policies they would like to see put in place.

A resolution to recommend to Council to circulate the OPA for public input was read and carried unanimously.

ED Note: Council voted to circulate the OPA at the Wednesday, March 10th, 2021 Council meeting when the meeting minutes were adopted.

General/Finance Committee - Wednesday, March 10th, 2021

Municipal Property Assessment Corporation

Anne Haines, Account Manager from Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) provided committee with the 2020 municipal partnership report. The last Provincial update was paused due to the pandemic and property values continue to be based on market value as of January 1st, 2016. Through the pandemic MPAC has continued to monitor the real estate market and engaged virtually with its partners. MPAC continued to work with municipalities by reviewing building permits and plans to determine property assessments. Municipalities then tax property owners based on these assessments. The Township of Muskoka Lakes currently has $10.4 billion dollars in property assessment, $9.9 billion of which is in residential properties.

Committee members asked questions of Ms. Haines including how does MPAC know when a seasonal resident has moved to Muskoka and become a permanent resident. It was explained if a property owner’s mailing address and civic number are the same, it is assumed that the corresponding address is their permanent address. Property owners have the ability to update their place of residence on MPAC website. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the property owner to inform MPAC of their address.

Community Infrastructure Road Map

A joint presentation was given to committee by CAO Derrick Hammond, the Director of Public Works Ken Becking, and the Director of Financial Services Mark Donald on the Township’s infrastructure. Mr. Hammond explained to committee that the report was written by the leadership team to better understand the Township’s infrastructure and to ensure that the Township’s budget is realistic. Mr. Becking continued the presentation by explaining that there are two types of infrastructure in the Township: primary infrastructure which is comprised of roads and bridges and requires a 10-year capital forecast of $57 million dollars and secondary infrastructure which is comprised of buildings, equipment and parks/docks/trails which require a 10-year capital forecast of $20 million dollars. Mr. Becking stated that asset management was “Putting the right dollars into the right treatment at the right time to maximize value and minimize life-cycle costs”.

With these types of infrastructures come a responsibility to pay for their maintenance and upkeep. There are two financial drivers to the Township’s infrastructure: “quantity” which are fixed such as roads and bridges, as well as “quality” which is the service levels that the Township decides to provide. Mr. Donaldson explained to committee that if the Township puts $3.5 million dollars into discretionary reserves yearly, the current reserves will be depleted by 2027. CAO Hammond then reviewed a “road map” of studies which will provide necessary information for staff and Council regarding how to service the community. The entire presentation can be read here - Infrastructure.

Winter-Spring Water Levels

This report refers to information provided on the date of the meeting and ice thickness information may no longer be accurate.

Director of Public Works, Ken Becking reported to committee that as of the date of the meeting lakes were frozen with 20-30 cm of solid ice, but thicker in some places. By contrast the ground is not frozen. There is currently 120-170% of normal snow levels and the long range forecast indicates above average temperatures with a normal amount of rain forecasted. According to Mr. Becking water levels on March 1st were at or slightly below target levels and any short-term rain will be absorbed into the snowpack. Snow levels north of Muskoka are a concern and staff will be monitoring conditions.

It was pointed out that Bracebridge is starting to tell people to prepare for flooding. CAO Hammond clarified that flooding in Bracebridge and Huntsville will occur in rivers and not in lakes. According to Mayor Harding Lake Muskoka is four and a half inches lower than it was last year. Updates are provided to the Mayors every two weeks by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

This item was for information and no resolution was read.

Ontario Fire College

Fire Chief Ryan Murrell informed committee that the Provincial government announced on January 13th, 2021 that the Ontario Fire College, located in Gravenhurst would be closing as of March 31st, 2021. The Province is doing so to modernize fire training in Ontario and will establish “regional training centres” around the Province. To date, the decision, which was made without consulting municipalities, appears to be irreversible.

This new format will have an impact on municipalities as most fire departments are funded by municipalities. These changes will have a financial impact on municipalities as a course at the Ontario Fire College cost $65.00 per fire fighter per course and included the cost of food and accommodations. The regional training centres courses will range from $300.00 to $1,200.00. Chief Murrell’s full report can be read here - Fire College.

Committee voted unanimously to recommend to Council that they support a Town of Gravenhurst resolution regarding the closure of the fire college and loss of jobs. This item was moved directly to the afternoon Council meeting and carried there.

Council - Wednesday, March 10th, 2021

National Decibel Coalition

Safe Quiet Lakes Director and the Decibel Coalition Chair, Rob Bosomworth presented to Council on the work they are doing on reducing excessive boat noise. As decibel levels are hard to enforce, Mr. Bosomworth informed Council that the OPP do not enforce them. Mr. Bosomworth explained that if you are sitting on your deck and a boat goes by which causes you to stop talking, it is too loud. Over the last eighteen months, the Decibel Coalition has attracted over 20 associations from British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario representing over 1200 cottage owners. Working together they are approaching Transport Canada for help.

Mr. Bosomworth asked for Township support with the decibel coalition by way of resolution which would allow them use of the Township’s logo, allow them to reference the Township’s communications, share the Township’s resolution with Transport Canada as well as ask the Township to communicate with ratepayers.

It was questioned what type of support the decibel coalition was looking for from ratepayers. At the moment no fund raising is being done, but support from lake associations would be greatly appreciated. A resolution of support was read and passed unanimously.

ED Note:The Muskoka Ratepayers compliment Mr. Bosomworth and Safe Quiet Lakes on their initiative on the subject. Everyone across Muskoka will benefit from their work.

Recreation, Parks, Trails and Facilities Master Plan/Strategy

Director of Public Works, Ken Becking informed Council that the framework for this Master Plan has been laid out and asked Council’s direction on how to proceed. Council reviewed the suggested steering committee composition of one Councillor per ward and four members of the public and agreed to waiving the age requirement for members. The committee will guide policy, infrastructure, programs, and service developments in the Township. The entire report can be read here - Trails.

A resolution to establish the steering committee and issue a request for proposal for a consultant was read and carried.

Remuneration of Mayor and Members of Council

No discussion occurred prior to Mayor Harding reading a by-law regarding Council remuneration.

As outlined in the staff report, the Mayor is to be paid $46,410.00, the Deputy Mayor $26,520.00 and Councillors $23,205.00 yearly.

Planning Committee - Thursday, March 11th, 2021

Muskoka Climate Change Strategy

Kevin Boyle, Climate Change Coordinator from the District of Muskoka, presented “A New Leaf” Muskoka’s climate strategy to Committee - Climate Change. Mr. Boyle said that the strategy was an “integrated set of action that’s intended to increase the District’s resiliency to climate change impacts and to decrease emissions associated with programs, buildings and infrastructure”. This strategy is an “all-hands-on-deck approach”. A New Leaf is made up of six components on how the District is approaching climate action in Muskoka:

  • A Muskoka Climate Change Action Plan (MCCAP)
  • Corporate Greenhouse Gas Initiative
  • Community Greenhouse Gas Initiative
  • Outreach and Education
  • Partnerships, and
  • Seeking and Securing Funding

The District has taken a leadership role on how to tackle climate change by incorporating climate change in the Official Plan and the District’s strategic priorities. The District also works with the Watershed Council and hired a climate change coordinator. In the “education component”, the District is partnering with the Muskoka Steamship and Discovery Centre to host speakers on flood heights, water levels and climate change. These events will be held on Thursday nights that will launch around Earth Day. There is also a partnership with Trillium Lakes District School Board on many programs. Partnerships are especially important to the strategy, as the District partners with the Muskoka Watershed Council, Muskoka Conservancy, Climate Action Muskoka, Muskoka Steamship Discovery Centre, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, as well as many area municipality partners.

The Muskoka Climate Change Action Plan (MCCAP) has 23 goals and 84 actions to fulfill. They will look at District buildings, stormwater infrastructure, how big culverts are and will they be able to handle increased precipitation, as well as other risks to District buildings such as extreme heat. Due to limited staffing, the District is targeting strategic actions and not implementing the entire plan at once. They will work on “actions” that can be completed with current funding and available staff time. Outstanding actions will then be reviewed, a plan formulated to prioritize the actions and a timeline will be set to complete the “actions”. “Actions” will be identified that will not only benefit the District, but local municipalities as well.

In 2019 the District voted to join the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Partners for Climate Protection Program. This group is a benchmark for Canadian municipalities and establishes “a road map to reduce greenhouse gas emissions” and has five milestones:

  • Creating a baseline
  • Setting targets
  • Establishing reduction strategies
  • Implementing strategies, and
  • Monitoring the whole situation

The District has met and been awarded milestone one. In coming months, the District will form a community working group to reduce greenhouse gases. The District will continue to move their MCCAP forward, while working on lowering their greenhouse gas emissions.

Following the presentation, CAO Hammond explained that the Township already has a corporate approach to climate change in preserving and protecting the environment. The Township currently applies a “climate lens” to how they do business and this will be evident in Official Plan updates.

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

District Council - Monday, March 15th, 2021

District 2021 Tax Supported Operating and 2021 Capital Budget and Forecast

District Council passed an overall levy increase of 3.34% for the Tax Supported Budget which equates to a $17.57 increase per $300,000.00 of assessed property value or $43.91 increase per $750,000.00 of assessed property value.

Ontario Fire College

District Council passed a resolution to “request that the Province of Ontario reverse their decision to close the Ontario Fire College Campus in Gravenhurst as the OFC is one of the best and most cost-effective methods for municipalities to train their firefighters which assists us in protecting our residents”. This vote carried unanimously.

Commissioner of Finance & Corporate Services

District Council voted to appoint Suzanne Olimer to the position of Treasurer. This position was vacated when Julie Stevens moved from her position as Commissioner of Finance & Corporate Services to Chief Administrative Officer.

Looking for something to brighten your gardens this year???
District Councillor Sandy Cairns informed Council
that Communities in Bloom are encouraging gardeners across Canada
to take part in the “Hope is Growing” campaign.
The initiative is to plant yellow flowers, as yellow is the international colour of hope!
Details on the campaign and how to register your garden
can be found at

Upcoming Events - Monthly Calendar

Ratepayers - Board Meeting
Jun 26, 2021 10:00am to 1:00pm
TML - Committee of Adjustment
Jul 12, 2021 9:00am to 12:00pm
TML - General / Finance Committee
Jul 14, 2021 9:00am to 12:00pm
TML - Council
Jul 14, 2021 1:00pm to 5:00pm
TML - Planning Committee
Jul 15, 2021 9:00am to 12:00pm
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