Township Watch - October 2021


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

Correction

In the September Township Watch the Muskoka Ratepayers inadvertently reported that

“Council voted on a resolution to accept design 2A” for the Bala Falls Bridge rehabilitation.  This was incorrect as it was Option 2 that Council approved.  The Muskoka Ratepayers thank Councillor Zavitz for bringing this error to our attention and apologizes for any confusion our error caused.

Staff

Retiring

After 34 years of dedicated and loyal service to the Township of Muskoka Lakes, Director of Legislative Services/Clerk Cheryl Mortimer is retiring at the end of October.  Ms. Mortimer began her career with the Township as the receptionist, worked briefly in Financial Services before returning to Legislative Services to be appointed Deputy Clerk and eventually Clerk.  As Clerk Ms. Mortimer’s knowledge of running the Township was second to none.

The Muskoka Ratepayers thank Ms. Mortimer for her willingness to always reply to our questions with a smile on her face.  The Board wishes Cheryl all the best in her retirement.

AnchorNew Appointment

Council approved the appointment of Lauren Tarasuk as the new Director of Legislative Services.  Ms. Tarasuk comes to the Township with a legal background.

The Muskoka Ratepayers welcome Ms. Tarasuk and look forward to working with her.

AnchorGeneral/Finance Committee - Wednesday, October 13th, 2021

AnchorBudget Requests

Representatives from the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce, Muskoka Lakes Museum and Walker’s Point Community Library were before Committee with budget requests.   Spencer Morland, President of the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce (The Chamber), provided an overview of the Chamber’s activities during 2021.  The Chamber, when permitted, remained open during COVID-19 and so far in 2021 the visitors centre has helped 921 individuals not including the use of public WiFi that is offered or those who contacted the Chamber by phone.  Mr. Morland’s presentation highlighted four priority areas: visitor information services, tourism marketing, business training and support and event development and promotion -  Chamber Presentation. The Chamber has made a budget request so they can continue to provide services without cuts.

The Muskoka Lakes Museum gave a presentation on their historical background in Muskoka, 2021 highlights of events and programs that were run, public activities, new exhibits, online exhibits, community projects including historic plaques for homes built prior to 1935 in Port Carling, and how Township monies are used -  Museum Presentation.

Pat Young from the Walker’s Point Community Library explained that the library is run fully by volunteers and donations.  Ms. Young spoke about the library’s membership (which grows yearly), donations from the community and volunteers that fully staff the library.  Ms. Young provided Committee with an overview of the library explaining they offered over 3500 books and 300 DVD’s, and how they often receive compliments on their array of books.  Also, members receive newsletters several times a year as communication is important, their email address is often used to renew books, and their website allows members to search new titles.  As well, other community events such as a visit with Santa in December and anniversary celebrations in July 2022 will take place.

A representative for the Milford Bay Community Library had technical difficulties and could not attend but will be submitting their request is writing.

These presentations were for information and no resolutions were read.

ED Note: The Muskoka Ratepayers congratulate the Walker’s Point Library on their 10th anniversary this past July.

AnchorIncrease of Off-Street Parking

A delegation was heard by Laurie Cashmore regarding parking on Marina Road.  Ms. Cashmore explained to Committee that the majority of islanders do “not have deep pockets” and that they “bought on islands as they could not afford mainland” property.  Ms. Cashmore felt that an ill-advised Council decision to erect No Parking signs on Marina Road has caused problems for islander parking and stated that Council should take responsibility for their decision and “give us our rights back” to park on the side of Marina Road.

Director of Public Works, Ken Becking explained to Committee that the public had requested an increase in by-law enforcement which triggered the ticketing on Beaumaris Road and Marina Road.  Mr. Becking reminded Committee that the Highway Traffic Act allows for parking on the sides of roadways unless it is prohibited by by-law.  If staff are to address the issue of on-street parking Mr. Becking suggested it be done through Township policy and a transportation master plan, and that it is done across the entire municipality.  Mr. Becking further stated that allowing street parking was not a long-term solution to the problem at hand.  A by-law could be passed to allow parking on the south side of Marina Road, but Marina Road would become very narrow, even too narrow, for two-way traffic.   

During Committee discussions Beaumaris Road parking was raised. Mr. Becking explained that the No Parking signs on Beaumaris Road preceded the by-law.  It was recommended that the signage remain in place and that the by-law be changed to reflect the previous conditions of No Parking.

A resolution was read to complete the “Township’s Office Plan Review and Transportation Projects” and to align the Township’s Parking By-Law with the signage on Beaumaris Road.  The resolution carried.

AnchorBala Arena Alternative Uses for 2021/2022 Winter

Director of Public Works, Ken Becking, explained to Committee that staff were requested to return with a staff report on alternative uses for the Bala arena for the winter of 2021/2022.  As per the staff report it was suggested that the arena be used for roller skating, pickleball, ball hockey or indoor walking.  In response to a question from Committee, Mr. Becking explained that there was little to no need for ice in the Bala arena at this time.  Mr. Becking explained that if he was instructed to install the ice, he could do so within five days, but asked Committee to keep in mind the COVID protocols play heavily on the decision and as of the day of the meeting staff were recommending an alternative use of the arena.

A resolution to make the Bala arena available for alternative uses this winter season was read and carried.

Anchor2020 Audit Financial Statement

Nicole White from BDO reviewed the draft audit statement with Committee, informing Committee that the Township has again received a “clean opinion”.  The draft audit statement can be seen here -  Draft Audit Statements - along with key performance results provided by Ms. White -2110 - BDO.pdf Results. A resolution to receive the audited financial statement was read and carried.

AnchorAnnual Integrity Commissioner Report

Township Integrity Commissioner, Suzanne Craig, delivered Committee her annual Integrity Commissioner’s report and asked Committee to accept the report which set out activities of the reporting year.  Ms. Craig explained that over the past year two formal complaints were received, one against a Councillor which was resolved informally and one against an advisory committee member which was dismissed.  Three informal complaints were also received regarding non-pecuniary conflicts and resolved.

Included in Ms. Craig’s report -  Integrity Commissioner Report - is an explanation of what a “disqualifying interest” is under the Code of Conduct and the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act as there appeared to be a lack of understanding.   It was explained that when an elected official is appointed to a board, unless they have a “direct interest”, the member is free to take part in discussions.  According to the Code of Conduct a committee member may take part in discussions unless they are “close minded” on the topic.  It was further explained that according to the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act a financial interest must be “real”.  If a member of Council or Advisory Committee, their spouse, their parents, their children, or their employer has a financial interest the member of Council should recuse themselves and not take part in discussions or vote.

Ms. Craig stated that her role is to outline the obligations of elected officials so these roles are clear to the public, to ensure that staff are provided with the guidance that they require regarding developing policies and that Councillors understand their obligations.

A resolution was read and carried to accept the Integrity Commissioners report.

AnchorCouncil - Wednesday, October 13th, 2021

AnchorBurgess 1 Dam

Erik Giles, a Project Manager from Tulloch Engineering presented to Council the Municipal Class Environmental Assessment results -  Burgess 1 Dam - on the Burgess 1 Dam, along with options on how to proceed.  The options were:

  • do nothing
  • rehabilitate the dam and remove the powerhouse
  • rehabilitate both the dam and the powerhouse, or
  • replace the dam

Public feedback indicated that option three, rehabilitation of both the dam and the powerhouse was the most popular choice.

Work on the dam is required following an “overtopping event” during the 2019 spring flooding which triggered a dam safety review.   Mr. Giles stated that dam safety issues to avoid overtopping or dam failure can be addressed through options 2 or 3, but option 1 was not appropriate as there are safety issues with the dam that should be addressed.

Councillors stated:

  • that there were many unanswered questions,
  • the figures provided in the report were not correct,
  • this item would be better discussed at a General/Finance Committee meeting, and
  • Council needs to better understand the costs of this project.

It was decided that with so many unanswered questions this item would be referred to the General/Finance Committee for further discussion.

AnchorPlanning Committee - Thursday, October 14th, 2021

AnchorOnsite Sewage System Maintenance Inspection Program (Septic Systems)

Deputy Chief Building Official, Alex Mulholland, presented to Committee an on-site sewage system maintenance inspection program.  Mr. Mulholland explained that the draft policy before Committee proposes using both Township staff/summer students and qualified contractors to complete the inspections.  A two-phase program would be used:  Phase 1 would be systems that are considered to be at moderate risk and would be completed by Township staff every 15 years, and Phase II, which are more involved and extensive, would be completed by qualified contractors at the owner’s expense every 5 years.   The policy which outlines the risk level of septic systems and the difference between Phase 1 and Phase II inspections can be found here -  Septic Inspection.

Although the District of Muskoka conducted their own study in 2019 the report has not been considered to date.  It is suggested that the Township begin with establishing a database of all existing septic systems located in the Township.  While establishing the database systems that are missing information, or the information is not complete, they will be categorized as “high risk” and be placed in Phase II inspections until the necessary paperwork is received by the Township.  In order to establish this database a temporary contract position is required.  Staff would like to reach out to lake associations and residents to seek input on the draft policy.  This would allow the Township a chance to educate individuals on the changes and how they may be affected.

In response to questions the Director of Development Services and Environmental Sustainability, David Pink, explained that if property owners do not comply, the Township can “issue orders” under the Property Standards By-law and complete the necessary work with the cost being added to the property owner’s tax bill.

A resolution was read and carried to obtain public input on the draft policy and a draft update Property Standards By-Law.  Also that staff report to the Planning Committee results of public input and the necessary contract position cost be included in the 2022 Operating Budget. 

AnchorBy-Law Enforcement Policy & Procedure Manual

Chief Municipal By-Law Enforcement Officer, Rob Kennedy presented to Committee a by-law enforcement policy and procedure manual -  By-Law Enforcement.  Mr. Kennedy asked Committee to indulge him while he elaborated on the following points:

  • the manual will allow by-law enforcement to be proactive and reactive,
  • much by-law time is consumed by complaints received in the spring, summer and even the fall,
  • it is somewhat hard when waterfront properties are located far back from the road and is hard to see what might be occurring at the waterfront,
  • this manual allows enforcement officers to use their own discretion regarding charges,
  • no two situations are alike,
  • that they have identified some things that are not regulated by by-laws, and
  • that the next steps are to identify by-laws that need to be amended or updated and rewrite them.

Prior to Committee discussion, Mr. Kennedy clarified that enforcement was not only initiated when a complaint is received, but if staff see a breach they will investigate it.

Committee members then questioned Mr. Kennedy and/or commented that:

  • if he was comfortable with the level of help he had,
  • the rationale behind section 8.4 which states “Should a public delegation be received by Council on a by-law enforcement matter that is or has been investigated, no comments should be made nor questions posed by Council to the speaker(s).”,
  • by-laws need to be clear and easy to understand and
  • education is important as many owners are not aware of what is permitted and not permitted on their own property.  An example was raised that the Dark Sky By-Law was passed 10 years ago and will come into force in 2024, but people do not know about it.

Committee members then put forward which by-laws they thought should be reviewed/amended/rewritten and commented that:

  • site alteration should be changed from 200 feet to 300 feet,
  • entire islands should be subject to site plan control,
  • it should be defined where a structure could be erected and allowing blasting only there,
  • regulating bubblers,
  • if people are educated up front breaches may lessen,
  • response time, visiting properties, how island properties are accessed are not included in the manual,
  • it is a good starting point, but it is missing timing and how calls are handled, what role Councillors and senior staff play, and a communication heading is required
  • the manual is a good first draft, but it is a first draft,
  • that the Township wants the destruction of Muskoka regulated.

As Committee members discussed how to proceed with this draft manual, CAO Derrick Hammond asked Committee to please contemplate that they are putting more work on staff.  Mr. Hammond stated that the Planning and Building Departments already receive complaints about wait times and that staff are just “holding on” with their day-to-day work.  Staff are also working on the Minett OPA, the Official Plan Review, as of that day a new septic inspection program, establishing on-line permitting, Community Improvement Plans and now an ongoing by-law.  Mr. Hammond asked the Committee to look at things with three fixed items in place: time, work, and resource as they do not want to have staff “burn out”.

It was suggested that CAO Hammond and Director of Development Services and Environmental Sustainability, David Pink return with an action plan in November on what was discussed at the meeting and on how to proceed as plans have to be put in place to deal with development.   Director Pink said he would aim to bring a report back as soon as possible but he was not sure it was possible for the November Council meeting.  Mr. Pink said they could add an item on the next agenda to continue the discussion that had gone on at this meeting.

This focused the discussion on staff asking for extra resources in the 2022 Operating Budget to increase resources in By-Law, Planning and Communication.  These items will be added as “a la carte” to budget for further discussion during budget deliberations.

No resolution was read on this item.  Committee requested that further information return as soon as possible.

AnchorDraft Fireworks By-Law Survey

As reported in the September Township Watch the Township (Township Watch - Setpember 2021) is reviewing their fireworks by-law.  The Township is seeking public input into the proposed changes.  The survey is available here - Survey - and will close November 17th, 2021.

AnchorProcess

The Muskoka Ratepayers were disappointed to see Councillor Jaglowitz leave the Planning Committee meeting abruptly.  Although we understand that it was an extremely long meeting, and Councillor Jaglowitz’s frustration that the meeting was not progressing, or as he said, “is not going anywhere”, in our opinion an elected official is not doing their job if they leave a meeting. 

By-weekly garbage pick-up begins November 1st, 2021.
Recycle & green bin organics will continue to be picked up weekly.
 
Both the Operating and Capital Budgets
will be discussed by the
General/Finance Committee
on both November 3rd, 2021 and November 4th, 2021.
 

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