Township Watch - September 2020

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

General/Finance Meeting - Wednesday, September 16th, 2020

Budget Policy Discussions

Director of Financial Services, Mark Donaldson, explained to Committee that in May 2020 Committee of the Whole requested that policies be reviewed prior to the 2021 budget.  Mr. Donaldson outlined three key matters to be discussed - establishing reserve targets, doing a multiyear budget, and reconfirming that the General/Finance Committee would like to review the budget and submit budget recommendations to Council. 

Committee members had very little to say about establishing reserve targets except that Council needs to understand what they can afford and roll up their sleeves and set long term visions.   Members agreed that a multiyear budget was a good idea and concluded that a three year-budget, current year plus two, was how to proceed.  While some committee members wished to have in-depth involvement in the budget by reviewing the budget line by line, the majority of Committee did not agree.  Mayor Harding reminded committee members that Council makes suggestions for the budget and then follows staff recommendations. 

Mr. Donaldson then provided an overview of the process with an aggressive timeline:

  • budget policy and draft guidelines be presented to Council in October for discussion,
  • a draft budget for discussion to Council in December,
  • an updated draft budget for January,
  • public consultation early in 2021, and
  • present budget for adoption in February.

Councillor Jaglowitz agreed with the process for the 2021 budget but felt the budget process for 2022 and 2023 should start in August and be adopted before the end of the calendar year.  Mayor Harding pointed out that adopting a budget before the end of the year would have its challenges as final numbers on seasonal work will not have been received, the Township will not know what Provincial funding might be available and there are risks to getting too far ahead of ones-self.  Mr. Donaldson confirmed there is a risk of gaps in information if the process is started too soon and forecasts would have to be made for year-end numbers.

A resolution was read and carried that budget policies and guidelines be presented to Council in October.

Township Winter Initiatives

Corey Moore, Communication & Economic Development Specialist, presented to Committee a list of winter initiatives that the Grants & Economic Development Committee were suggesting to Council.  These ideas were being brought forth in an attempt to help support local businesses through COVID-19 and beyond.  The first initiatives being presented were:

  • plowing parking lots at Hardy Lake, Hazelwood Trail, Huckleberry Rock Trail and Fish Hatchery Trail
  • walking paths at Hanna Park & Muskoka Lakes Sports Park
  • cross country skiing at the Milford Bay Golf Course
  • winter lighting in Port Carling and Bala location, style and design to be discussed further.

Committee members voiced concerns that allowing hiking at Huckleberry Rock during the winter would be unsafe due to the terrain as well as snowmobile usage.  Councillor Kelley, who is the Chair of the Grants and Economic Development Committee explained that the idea was to provide attractions to draw people to Muskoka, as well as to look after those individuals who are already in Muskoka.

Chair Zavitz explained that these initiatives were presented to be moved forward to Council where a more “fulsome” report would be provided.  A resolution was read and carried.

Ed Note: The Muskoka Ratepayers commend the Grants and Economic Development Committee for taking the initiative in looking for winter activities in the Township.

Council - Wednesday, September 16th, 2020

Community Centre Re-Opening

The re-opening of Community Centres had been deferred at the August Council meeting.  Director of Public Works, Ken Becking, provided Council with an amended plan to re-opening some Township Community Centres after their closure due to COVID-19.  It was proposed that the Bala, Milford Bay, Minett, Port Carling and Ullswater Community Centres be opened for only approved activities as laid out in the report to Council of August 12th, 2020 from 9 AM to 11 AM and 1 PM to 3 PM on weekdays - Reopening Reopening Our Province. Evening and weekend uses would not be permitted to avoid overtime hours being incurred for cleaning the centres.  Protocols would be put in place by staff to keep everyone safe and not provide the opportunity for someone to become ill.  Mr. Becking suggested an opening date of November 2nd but cautioned Council that as the COVID-19 numbers climb, the Province may put further restrictions in place.

Council discussed the proposal and immediately questioned why the arenas had not been included in the report.  Mayor Harding and CAO Hammond reminded Council that Mr. Becking was requested to return with a re-opening plan for the community centres not the arenas.  Mr. Becking explained that there “simply was not enough clarity to the rules” regarding opening arenas.  Councillors voiced concerns regarding:

  • why certain community centres were open and not others,
  • the importance of getting the community centres and libraries open as they are the brick and mortar of the communities,
  • that re-opening must be done slowly, and programs must limit participants, and
  • perhaps in Ward A the usage of community centres could be divided between Bala, Torrance and Walker’s Point.

Prior to reading the resolution, Mayor Harding voiced concerns that there should be some “flexibility” in the wording to allow the Township to close the community centres if the Province puts further restrictions back in place.

A resolution was read to open the above noted five community centres with restricted use.  The motion carried.

Strategic Plan Review Update

Chris Loreto from StratCorp explained to Council that following the last meeting they had “refined” the values, goals and was presenting key performance indicators that they felt made sense for the goals.

Goal 1. Preserve and protect the natural and cultural environment.

Key Performance Indicators:

  • water quality,
  • shoreline quality testing,
  • septic system infractions,
  • use of the natural recreation facilities specifically parks and trails.

Goal 2. Strengthen and diversify Muskoka Lakes economy.

Key Performance Indicators:

  • median & average family income of permanent residents
  • number of year-round businesses
  • overall success of the implementation of the economic development strategy
  • number of events outside the summer/waterfront season

Goal 3. Enhance and sustain public services and infrastructure.

Key Performance Indicators:

  • customer service score card,
  • number & diversity of residents facing communications and interaction annually,
  • transportation infrastructure assessment quality across modes.

Goal 4. Strengthen key relationships.

Key Performance Indicators:

  • understanding of landscape,
  • amount of money received from other levels of government,
  • assessed “value” for taxpayer’s money.

Although Mr. Loreto asked for questions and discussion following each grouping of goals, there were very little. 

The strategic plan will now be presented to the public for insight/input into the final document.  Stakeholder consultation will include a community survey - Strategic Plan Survey, a community engagement session through a virtual Town Hall session mid October and focus groups and one-on-one interviews to be held virtually with key stakeholders in late October.  This list is to be confirmed by Council.  The draft strategic plan can be found here - Draft Strategic Plan Draft Strategic Plan

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

Public Safety - Portage Landing

Mitchell Shnier had a power point presentation for Council with images of his concerns regarding safety around the Bala power plant and Portage Landing.  Mr. Shnier informed Council that:

  • Purk’s Place has not been informed of the “range of flows” of water going through the power plant,
  • the water outside the down stream safety booms is strong enough to tip a canoe, kayak or stand up paddle boarder even though Swift River Energy Limited (SREL) committed that it would not be,
  • the buoys upstream from the power plant are sunken and inverted,
  • there are boards with rusty nails in them in Portage Landing Park,
  • there is a substance “oozing” out of the ground at Portage Landing, and
  • SREL was not trying to rehabilitate Portage Landing Park which had been part of their lease with the Township and are providing “lame brain excuses” as to why the work was not being done.

Mr. Shnier reminded Council that they had sent a resolution to the Province asking that the power plant should not operate during the summer months, but this did not occur.  He suggested that the Township should direct SREL not to operate in the summer until they demonstrate that public safety issues have been addressed.

Mayor Harding explained that although the Township did not want the power plant the Province deemed the area safe for one to be built.  He suggested that a second resolution to the Province would fall on deaf ears, and suggested he write a letter seeking answers to the previous resolution.  Mayor Harding expressed that he believed the answer from the Province will be that they do not feel the area is unsafe and reminded Council that the issue really was out of their jurisdiction and that the Township does not dictate what the Province can do.

Mayor Harding offered to share his letter with Council, and to copy Mr. Shnier on it.

Acting Chief Building Official

Council voted to appoint Nick Snyder as the Acting Chief Building Official for the Township of Muskoka Lakes.

Electronic Meeting Set Up

Ed Note: It was unfortunate that the electronic meeting was set up in such a fashion that viewers were only able to see the speaker and not the entire Council.  This set-up did not allow viewers to see how members of Council voted.  Since the meeting was taped it has been removed and the gallery view has been posted.

Planning Meeting - Thursday, September 17th, 2020

Evans (Camel Lake) Subdivision Agreement

This subdivision located at 1061 Camel Lake Extension Road on Camel Lake was in front of Committee to have the property rezoned, to restrict uses in the Environmental Protected zones and to prohibit structures in the Open Space Zones.  The zoning application was carried with little discussion from Committee.

Later in the meeting a subdivision agreement for this property was before the Committee.  This application was originally heard by Committee of the Whole on July 12th, 2018 when the Township informed the District, the deciding body, that they objected to the draft approval.   The District subsequently denied the application, which was then appealed to the LPAT.  A Decision and Order on the appeal was issued in February 2020 with a number of conditions.  Conditions have all been met, and the application was before Committee for approval.

Committee held a limited discussion and voted unanimously to approve the application.

Legacy Cottages Condominium Agreement

Prior to hearing this application, Chair Bridgeman explained to Committee that they would be hearing input from delegates and recommending to Council that the application be approved so that there would be no appearance that the application was being slowed down.  No discussion would be held on the application as the time period for a court appeal was still open.  The applicant’s agent appeared extremely surprised by the mention of a court appeal and questioned where the Township had obtained this information and who provided it.  As this was “internal information” the Township was not willing to provide answers to these questions.

Committee then heard presenters that voiced concerns with the condominium agreement including:

  • altering wording in the agreement to be more forceful,
  • that in order to enforce the condominium agreement unit owners should be third parties to the agreement, not simply the resort and the Township,
  • that wording can be added to the LPAT decision to help the Township “implement” the decision, such as the LPAT decisions that says $20,000.00 should be held in securities against the rental pool program but does not say how those monies will be used if the agreement is breached,
  • there should be on-site management to check guests into the resort, that rentals should be done through a centralized manager who sets the rates and that there should be a date when annual reporting is due by,
  • concerns regarding the number of docks, and
  • that all phases of development should be completed before there is an agreement with the Township and District.

The item was forwarded to a Council meeting, which Chair Bridgeman acknowledged could be the October Council meeting or a Special Council meeting, where Councillors will have the opportunity to have an in-depth discussion on the condominium agreement.

CanACRE Cell Towers

An agent from CanACRE representing Bell Mobility presented to Committee a proposal for two new cell towers in the Township.  The first proposed tower is to be located at 1243 Rosseau Lake Road 1 in Skeleton Bay and the second to be located at 1029 Summit Road on Nine Mile Lake.  Both towers will be “monopines” to minimize the visual impact.  The towers will be 29.9 metres in height which will not require lighting.

A resolution was read to deliver a letter of concurrence on both cell towers and passed unanimously.

First Storey Boathouse Uses

Unfortunately, the electronic feed to the Planning meeting stopped working prior to this item being discussed.  We have been informed that the meeting continued to be taped but the Township is having technical issues and the feed was not made public at the time of this report.  If this portion of the meeting does become available, we will report on it in the October Township Watch.

Ed Note: Members of the Council ran on transparency which is severely lacking when a meeting is not available to the public.  We acknowledge that the technical issues are not the fault of Committee, but perhaps when a live feed is not available the meeting should be recessed or adjourned until such time as the live feed is once again available.

District of Muskoka Council - Monday, September 21st, 2020

New Chief Administrative Officer

Following closed session, District Chair John Klinck, announced that Julie Stevens the District’s Commissioner of Finance was the new Chief Administrative Officer for the District.  Ms. Stevens replaces Michael Duben who resigned and relocated to Oxford County.

Congratulations to Ms. Stevens!

Ed Note: Ms. Stevens was Treasurer for the Township of Muskoka Lakes before transferring to the District of Muskoka.

Township Staff

The Muskoka Ratepayers were saddened to hear that the Manager of Planning, Rian Allen has left the Township.  We wish Rian all the best in his future endeavours. 

Ed Note: It is the Muskoka Ratepayers opinion that this is a huge loss to the Township.

We hope that everyone continues
to stay safe and healthy
during COVID-19.





Upcoming Events - Monthly Calendar

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