Township Watch - December 2018

Inaugural Council Meetings

The new Township of Muskoka Lakes Council was sworn in on Monday, December 3rd, 2018 in the Port Carling Community Centre. The MRA was in attendance and posted our write up and a copy of Mayor Harding's inaugural speech is on our website - Township Inaugural Council

The District of Municipality of Muskoka Council for the 2018-2022 term was sworn in on Monday, December 10th, 2018 in the District Council Chambers. Our write up and a copy of Chair Klinck's address have also been posted on our website - District Inaugural Council.

Committee of the Whole - Thursday, December 13, 2018

Construction of the Bala Falls Hydro Project

This item was added to the agenda at the beginning of the meeting. Mayor Harding explained it was being added as many members of the public, as well as Council, had concerns regarding safety, timing of construction work occurring outside of allowed times and the disruption to the community every day.

Mitchell Shnier, who was on the circulated agenda, presented to committee concerns regarding closed sidewalks in Bala on both sides of the road and Swift River Energy Limited (SREL) not adhering to the Township's noise and dark sky by-laws. Mr. Shnier had four “asks” in his presentation:

  • That the Township send a letter to the District to request they are informed if the District is going to permit the sidewalks to be closed off,
  • That the Township enforce their own noise and dark sky by-laws,
  • That the Township write a letter to the MNRF, and
  • Offered to show new councillors the construction site.

CAO, Steve McDonald, explained that the Township had been in discussion with SREL who had a different interpretation of the noise by-law exemption, but were willing to work with the Township. SREL, who are trying to accomplish as much as possible before the MNRF asks them to “get out of the water”, submitted a proposal to the Township offering to pay $1,000.00 a day if they violate the noise by-law on a sliding scale up to a maximum of $5,000.00 until December 23rd, 2018. At which point, fines would increase to $10,000.00 a day, which the Township negotiated up from the offer SREL made of $5,000.00 a day.

Committee held an in-depth discussion on what is occurring in Bala. Committee members felt that:

  • SREL had no regard for the public parking portion of the Shield Parking lot,
  • The Township should enforce its by-laws,
  • It is insulting to have money thrown at them, as this should not be revenue generating,
  • That no flag people are present at the site,
  • The Township should be imposing greater fines than the $150.00 outlined in the by-laws,
  • Enforcement of by-laws is a Muskoka wide issue, and
  • That SREL should comply with the by-laws and Township solicitors should be instructed to investigate an injunction against SREL.

Mayor Harding explained to Committee that this is a “no win situation” and that regards to the request for a letter to be written to the MNRF, “that ship has sailed”. Although the Province is cancelling the Green Energy Act, they did not cancel this specific project. Mayor Harding stated residents are being impacted if any construction is occurring, and the community will benefit from it being completed quickly. Furthermore, if the construction takes more time than anticipated and the coffer dam is removed, there will be another year of construction. Councillors Jaglowitz and Edwards echoed Mayor Harding that “the ship has sailed”, while Councillor Zavitz stated that the project is going to happen.

It was decided that a resolution regarding SREL's offer would be presented the following day at Council. The resolution would include provisions for guaranteed pedestrian access through the Town and that the public portion of the Shield Parking lot remain clear or vehicles will be ticketed at $100.00 per vehicle per day. The remainder of this discussion took place at Council, report continued below under Council December 14th, 2018

Budget Requests

The Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce, Muskoka Lakes Museum, Walkers Point Community Library, Milford Bay Community Library and South Muskoka Hospital Foundation were before Committee with 2019 Budget requests.

The Chamber informed Committee that in 2018 they had helped 48,000 people in the Township of Muskoka Lakes and provided summer employment for local youth. They explained The Chamber would be happy to run the Visitor Centre again for $20,000.00, requested $23,000.00 for their operating budget, and a special contribution of $10,000.00 in sponsorship funds which would make the Township of Muskoka Lakes a Title Partner for the 2019 Ontario Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Convention which is being held in Minett in May. This off-season event will bring 200 business leaders to Muskoka.

The Muskoka Lakes Museum reviewed their history and explained that community museums are the custodians and interpreter of irreplaceable heritage. Their 2019 budget request has decreased from last year to $35,000.00.

Both Walkers Point and Milford Bay Community Libraries reviewed their activities throughout the year, emphasizing they are run by volunteers. They requested the Township continue their past practice of matching funds raised.

The South Muskoka Hospital reviewed past donations made by the Township and explained that the hospital does not receive government funding for equipment that is necessary to run the hospital. The Bracebridge Hospital is a 59-bed acute care facility, in 2018 they admitted 2300 patients and had close to 20,000 emergency department visits, one quarter of which were in July and August. Although no specific amount was requested, the foundation requested for the Townships continued support.

(Ed Note: The MRA hope the new Council continues to support these organizations as past Councils have.)

Budget Meeting Schedule

The schedule for 2019 budget deliberations was presented to the Committee.

  • Special COW           Tuesday, January 22, 2019 9 AM          - Budget Introduction
  • Special Council        Tuesday, February 5th, 2019 7 PM       - Public Input Meeting
  • Special COW            Monday, February 11th, 2019 9 AM     - Budget Review
  • Regular COW          Thursday, February 14th, 2019 9 AM
  • Regular Council       Friday, February 15th, 2019 9 AM

It is anticipated that the budget will be adopted at the February 15th, 2019 Council meeting.

Staff had previously been instructed to present a 2% budget over budget increase.

(Ed. Note The MRA encourages our members to review the budget, which will be released a minimum of 48 hours prior to the meetings and submit comments and concerns to councillors.)

Committee Structure

Mayor Harding explained that he wishes to abandon Committee of the Whole for two sub-committees which would report directly to Council, very similar to the committee structure used at the District of Muskoka. Each committee, Planning Committee and General Committee, will be compromised of six members of council plus the Mayor and Deputy Mayor. Committee members were supportive of this suggested changed. CAO, Steve McDonald, explained there would be some implications to staff and he would bring a staff report to committee most likely in February.

It was further explained that there would be committees established where public participation would be requested.

  • Trails and Parks
  • Economic Development and Grants
  • Heritage and Attainable Housing.

Mayor Harding added that he would like to be removed from the trails and heritage committees, where past Mayors have sat ex-officio as he does not believe in micro-managing.

Applications for the three public committees will be advertised in the near future.

Recreational Cannabis Report

As the MRA reported in our November 2018 Township Watch - Township Watch - November 2018, municipalities have the opportunity to “opt out” of allowing retail cannabis stores in their areas but must inform the AGCO by January 22nd, 2019. Township solicitors have advised the Township that they should presently “opt out”. Committee discussed the alternative stating that:

  • Most smaller municipalities are opting out,
  • It would be ridiculous to “opt in”,
  • These store fronts are inevitable, but the Township needs to research their ability to limit the number,
  • The Township should push back on the Province regarding regulating the location and number of stores,
  • A Township resolution needs to explain why the Township is “opting out”, and
  • There is no need to fast track a resolution but it is important to have a well-crafted resolution.

A resolution, drafted by a Councillor, was not voted on. A final version will be forwarded to Mr. McDonald for circulation to Council who will all then have the opportunity to submit their comments and concerns back to the CAO. Committee agreed that the resolution will be presented at the January 2019 Council meeting.

Results from the Township cannabis survey can be found here - Cannabis Survey Cannabis Survey.

(Ed Note: The MRA is surprised to hear that Councillors are drafting resolutions. That is not proper procedure and should be left to the staff experts.)

Main Street Revitalization Initiative

Communicatons and Economic Development Specialist, Corey Moore, explained to Committee that last spring the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs launched a main street revitalization initiative for downtown enhancement projects. The Township of Muskoka Lakes has been awarded $43,473.62 for pedestrian connectivity in Port Carling and Bala. A boardwalk is proposed to be built from Turtle Jacks to the District dock in Port Carling and the town dock and pathways in Bala be revitalized. The allocated monies will not be enough to complete the projects and undetermined monies will need to be allocated in the 2019 budget. This item was on the agenda for information purposes and no resolution was read.

Council - Friday, December 14th, 2018

Construction of the Bala Falls Hydro Project

As discussed at COW a resolution was brought before Council. The resolution included eight restrictions:

  • Prohibits use of the unleased portion of the Shield Parking by SREL and CRT,
  • Restricts lighting,
  • Requires that pedestrian access to sidewalks be maintained,
  • Outlines penalties for breaking the noise by-law
  • Sets in place the ability to stop work if Township by-laws or this resolution are blatantly violated,
  • Outline hours when work is acceptable during the holidays,
  • Restricts SREL to Township by-laws in 2019, and
  • Establishes penalties if SREL is contravention of Township by-laws in 2019.

In a recorded vote, the resolution was defeated 8 to 1. See attached Resolution

(Ed. Note: The MRA has been informed that during discussions on the above resolution, Councillor Jaglowitz left the Council Chambers. At NO point is it appropriate for a Councillor to leave the meeting when things do not go in a direction that they wish. When a councillor is not present, they are NOT representing the taxpayers.)

District - Monday, December 17th, 2018

Alternate Member

As was reported in July, with changes to the Municipal Act, municipalities were given the opportunity to appoint an alternate member to District Council, who would attend meetings when a District Councillor was unable to. Township Councillor, Peter Kelley was appointed by Council to this position and attended his first District meeting in December.

(Ed Note: The MRA congratulates Councillor Kelley on his appointment.)

Integrity Commissioner

The District has issued a joint “request for proposal” with Gravenhurst, Georgian Bay and Muskoka Lakes for an Integrity Commissioner. It was suggested that instead of each municipality and the District having their own Integrity Commissioner, that the District hire one that is available to all municipalities. District CAO Michael Duben, explained that practically speaking that was possible but some municipalities already have hired their own Integrity Commissioners, while others have yet to engage one. Mr. Duben requested that the process be able to “play out” as different staff may have different expectations of an Integrity Commissioner and allow staff to return to Council with their suggestion. The resolution for the joint RFP was read and carried.

Procedural By-Law

At the Inaugural Council Meeting earlier this month a notice of intent was brought forward to amend the District's Procedural By-Law to alter District Council Meetings from 7 PM to 3 PM. Prior to the vote, Councillor Aitchison raised a concern that this change may stop individuals who have full time jobs from running for Council, as they would have to miss work. This concern is not an issue with the sitting Council. Chair Klinck acknowledged the concern and explained that the schedule could be changed back at a later date if it is required. In order to amend the Procedural By-Law 2/3rds support of Council is required, and was easily achieved on first, second and third reading. District Council meetings will now convene at 3 PM starting in January 2019.

The MRA wishes everyone a safe and happy
Holiday Season.
And all the best in 2019.

Upcoming Events - Monthly Calendar

Ratepayers - Board Meeting
Aug 24, 2019 9:00am to 1:00pm
TML - Committe of Adjustment
Sep 9, 2019 9:00am to 12:00pm
TML - General / Finance Committee
Sep 12, 2019 9:00am to 12:00pm
TML - Planning Committee
Sep 13, 2019 9:00am to 12:00pm
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